Heracles, the natal result of a Zeusian dalliance, is the subject of Mr. Iliffe’s new series. Son of Zeus is a wonderful telling of the first part of the Heracles myth; the enmity and hatred of Hera toward him is the focal point as Heracles struggles mightily not only with the first three challenging labors but with his own peace of mind as he tries to understand why he murdered his children. Heracles, while known for his strength, is shown to be a man totally driven to find the redemption he is promised, and it is this aspect that drives the narrative. The three labors in this tale are marvelously written; the rank bestiality and cunning of the Nemean Lion; the absolute innocence of a young girl in the Ceryneian Hind; the seeming unstoppable Hydra, take the reader into the heart of the action and drama. While Heracles is up against impossible tasks, his wife Megara is also trying to come to grips with the horror she had gone through. This story line, her search for the answer as to why he did what he did, is crafted in a heart rending fashion, and is another example of the author’s skill in presenting believable characters. I am certainly looking forward to book 2, the author ends book 1 with a lovely nugget for us to chew on.
It is with a great sadness that I say goodbye to Odysseus and company (for the time being). This epic series, so brilliantly conceived and written, has come to it’s conclusion. Throughout my life of reading I have periodically gone back and reread a book or a series of books. This practice has been decidedly put on hold the last few years as my humble book reviewing blog has garnered the attention of many authors who now ask me to read and review their work. That coupled with my own novel writing has put a crimp in going back to reread any of my favorites. The Adventures of Odysseus series may change that. Whether it is because ancient Greek history was my first love or because the author has written some damned good books, I will be rereading this series.
The story of Odysseus comes to a close as he returns to Ithaca to reclaim his home, his throne and his family. The emotional roller coaster ride the main characters experience is the highlight of this volume. Odysseus, Eperitus, Telemachus and Penelope go through the gamut of doubt and fear; hope and happiness as they battle the scheming suitors for the right to rule. The story is well known and it is a credit to the author for taking it and making it his own, giving the reader a fresh look at this ancient tale. 5 stars
The War is over. The Horse came through. The Skaen Gates have fallen and Priam’s Pride is a smoking ruin. Time to load up the loot and slaves and head on out for a leisurely cruise back to kith, kin and kingdom ruling. Ah, but wasn’t there something about a 10 year waiting period before the kith, kin and kingdom stuff? A tumultuous 10 years and a journey that will test everything in a man; courage, loyalty, faith and friendship. Odysseus, mastermind of the Greek’s long awaited victory, is no longer a favorite of the gods, try as he may to appease them; no longer the confident King as he is threatened by those he has lead all those years; no longer does his vaunted intellect and cunning prove effective or wise. This journey back home to Penelope, a wife under siege by those who would replace the rule of Laertes son, Odysseus, is brought to luxuriant life in this, part 5 of The Adventures of Odysseus. The author brings the reader into the constant drama surrounding Odysseus, Eperitus and the rest of the Ithacans; bringing to life the horrors faced, the circumstances that threaten to unravel everything they hold dear. I kept thinking, man, how much more can they take? Well, they’ll have to take more as this book covers the first half of the journey…there’s more to come and that’s, methinks, a good thing. 5 stars
To quote the eminent philosopher and all around wise man, Homer Simpson, “I like stories.” I especially like good stories and this series by Glyn Iliffe is magnificent. The Oracles of Troy is the 4th book in this engaging tale of Odysseus and his fictional captain, Eperitus and the ten year war between the Greeks and the Trojans. The war is basically a stalemate in this tenth year and the Greeks are losing heart and long for their homeland; a homeland that is becoming increasingly more chaotic without the kings and leaders there to govern. This is especially true in the kingdom of Ithaca where Odysseus’ wife Penelope is barely keeping a group of ambitious nobles from taking the reins away from the rightful ruling family. Enter the three oracles, the pieces needed for a Greek victory and the tale of how Odysseus and companions go about to fulfill the three conditions given by the gods.
The author, not only in this book but in the whole series, does for the myths and stories of Odysseus in the same manner that Mary Renault does for Theseus in The King Must Die, etc, though in this case the supernatural intervention of the gods, in particular Athena is much in evidence. Mr. Iliffe does a masterful job of humanizing the Homeric heroes while allowing the gods to have their place as well. These mythic, larger than life characters are portrayed with all of their doubts, worries, ambitions and faults. We have a tale not only of the glory and honor of battle and war but the human failings of betrayal and greed; the human feelings of love and desire. This is a wonderful telling of a wonderful tale. 5 stars and a hearty Hoover Book Review recommendation.
P.S. I inquired of the author of a possible 5th book to chronicle Odysseus’ journey home…am happy to say that it is in the works. 🙂
I must say at the outset that anytime an author can take a well known, pretty much been done every which way tale and imbue it with a knack of rekindling interest in the time worn saga, then said author has done something special. This is the third volume in this series and we find our mythic heroes in the tenth year of the war with no end in sight. The main participants, Odysseus, Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, Helen; well the list goes on…they are brought to life with all of their fears and doubts as well as the twin cornerstones of the conflict, pride and honor. The conflict rages not only on the battlefields but in the hearts and minds of the combatants…so much tension…so many paths and decisions to make. The author has crafted a wonderful take on The Trojan War, a take with many plots and surprises along the way while at the same time replaying the familiar scenes, such as Achilles and Agamemnon’s feud or the battle between Achilles and Hector in a way that makes them fresh and exciting.
I mark this series as a must read….5 stars
King of Ithaca is the first book in this series about the Greek warrior and hero Odysseus. The story begins with Laertes still the King but there is a revolt brewing that threatens to remove Laertes and his line as the royal family. Odysseus is consulting the oracle on Mt. Parnassus about his future. It is this journey where he meets the other main protagonist of the book, Eperitus, an exiled prince looking to find glory under a new lord. The Odysseus in this story is not portrayed in the Homeric mode but is rather more human than mythic. His crafty like nature is not some spur of the moment inspiration, instead Odysseus wrestles with each problem to find solutions. There is doubt and anguish involved in the process. This very human quality is found in all of the characters involved including the three main women in the story, Helen, Penelope and the most formidable of them, Clytaemnestra.
In juxtaposition to the human equation we find a taste of the Olympians mainly in the portrayal of Athena. She has promised to lend her aid to Odysseus in his quest to reclaim the throne of Ithaca but you know Olympians, they can be a bit fickle at times and Odysseus knows this.
There are many scenes of action, battles with human foes and one with a monster in the mythic tradition, and a sort of humorous scene of the hero Ajax entering the hall of Tyndareus in Sparta. He reminded me somewhat of Angus Donald’s Little John but on steroids. There are also a few well placed quirks in the story line that make one pause for a second to negotiate an unexpected turn in the road. It is a very enjoyable account of my favorite Greek hero, Odysseus and look forward to continuing his story in the sequel. This book rates a strong 4 stars.