Warning: Contains minor spoilers.
I found the first book of the Hero Trilogy entirely by accident when wandering in the city library, and was incredibly glad I had. When I realised the second book, Trying War, had been released I went to the length of sending a request to the library about purchasing it to add to their collection. What can I say; I’m a student, and am trying to save my money.
The library bought the book and put it on hold for me, and I read it in a day and a half even though it was the last week of uni and I had others things I had to do. Now, a month later, let’s see what I can remember…
A brief bit of background first: In Chasing Odysseus, Gentill’s retelling of the fall of Troy, the finger of blame is pointed at the herdsmen of Ida (because clearly there was no way the Greeks could have snuck in using, say, a huge hollow horse). Seeking to reclaim their murdered father’s honour and prove their people’s innocence, four siblings embark on a desperate chase in a magic ship – following the Greek King Odysseus in his epic journey across the world.
Trying War picks up immediately after the first book ends, and instead of the joyous homecoming expected the siblings are immediately thrust into a new adventure when Hero is abducted by the Amazons – sacrificing herself to save her brothers. The same brothers who, naturally, throw themselves into mortal danger to get their sister back. Once again the four siblings are pushed into the middle of an epic adventure – one that sees them travelling to the very home of the gods.
Part of why I like this trilogy so much is that Gentill’s writing style is really suited to the feel of an ancient epic. Kept in a simple, focussed third person perspective it isn’t overly descriptive and shows the actions and motivations of the characters easily while pulling the reader along into the huge sweeping storylines and conflicts. The action scenes are exciting and well-paced – especially some of the numerous chase scenes – and they all serve a purpose to the story, which is nice.
In Trying War I was reminded once again why I had fallen in love with Hero and her brothers. Hero is flawed in a way few characters are. She is incredibly short-sighted, a fact which is not compensated by any special ability and contributes to a fear of a world she has no control over. This fear, and protectiveness of her family, is what leads to the piousness that so annoys her brothers – and possibly some of the readers, though there are real and present gods to be contended with. However, Hero is also incredibly brave and proves, time and again, how willing she is to face danger to protect the innocent, or hold true to her convictions against all odds. Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling key parts of the book (more than I already have).
I’m not going to go into too much detail about Hero’s brothers, due to the sheer fact that I left this review a bit too late and their characteristics have started to blend together in my memory. I will say, however, that I love the fact that while the herdsmen are athletic and strong, many of their battles are won through wit and creativity.
This is certainly a trilogy I’d recommend to anyone enjoying a bit of mythology – and it’s definitely a nice change from the over saturation of fantasy set in medieval Europe (UK, Ireland, Scotland etc). I admit, I haven’t read any of the pertinent epics being retold here, but a rudimentary knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology served me well, and some subtle exposition filled in the blanks. I’m really looking forward to the final instalment.
Finally, after I had finished this book and gone to bed, just before I fell asleep, the double meaning to the book’s title hit me. I both felt a little dumb that I hadn’t seen it sooner, and pleasantly surprised at the word play involved. See if you can get it!