Would you like to read a novel that has the energy and unpredictability of a chariot ride with Achilles?

This retelling of the Trojan War will make you speechless. If you already know the story ~ as portrayed in Homer’s Iliad ~ then you need to come to this book with an open mind.

Perhaps most shockingly ~ for those of us imbued with the Classics from an early age ~ is that Achilles is a woman. How can that be? Achilles is the most male of male heroes, although Homer does describe him combing and carefully looking after his long blond locks.

In WRATH GODDESS SING Achilles’ hair is the color of fire, which is why she has the nickname Pyrrha, Greek for red.

If Achilles is a woman, who is Patroclus? He is a man, but happily married to an Egyptian princess who is related to Akhenaten the heretic King who overthrew the priests of Amun. Akhenaten is also famous for marrying the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. No, we are not talking of Helen of Troy but of Nefertiti, whose extraordinary bust can be seen in the Pergamon museum in Berlin.

Speaking of Helen, this retelling of the Trojan is the only one to give an account of Helen that makes any sense.

As most everyone knows, Helen had a face that “launched a thousand ships” and began a ten-year-old war between the Greeks and the Trojans to win her back, after she was kidnapped (or eloped) by Paris Alexander, Prince of Troy and one of the sons of King Priam.

In this retelling, Helen is not just a beautiful woman, but a powerful goddess associated with apples, which suggests she is a fertility goddess. If, as this story suggests, she was Hittite (Ms. Deane’s term for the Trojans) and if she was kidnapped by Agamemnon and forced to marry his younger brother Menelaus, then it makes much more sense that the Trojans fight with everything they have to keep this powerful goddess in Troy, where she is worshipped. (I loved the descriptions of all of the votive offerings to Helen in her persona of Goddess of the Apples.)

Imagined reconstruction of the South Gate of Troy VI by Christoph Haussner, Munich.

If you don’t have some kind of explanation like that, you are left with the puzzle of why in the world would all these men come from every corner of Greece to fight for a woman? Especially as the men of that period typically had such withering contempt for them. And so you are forced to fall back on the fact that Troy was a magnificent city, brimming with riches, which guarded the straits that lead into the Lake of Marmara and beyond to the Black Sea. Therefore the Helen story becomes irrelevant in the face of the geo-political gains of acquiring such a prize. And so the question becomes, why have this story about Helen at all? Unless, of course, Homer liked telling romances, or believed that his audience appreciated them.

So, come to this book with an open mind and be aware that this is a incredibly well-researched book, with the documentation mainly coming from the Hittite perspective (as they were the people who kept the records.) This means that most of the familiar Greek names have been replaced by their Hittite equivalents, including Troy, which is referred to as Wilusa, a variant of Ilion, the name that Homer gives to the city. Which is why he called his epic The Iliad and not The Troiad.

Four stars.

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