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Shield of Thunder: Troy    by David Gemmell order for
Shield of Thunder
by David Gemmell
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Shield of Thunder follows Lord of the Silver Bow as the second in David Gemmell's planned trilogy, a remarkable re-telling of the Troy saga. The first book introduced us to Helikaon (born Prince Aeneas of Dardania) who saved the life of Gershom, an Egyptian prince under sentence of death by Pharaoh. We also met spirited Andromache of Thebe under Plakos, on her way to marry Prince Hector of Troy. Then a prince of Troy betrayed his people to ally with Mykene, but King Agamemmnon's first attack on the wealthy trading city state failed.

Now, David Gemmell shows us Andromache's birth and the birthmark that led her father to name her the Shield of Thunder - but why was the babe's identity of interest to King Priam and Queen Hekabe of Troy? Next, the author introduces us to his version of the wily Odysseus, who 'attacked each day as if it were a mortal enemy.' He's known as the Storyteller and affectionately called the Ugly One by his forbearing wife Penelope. On his way to Troy for Hector's wedding, Odysseus stops at an island. There, a young woman, captured and raped by pirates, was rescued by two Mykene warriors, outlawed by Agammemnon after the attack he ordered on Troy failed. Young Kalliades is the brains of the duo, while huge Banokles supplies the brawn. The woman, Kalliope, is a runaway priestess of Thera, who fled the island after seeing a vision of her lover in great peril.

Odysseus takes the trio aboard his ship, the Penelope, and continues to Troy, where his reception angers and puzzles him. We renew our acquaintance with Helikaon, recovering from an assassination attempt. Gershom bargains for healing for his friend - a plot thread sure to hook into the final episode - as Andromache nurses him, and Kassandra utters prophecy that frightens all around her. Then Agammemnon and his allies show up and the games commence. As always in a Gemmell epic, irony threads through the tale. Events conspire to force Odysseus, who dislikes and distrusts Agammemnon, to fight on the Mykene ruler's side against his close friends, Helikaon and Hector. The wedding games segue into the beginning of war waged across the Great Green, that changes those who wage it for the worse. And the Trojan Horse lose ground to Agammemnon's forces.

Though the author takes great liberties with Homer's account - for example making Helen 'plain-faced' - his version feels like it should be true. Sadly, David Gemmell, renowned as a master of heroic fantasy, died in 2006. The third book in his Troy trilogy, Fall of Kings, is to be completed by his wife Stella, based on Gemmell's very detailed notes. I look forward to it, and will miss his larger than life characters, unrelenting action, and great heart.

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