Book Review: Black Ships Before Troy

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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From an acclaimed pair of professionals comes a new book about the Trojan War. It is Black Ships Before Troy, and it is written by famed Arthurian writer Rosemary Sutcliff and illustrated by famed Lord of the Rings artist Alan Lee. The result is a book so rich in both words and images as to be unbelievably good.

Sutcliffe's narrative expertly sets the scene for the main action, tracing the early life of Paris, son of the king of Troy, and how it involves the feud between three of the Greek goddesses. The argument that results in Paris's being promised the most beautiful woman in the world is almost an afterthought, the content is so rich. The narrative never talks down to readers

The book is a retelling of The Iliad, for younger audiences. Most of the famous incidents are reproduced herein, with younger readers in mind. The story, however, loses none of the impact of that famous war poem. The heroes, like Achilles and Hector, Agamemnon and Paris, seem larger than life. Achilles, especially, gets center-stage treatment here. His brawn and luck are more on display than his brain, but he appears smart and heroic all the same.

The illustrations are beautifully crafted. Lee definitely knows how to make compelling images, and he does it here seemingly on every page. The people and scenes are so lifelike that you feel almost like you're watching stills from a movie and not reading a book. Still, the static quality of a book illustration really helps to make these vivid images come even more to life than they appear on the page.

The result of this collaboration is a wonderful book, be it an introduction or a refresher on the famed war from ancient times.

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