‘This is no game .. Zeus means for the Trojan bloodline to join that of the Latins. His empire will mean starvation for all gods. Go now. Shatter the peace, turn brother against brother.’ Hera to Athena and Ares.
In The Way Home, the first book of The Ashes of Olympus trilogy, the survivors of Troy flee the Greeks and take to the wind dark sea to find a new home. Before reading on you might like to read my review here.
Now in The Ivory Gate Julian Barr continues this emotive and action packed story. We are reminded that Aeneas’ troubles, the fate of the Trojan’s and of the Latins, all arise from the feud between the goddesses Aphrodite and Hera. I enjoy how Julian Barr gives us gods you can not only fear but also feel for. Hera’s machinations, for instance, are driven by her fierce desire to protect her daughter, Queen Dido of Karkhedon (later known as ‘Carthage’).
Aphrodite recruits the Furies, Poseidon, Cyclops and Hephaestus, god of fire and forger of weapons. Hera ramps up this arms race by summoning not only the warrior Athena but also the war god himself, Ares. And this is no mere spat among the Olympians. This is for their survival.
As the narrative moves from Karkhedon to Scilia and on to Italia, the Olympians plot and interfere, causing grief. But the mortals struggle on, protecting the ones they love while striving for their destinies.
Julian Barr brings to life Dido’s anguish at being abandoned by her lover Aeneas’, his clumsy attempt to connect with his son Julos who resents being pulled away from Dido, the only mother figure he has known, Lavinia’s attempts to live up to her father’s memory, and Beroe’s smouldering grief at the loss of her partner.
There are many reasons for me to give this trilogy my whole hearted recommendation: it brings to life the misty times of legend, it delivers Virgil’s stories in an exciting form to a modern audience, it contains maps and superb illustrations (like the one above), and anyway I simply love stories like this.
At Julian Barr’s website you can also read about his Tooth and Blade series in which Norse Myth meets fantasy.
*The images here are copyright, and shown by courtesy of the author and Odyssey Books.