Once in a while I receive requests to preview an author’s newest work. In this case the author, Judith Starkston, asked me to read her novel Hand of Fire, a story about the Homeric figure of Briseis. Well once she told me it was a Trojan War era tale I accepted without hesitation as this period of history has long been a favorite of mine. Indeed, it was as a youngster reading the exploits of Heinrich Schliemann and his search for Troy that set me upon the path of being an ancient history aficionado. I have read quite a few historical fictions of the epic struggle , David Gemmell, Glyn Illiffe, Dan Simmons to name a few but this is the first one I have read where the main character is female. Briseis is probably known to most everyone who has read The Iliad or seen the historically flawed movie, Troy, as the cause of strife between Achilles and Agamemnon. What the author does in Hand of Fire is to give her a captivating back story , an in depth tale of a young priestess of the goddess Kamrusepa, the Hittite goddess of healing and fertility, coming of age in a time of war and a young woman coming to grips with who the she is.
The author does an excellent job in setting up the eventual meeting of Achilles and Briseis and in the ongoing byplay between them as they slowly come to grips with their emotions and their entwined fates.
I write historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire, as well as the occasional contemporary short story. I also review here on my website, as well as Historical Novels Review, the New York Journal of Books and the Poisoned Fiction Review.
I trained as a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) and taught high school English, Latin and humanities. As part of the research for my novels, I traveled extensively in Turkey. My husband and I have two grown children and live in Phoenix, AZ, along with our golden retriever Socrates.