Hand of Fire

Hand of Fire A Novel Of Briseis And The Trojan WarThe Trojan War Threatens Troy S Allies And The Greek Supply Raids Spread A Young Healing Priestess, Designated As Future Queen, Must Defend Her City Against Both Divine Anger And Invading Greeks She Finds Strength In Visions Of A Handsome Warrior God Will That Be Enough When The Half Immortal Achilles Attacks Hand Of Fire, A Tale Of Resilience And Hope, Blends History And Legend In The Untold Story Of Achilles S Famous Captive, Briseis Semi Finalist In The MM Bennett S Award For Historical Fiction In Hand Of Fire, Starkston S Careful Research Brings Ancient Greece And Troy To Life With Passion And Grace This Haunting And Insightful Novel Makes You Ache For A Mortal Woman, Briseis, In Love With A Half God, Achilles, As She Fights To Make Her Own Destiny In A World Of Capricious Gods And Warriors I Devoured This Page Turning Escape From The Modern World Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times Bestselling Author Of The World Beneath

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  • Paperback
  • 301 pages
  • Hand of Fire
  • Judith Starkston
  • English
  • 06 April 2019

10 thoughts on “Hand of Fire

  1. says:

    What makes a good historical novel The writing, of course, has to be well done a good pace, that page turner quality where the reader is hooked into the story from the first paragraph to the last The plot has to keep going, no sagging bits in the middle where the reader starts skipping pages.Characters Ah yes, good characters that are believable as real people even when they are clearly made up They don t necessarily have to be likeable characters, the baddies can be just as entertaining as the goodies.What else What about research A poor historical novel gets all the facts wrong, or so muddled so the background believability is ruined.There also needs to be suspense, tragedy, maybe it can be a little bit sexy in places Romance, hatreds, fights, tension A good historical novel leaps to life, it should be almost as if you have travelled back in time and you are watching the characters story unroll before your eyes You laugh, cry, get angry with them when they do You ache to know what happens next But what is the difference between a _good_ historical novel and a _brilliant_ one I suggest you read Judith Starkston s Hand of Fire and you ll discover the answer.

  2. says:

    Don t provoke me wretched headstrong girl Or in my immortal rage I may just toss you overHate you as I adore you now with a vengeance Homer, The Iliad Judith Starkston, an American historical fiction writer, has spun a gripping tale of Briseis, who was held captive by the half immortal, Achilles ans she was the very reason of a dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon which is the central plot of Homer s The Iliad, in her new book, Hand of Fire Although Judith Starkston has focused her book on Briseis s painful life and also how a woman like Briseis love a half immortal man like Achilles.Synopsis The Trojan War threatens Troy s allies and the Greek supply raids spread A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god will that be enough when the half immortal Achilles attacks Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles s famous captive, Briseis The war between Trojans and Greeks rages on, and the all the while Briseis is scared of her fate, since she is betrothed to marry a bad tempered and violent prince of Lyrnessos, Prince Mynes Soon after the men of Lyrnessos leaves for the war, the Greeks attack their city and holds Briseis captive And eventually her fate changes when she falls in love with her captor, Achilles the half immortal man Read the book to unfold the most devastatingly beautiful story of Briseis and Achilles.Well firstly, I must say, it s a quite powerful novel which holds the power to change your opinion about this woman called Briseis Moreover, the author have spun this mythological tale quite flawlessly with her crisp prose and expressive words The narrative style is quite alluring, since we are made to see the story from Briseis s POV, but don t worry, the author gives us enough space to analyze it with our own perspective Well to be honest, the book opened bit slow and at times the emotional pull was not strong enough to let us see clearly It is not hard to portray any mythological character about whom we already know, but this author have crafted out them with ease, depth and compassion thus making them look beautiful than they were known and making us acquainted in a way like we know our own friends Yes, I understand, it s hard to contemplate, but this particular author knows how to develop a character with ease with the progress of the plot The author have vividly painted that grotesque backdrop of Trojan War fought against the city of Troy by the Greeks, thus giving us feel like we are standing right in between blood and gut Moreover, what I most admired about this author was her ability to lay out or draw out any picture effortlessly, intricately and strikingly, whether it is Mount Ida or the way courageous Briseis speaks I said before in my review that this author changes our mindset, well she does changes our perspective about Achilles, from a cruel man to a man with a softness in his heart And if are a big fan of tales of ancient gods and goddesses, then it will leave you enthralled till the very end Verdict All the historical and mythological story lovers, don t give this book a miss And the rest, you can read this book to lose yourself in the alluring voice of Briseis Synopsis Thanks to the author, Judith Starkston, for providing me with a copy of her book, in return for an honest review

  3. says:

    I m not finding it amusing to be the dissonant voice in a chorus of near universal praise for this novel, especially when I don t have any hipster inclinations and this is a retelling of The Iliad a book I adore from the point of view of a very minor character Achilles war prize slave Briseis, a choice of protagonist that I don t recall seeing than once before.And this starts very well, so well that for the majority of the first half you don t have much cause to expect it to disappoint But disappoint it does, in the end As usual for me, I can easily list the reasons For a start, length I think this story should ve been longer, and with that I don t mean that the author should ve crammed in as many words as she could only to make the book fatter I mean the plot should ve included , specifically in the second half, where it s all so rushed, so full of holes, all told increasingly and in vignette style passages that make the flow bumpy and jumpy, in abrupt stops and starts like some old car True, it could ve stayed as long as it currently is without adding , too, but on condition that the narration be evened out, large chunks edited out or rewritten, as many time jump holes filled as possible, and a better handling of transition from one event to another that happen in the same chapter which are short, so this makes some vignettes read like swift summaries of an event action The author knows how to write and create characters, but she doesn t have a good command of storytelling flow and pacing Then, believability I have no particular preference for Homeric retellings being fantasy or historical or steampunk for all I care, but I do expect that they follow the rules of the chosen genre they belong in I expect believability and pausibility within the conventions of a genre If you tell me your retelling is a Sci Fi space opera, I m all ears and eyes for the spaceships and all the cool tech thingies you ll invent But if you classify your retelling as Historical Fiction, and then break the rules of historicity and plausibility, then I m sorry, the story can no longer be sold with that label Hand of Fire falls in the fantasy genre, it can be correctly tagged Historical Fantasy, but not HF It s not historical, it ceased to be the moment the author made the gods real It could have been written so that it be the characters who believe the gods are real and alive beings, and that d be fine and appropriate for the time and for a purely historical tale, but this author actually made Thetis mother of Achilles appear on page in all her glory And there are other instances of the gods existence being a reality and their meddling in the affairs of men, too That s just breaking the suspension of disbelief.And then, characterisation in the beginning, and for than a dozen chapters, Briseis is a believable and interesting woman, one you can see actually existing and doing the things she does I liked her in those early chapters Then stuff happens that brings that image down First is the fact that she starts to have strange dreams that are unnervingly erotic, in which she sees a god of her people, Telipinu, who looks oh, surprise exactly like Achilles down to his glorious golden mane What Oh, sure, yes, yes, we ve all had wet dreams at some point in life That s not the argument here The point of these dreams is straight out of a lurid bodice ripper, merely there to establish that Briseis is Fated By The Gods to meet Achilles and have wild monkey sex with him before the gates of Troy, and the detail that the god of her dreams looks like a clone of the demigod of her wet dreams is included just so she ll know Achilles instantly when he barges in wielding his sword, brings the walls down with the sheer power of his sexiness and carries her off on his shoulder, caveman like Is that realistic Definitely not It s not like photos and videos existed back then that d influence a girl s subconscious and lead her to dream with her celebrity crush, the way Briseis does The strong minded, industrious, dignified, and likable girl who can take in great loss and challenges in her short life is suddenly turned into a poor victim to a brute husband, is captured by another golden brute, forgets too soon and too easily that he killed one brother and is the cause of the deaths of the other two brothers, and goes weak in the knees on barely arriving to the Achaean camp Or, in other words, Briseis experiences a regression and character inconsistencies in the name of shoehorning her into doing as Fate decreed Which leads me to insta love As Briseis is a slave, she really cannot consent or reject freely to becoming Achilles bedmate, which is why there are accusations of Stockholm Syndrome some people throw at this when it is brought up Starkston says in her Author s Notes that she doesn t share this opinion, and I d have loved to read what her counter arguments were I certainly hope they are much better than what s done in the novel to circumvent this thorny point and avoid any scent of forced seduction masquerading as love Unfortunately, the novel does nothing to counter argue credibly and logically to the mentioned concerns, because, on top of the Fateful Dreams plot element that prepares the field for their meeting, when that does come to happen, Achilles experiences a fit of love at first lust He meets Briseis, witnesses her rash action in defence of her brother, and goes into regretful hand wringing on her behalf that s soon morphed into love And she She resists for a short while, a too short while given her family s tragedy because of Achilles in this novel, and then the token resistance is immediately wiped out to engage in passionate lovemaking following Briseis saving a fellow slave girl from rape and being covered up by Achilles to escape punishement By the way, why is it that in so many novels the immediate follow up of attempted sexual assault is sex Who, after narrowly escaping rape, thinks Yay I want to shag this hottie who saved me She remembers her dreams, concludes that her destiny is to be with Achilles, feelings appear overriding the ugly reality of killing and slavery, and she s in his bed right away Basically, the second half of the book is Briseis comes, beds Achilles, gets pregnant, and leaves By the way again, where are Achilles wife and son Neoptolemus Never are they mentioned in this novel, where he talks of wanting Briseis to be his wife when they return to Phthia Uh Hey, Achilles, have you forgotten Deidamia And that your Mummy told you that you won t come back alive from Troy Sigh Many holes, this book has, my young padawan.It s not realistic to make a love story blossom so fast and with so little cause, while ignoring the problematic elements and the war in general It s true that The Iliad has Achilles in love with his war prize and that she does seem to reciprocate despite the circumstances But one has to take into consideration that the Trojan War spans a full decade and so there was plenty of time, implied years, for the sentiments between Achilles and Briseis to develop Years for them to know each other, to have a routine, a life in common, and so on.Finally, I d like to comment on a small detail Briseis father When I read his name was Glaukos in this novel, I was wondering what had happened to Briseus, which is how her father is called in the original But since the author had reinvented her as a priestess of Kamrusepa and given her a life of her own that Homer and the other poets of the Epic Cycle never gave her, I didn t think much of it, ascribing it as just another right to creative licence bestowed on every reteller Until I read in the Author s Notes that Starkston changed Briseus name to Glaukos purely for clarity And I don t agree in the least with it Whilst the intention to make old Greek names as simple as possible is fine, I think she did it already with giving her invented characters easy names, and should have let the names of those characters named in The Iliad intact It s condescending to assume it ll be complicated or unclear if father and daughter have similar names, so when neither have a name that s overlong, complex to pronounce or hard to remember After all, it s not unheard of in the real world for fathers and daughters to have similar names George and Georgia, Peter and Petra, Michael and Michelle, Christian and Christine, etc So why think readers wouldn t be able to tell old Briseus, who only appears in the beginning, from the protagonist, Briseis Even , there s the priest Chryses and his daughter Chryseis, who is Agamemnon s captive, and the author hasn t changed names there though she conveniently omits naming the priest, leaving it at stating his position when speaking of him Also, readers that love Historical Fiction are likelier to do well with repetitive names and people with the same name, because that s common in history Look at readers of English historical fiction, for example, where everyone seems to be called Henry, Edward, Richard and Elizabeth, Mary and Jane, yet they can tell who is who anyway.Three stars it is, mostly for the first half and the unusual POV if not for the passable reimagining.

  4. says:

    Hand of Fire is an expertly researched book that blends both the history and mythology of the Trojan War I ve always been intrigued by the character of Briseis, inspiring as she did Achilles temporary withdrawal from the fighting, and here she comes to vivid life her early years as a priestess of Lyrnessos, her first marriage to Mynes, and her brutal capture by the Greeks This is a unique look at the Trojan War, told as it is from the point of view of a slave who commanded the love of one of the greatest epic heroes in history.

  5. says:

    What a good book This might be the best Trojan War novel I ve read this year It is certainly far better than For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser also telling the Trojan War with Briseis as the central character and thus this book s direct competition It s practically criminal that Hand of Fire is not better known Why is it that some of the best books are so overlooked I admit, I have a difference of opinion with the author, Judith Starkston In her author s note, she mentions that she interprets the characters and the relationships of The Iliad such that Briseis and Achilles have a mutual and true romance For all you Patroklos Achilles fans out there, it is worth noting that Homer never does make it clear what the nature of that relationship was although later Greeks speculated and argued about it , so I have always accepted that if you want to imagine that Patroklos and Achilles were lovers, or if you want to imagine that Briseis and Achilles were lovers, both are equally acceptable and valid readings Heck, you could even plausibly read that both relationships existed But I admit, I m not a natural fan of Briseis Achilles Not because I read Achilles sexuality a certain way our modern categories seem not to have existed for the ancient Greeks, who cared about whether you were dominant or submissive than anything else but because of the circumstances of the epic Xenophobia specifically discrimination along tribal lines, not necessarily language or complexion was a frequent feature of Bronze Age life, as was slavery, and the justification was often that war captives deserved their fate, for why else would the gods have let them lose the battle In such a world, an equal romance between Briseis and Achilles seems implausible to me, a rarity when a far common occurrence would have been that captive women would have been used as a possession, a one sided sexual relationship with no love to speak of.So, did I dislike the central relationship of this book No I still don t think it is the most likely scenario, but it is well done Starkston has created two likable characters and an intriguing dynamic between them that invites you to believe in their attraction and root for their romance If anything, it was too good to be true I liked the portrayal of Achilles character so much in the romance that I found myself thinking He probably wasn t this nice to her But wouldn t it be wonderful if it had happened like this So, while I didn t automatically buy into the premise, this was very much a case of willing suspension of disbelief I knew it wasn t my own most likely interpretation of a events, but I liked it enough to actively want to play what if with the book.I think it helped that such a considerable amount of time and space is spent with Briseis before she even meets Achilles Most depictions of Briseis marriage with Mynes that I ve read prior to this book show it as happy, or at least amicable but that makes it much harder to swallow a mutual romance between Briseis and Achilles later on Starkston has hit upon the fact that there is nothing precluding the marriage from being unhappy, which in turn plausibly pushes Briseis into Achilles arms faster And yet, I must applaud Starkston she doesn t make Mynes a complete villain I do detest villains Villains are stock characters who are evil for evil s own sake and devoid of redeeming features Antagonists are complex human beings whose objectives currently place them at odds with the protagonist, a form of logic no matter how twisted motivating their actions, and somewhere, at some time, have someone or something they care about and or cares about them The wool scene does a world of good for Mynes character, and saves him from being one note I wasn t sure what to think of the Telepinu myth It s fascinating that there are so many parallels between Telepinu and Achilles, but usually I d prefer the author not to draw that much attention to them because I find that foreshadowing, unless extremely subtly done, only makes a story predictable and sucks out the tension Then again, in this case, the story is so well known, does it really matter Starkston takes a archaeological approach than most Trojan War retellings, drawing upon the connections that the western Anatolian kingdoms had with the Hittite empire to flesh out Briseis origins and her life before it is thrown into chaos This is really above and beyond what most retellings do, and as a history lover both professionally and personally, it s a big tick in the checkbox of things I look for in historical fiction or historical fantasy grounded in a real historical place and time I did possibly spot one tiny anachronism Starkston describes Achilles drawing his sword thusly The bronze blade slid against its scabbard as he partly withdrew it, making a scraping sound that filled her mind with blood and her tongue with a metallic burn. Any experienced sword user will tell you that swords do not make the singing sound that they do in films when withdrawn from a scabbard The seed of truth of this comes from 19th century military swords with metal scabbards or at the very least metal throats on the scabbard But any scabbard made of wood or leather, without a metal throat and most other scabbards in history were do not make that sound But I concede that the passage doesn t explicitly say that the scraping sound was metal, it just implies it from the fact that the scraping sound makes Briseis think of a metallic burn That s it That s all I picked up on under historical anachronisms in this book.I can t help but admire Starkston s authorial restraint and discipline It s clear that the exciting stuff that every reader is going to want to get to is the Trojan War and Achilles and Briseis relationship, but Starkston avoids the temptation of plunging headlong into it and rushing the early part of the book A lot of stories fall flat because they ask the reader to care about a Big Moment without having given the reader a reason to do so An author has to put in the leg work to earn the payoff Otherwise the audience is thrown into a scene where they know very little about the potential stakes and consequences and haven t invested in the protagonists and it s going to fall horribly flat So many authors of a lesser calibre would have rushed through Briseis life before Achilles and created something thinly sketched, with a poorly realised world and characters little than names This sort of writing doesn t ring true though People don t just skim through their life waiting for something big to happen we don t have that kind of foresight People don t know what is going to happen, and invest their energy and priorities into the present moment, reassessing periodically When I was reading through Briseis life before Achilles in Hand of Fire, her concerns, her objectives, her immediate problems were important I didn t feel bored waiting for the Big Moment to happen, and Briseis seemed like a realistic human being.I debated with myself what final score to give this book, and I was very tempted to give it 9 out of 10 five stars but a couple of things held me back I feel that the book would ve had to have done in order to earn that extra point I would have liked the book to have been longer I was happy with the large amount of space given to Briseis life before Achilles close to 50% of the book and I wouldn t suggest cutting it down, but I would ve liked the section on the Trojan War to have been expanded Starkston mentions in her author s note that she interprets Achilles as an existential hero, and I think she could have pushed that much harder I think the drama and profundity of the story could have been increased if this theme had been leaned into heavily I m imagining Briseis torn between her love for Achilles and her grief over her brothers deaths, confrontations in which the heat of battle and importance of a cause is set against the inevitable knowledge that good people get killed, challenging the Bronze Age preconceptions of what made a good life, whether slavery was acceptable, or indeed whether the gods even deserved devotion when their interference in the tale has such callously devastating effect These are the kind of questions that The Iliad asks and what makes it such a titan of literature Hand of Fire touches on them, but not nearly as much as I would have liked To be a true epic, the scope of the book would have been expanded beyond Briseis and Achilles, and tackled the perspectives of other characters in addition And, finally, I would mark out the writing style as above the competence that I use as my baseline for an acceptable read but it falls short of being something extraordinary, of possessing the kind of creative flair and innovation that I relish in a very few special books.Although there is comfortable headroom for improvement, Hand of Fire stands solid above a great many decent books It is not merely entertaining , enjoyable , or competent the very least I demand from a book in order to rise to average or just above score It is well researched, it works hard to earn the reader s investment, and it successfully hits up story telling techniques that make a good book It deserves to be better known.8 out of 10

  6. says:

    Ms Starkston sent me a pre publication copy and here we have an excellently researched book There are many tales of Troy, and the great battle that conquered her We look most closely at Achilles and his lover, through the eyes of that lover But we do so as if the mythology is true.And with that I found that this romantic epic was not actually one that I longed for or could relate well too Many another possibly could, but there was a great deal of longing and yearning, and finding a way to nullify the horrific acts that enemies inflict upon each other in a brutal war That the mythology also intruded puts this novel in to the realm of Romantic Fantasy, and bends us away from the Historical, where we would try and explain in rational terms why Achilles was a tremendous warrior.The set up, to bring our two leads together also took away from the pacing of the book though gave the heroine the out of contrasting prior relationships to the foreordained relationship she was doomed to have with the heroic, godlike, Achilles It was overly long and a key to enticing those who study the military side of this war would be to access the tale closer to the action, and distanced from the romance.That however was not the main thrust of this piece The set up was designed to give one an affinity for the Heroine, and it does that well But to provide us in modern times with a read of a story where all believe that the Gods influence things such as the plague, makes a disconnect for me as a historian as well I should expect that even the most firm believer would be prone to understand that one action in life a certain way does not cause the desired outcome from nature, and thus the gods, since nature is arbitrary Thus in the end, this is a highly rated book for those who would dwell in the midst of a tale of love, with the background of the Trojan War painted around it But if you were to look too closely for detail of that war, or any aspect beyond what we know from the Iliad or from archeological digs that support Homer s epic, you might not find what you want.

  7. says:

    Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston is a historical fiction set before and during the Trojan War The story focuses on Breisis, a priestess of the healing goddess Kamrusepa, and the woman who came between Achilles and Agamemnon Breisis, who earned only a few lines in Homer s Illiad, is brought to light in Hand of Fire Starkston both expands and expounds the history and character of Breisis, giving her a whole new form, dimension and depth Hand of Fire opens with Breisis s mother on her death bed, and the priestess praying to their goddess to extend her life However, her prayers are not answered Breisis follows in her mother s footsteps but cannot seem to grasp all of her mother s faith, devotion and abilities Breisis is devoted but not like her mother, making her feel incompetent at times.Despite prolonged delays, the inevitable happens Breisis weds Mynes, to whom she has been betrothed since birth a dreadful marriage to a soon to be dreadful ruler Mynes is rash, brutal and blood thirsty, which is his doom, and to which the reader and Breisis are equally thankful.Breisis is a healer and the bards tell of the great warrior Achilles as being an unchallenged fighter and healer Breisis and Achilles collide in their first meeting Things progress slowly but interestingly There is a constant ebb and flow between these two characters.Breisis is truly a strong woman and character However, her selflessness goes beyond the limits of human behaviour, in my opinion at least, making her both caring and annoying at times.Hand of Fire is about Breisis it focuses on her and her alone The novel does not stray from the priestess to any other character throughout, which is quite interesting actually Her character development is slow but nicely weaved The novel is full of ups and downs that are all well thought of to bring Breisis to the finale, to one last decision.There are many other likeable characters in Hand of Fire Achilles best friend Patroklos is wise, calming, kind and above all loyal beyond measure He is also one of few who can calm Achilles fire Also, one of the most beautiful speeches in the novel is said by Patroklos Each of you holds the comfort the other most needs You are meant for each other Even the men see that your height, your hair colour and the divine poise you share I see than that I see inside you the same gifts, the same fire Only you can heal each other You have a fire whose strength can quiet his fire Imagine Fire dampened by fire p 163 Eurome, Breisis s maid, is an intelligent and caring companion and friend and essential character in the novel She is a source of rumours and comedy in the novel After Eurome s first ride in the ship, and after a bout of seasickness, she says Oh my stars and fishes, if we was meant for seagoing, the gods would gave us fins and scales p 155 The elemental imagery, particularly the fire imagery, that accompanies Breisis and Achilles is exemplary He was made of fire and water When they joined together, she was filled with feelings far beyond the capacity of her spirit and body to contain pleasure and delight, pain and despair also, fiercest bonding, radiating out from her in dancing flames p 217 There is plenty but I cannot quote it all.The daughter of a historian, Starkston weaves a tale that would linger and leave a mark with every reader.Hand of Fire is by far the best historical fiction novel, and novel in general, that I have read in a while It is a must read and I certainly plan on rereading it again in the near future for I could not get enough of it.A ten star book

  8. says:

    In the interests of full disclosure, this book was written by my very favorite teacher from high school In a similarly honest vein, after a few pages, I would have read it regardless of who the author was What a lovely novel Who doesn t already know the story of The Iliad The heroic acts of Achilles The Trojan Horse But I have never read a book told from the perspective of one of the captives of the Greeks The story of Briseis, a Trojan priestess who became the prisoner of Achilles, is not very well fleshed out in The Iliad Here, she springs to life I m a sucker for back stories and the history of characters I loved how we learned about Briseis training, her home life, her family Her knowledge of medicines, herbs, and healing was especially interesting It was clear that a great deal of research went into it, as the details of many medicines and treatments were quite specific The culture of the region and time was vividly described and very well studied I confess I knew very little about the region or culture, so reading this novel was a great enlightenment in that regard The various palaces, rituals, garb, and social roles were all vividly described I felt like I was actually there The thing I liked the most about this novel was the portrayal of Achilles himself I like the idea that he wasn t just a mindless killer, fighting until fate took over and he was killed He had a side that was war weary, a man who wanted just to go home and make a life with a woman he loved It made him far believable and likeable, a interesting and complex figure I imagine a lot of actual combat veterans feel the same way While this novel didn t seem to suggest that Achilles, or any other warrior, suffered from PTSD, it did show that even hardened, semi immortal fighters sometimes just want to have peace.In the author s notes, it had some discussion about how Briseis could have fallen in love with the man who was responsible for the death of her family and destruction of her town I m not entirely sure I agree that she truly loved him, unless it was just something the gods fated to happen That argument could hold since Briseis dreams showed Achilles as her god Telepinu It seems a little too deus ex machina to me Although cultures and times change, I think much of human nature remains the same I can t imagine many people who could fall in love with someone responsible for killing most of their family Maybe that is my own failing as a reader I don t know But I am inclined to go with Stockholm Syndrome, though Starkston disagrees on this point In either case, the relationship between Achilles and Briseis was a fascinating evolution.Related to this is the way in which Starkston conveyed how very real the gods were to this culture For a person like myself who has zero faith and no religion, it can be difficult to remember that the gods were, in fact, very real to people Still are, I suppose, for those who have faith This concept informs most aspects of society, and it is evident in their actions and culture and rituals Starkston did a fantastic job of showing us how religion worked its way into Hittite society and culture in ways we don t always consider today.Overall, this is a beautifully written, well researched novel I would happily recommend it to anyone with an interest in historical fiction, antiquities, or a specific interest in The Iliad.

  9. says:

    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 struggling with who 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 There is much turmoil and strife due to the fact that this is a war time setting and that this is the 10th year of that prolonged struggle and the author succeeds in bringing to life the Greek anguish of being so far from home for so long a time Achilles, though a formidable warrior, is portrayed in a way that emphasizes his frailty as well, especially after the death of Patroclus.I really enjoyed this book and recommend it highly and am looking forward to from this author I give it 5 stars.Buy Links UK to the tour schedule Hand of Fire Fireship Press Virtual TourBioI 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 RevieI 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.

  10. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Hand of Fire from start to end Judith has tackled a difficult combination here, blending soundly researched historical fiction with mythic elements In this she is placing herself solidly in the tradition of the Iliad, from which the basic setting of Achilles and Briseis comes In the process Judith also pleasingly avoids the common approach of demythologising ancient material The ambiguities and difficulties of a story integrating both humans and gods are welcomed rather than shirked.One of the central questions here that stood out to me was whether it is possible to love someone who is archetype than person In one sense such a love is larger than life and sweeps everything else aside in another it is completely impossible, and doomed to disappointment on both sides That, for better or for worse, is where Briseis finds herself in relation to Achilles.Religion and spirituality are key themes in the book Briseis world view, its habits of thought, and the rituals that attend it, are foundational to the story, and are well constructed and appropriate to her Bronze Age context I thoroughly enjoyed the blend of faith, doubt, superstition and logic that she displays, which will be recognisable to modern readers just as much as to her contemporaries Achilles is a step beyond such constraints, operating in a dimension of certainty most of us cannot His passions are larger than ours, incomprehensibly so at times, and like a spiritual amphibian he moves comfortably in the liminal space between this world and the next, between the terra firma of his father, and his mother s measureless ocean.As you can tell, Hand of Fire made a great impression on me, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to explore the tail end of the Bronze Age Read it either as soundly researched history or as an exploration of archetypes either way it is compelling.

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