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Fall of Kings    by David Gemmell & Stella Gemmell order for
Fall of Kings
by David Gemmell
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2009 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fall of Kings is the third and final episode in a Troy trilogy (following Lord of the Silver Bow and Shield of Thunder) that feels more real than Homer's version and makes the epic story fresh and new. Though, sadly, this final episode was completed after the author's death (by his journalist wife Stella who had worked with her husband on all three books) I found it impossible to tell that Fall of Kings was not solely David Gemmell's work. It opens with An Appreciation by Con Iggulden, who reminds us that 'Gemmell's heroes are admirable, flawed, and very, very human.'

The first episode in the trilogy 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 Hektor of Troy. Though a prince of Troy betrayed his people to ally with Mykene, King Agamemmnon's first attack on the wealthy trading city state failed. In the second book, the wily and engaging Odysseus rescued two outlawed Mykene warriors, Kalliades (the brains of the duo) and huge Banokles (the brawn). Events conspired to force Odysseus to fight on Agammemnon's side against his friends Helikaon and Hektor. And war was waged across the Great Green.

As Fall of Kings opens, Helikaon mourns the death of the queen of Dardania, who gave her own life to save their son Dex. An assassination attempt hits the wrong target. Priam asks Helikaon to escort Andromache and his daughter, the moon-touched Kassandra, to Thera to meet with the High Priestess, Agamemmnon's sister Iphigenia. The love triangle between Helikaon, Hektor and Andromache continues to complicate matters. Andromache reminds Helikaon that 'Hate is the father of all evil', including his own. Gershom/Ahmose must fulfill a promise that he made to return to Egypt. Achilles helps Odysseus rescue Penelope from pirates. Agamemmnon invades Troy and the final battle begins.

As the city is besieged, treachery strikes, and its defenders fall back to Priam's palace. Many larger than life characters - in addition to the well known names - continue to play significant roles. Helen's actions turn her into a legend. Patroklos dies and Achilles seeks revenge. Kalliades and Banokles lead in the defense and young healer Xander refuses an opportunity to escape to safety. Andromache leads the Women of the Horse (including Penthesileia) with shaft and bow, while agonizing over the fate of the children, Dex and Astyanax. And at sea, Helikaon fights brilliantly and opens an escape route for any survivors, to join a new settlement in the Seven Hills.

The ending of this Troy trilogy is highly satisfying - the evil Agamemmnon gets what he deserves at the same time as Kassandra meets her foreseen fate. And my favorite, the storyteller Odysseus? We hear from a survivor who has 'walked with heroes' that 'storytellers never die as long as their stories live on.' That's certainly the case with David Gemmell, all of whose thrilling stories I've enjoyed over the years, and plan to re-read in the future.

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