Updated: Jun 12
In Roman mythology, Aeneas is the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the twins who founded Rome. In Greek Mythology Aeneas, like Hercules, and many other mortals has a god as a parent. He is the son of Prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His mortal father however was a cousin of King Priam and therefore he fought with the Trojans in the war.
The Romans considered him a great hero and he is immortalized in Virgil’s Aeneid. In a nutshell Barr’s novel covers the events that happen in the Aeneid, bringing the story to readers who may not wish to delve into the ancient poem itself.
With Odysseus’ plan of the Trojan Horse succeeding, the unbreakable walls of Troy, forged by Poseidon himself, are breached, and the War that raged for a decade ends in one bloody night.
This is where Barr chooses to begin his novel. It is not a battle it is a slaughter and there is nothing the Trojans can do with the Greeks now inside their invulnerable walls.
Aeneas escapes Troy, and it is his travels, and adventures, that Barr uses as his narrative, giving Aeneas the protagonist’s role.
As with the epic poems, Homer's The Iliad, and Virgil's Aeneid, the gods are very much alive in this novel and take great delight in helping their favourites and hindering their enemies, switching allegiances on a whim.
Barr brings a “realness” a “human” feel to the novel in the aftermath of the sacking. With people displaced, no home to return to, and a future dark and bleak.
After the confusion dies down, the survivors realize that Aeneas, with Priam’s line completely wiped out, is now the king, a role that falls heavily on Aeneas’ shoulders. Relief washes over him when they find that a son of Priam, Skamandrios, still survives and is headed across the sea. Aeneas rallies the people to follow.
There is a prophecy that the Trojans will rule all the lands of Earth. With the fall of Troy and its destruction, Hera, Zeus’ wife, thinks that she has put an end to this prophecy, her hatred for the Trojans quenched, however after a visit to Apollo, she finds out that the prophecy is very much still alive, and she will stop at nothing to destroy the surviving Trojans.
Barr has a writing style well suited to the fast-paced narrative and the story flows along nicely. He has done a wonderful job with this novel, which may well convert some readers who tend to dislike history and mythology. Just as the gods in the novel take on human avatars to mingle with mortals, Barr has taken a classic poem from history and turned it into a wonderfully readable novel.
This is the first book in a trilogy and I eagerly await the next book. 4 Stars.
Thanks to Henry and Odyssey books for the book to review.
Julian Barr first fell in love with all things Greek and Roman in childhood, when he staged the epic tale of the Emperor Claudius using sock puppets. After his PhD in Classics, he did a brief stint as a schoolteacher, hated being called ‘sir,’ and dived into storytelling. Although he remains open to the possibilities of sock puppet theatre, historical fantasy is his passion. He has published scholarly research on Roman medicine and the gastronomic habits of Centaurs but prefers to think of himself as an itinerant bard. Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home is his debut novel.