Review– Troy: Fall of a City

Salvete, readers!

I finally finished the Netflix/BBC retelling of the Trojan War. It has taken me a while as I like to take my time when I’m watching a show I find interesting. ‘Interesting’ is probably the word for Troy: Fall of a City, in a good way for the most part. It’s a rich, complex adaptation with some amazing production values. It takes its time to convey the plot, but the characterisation has the chilliness of a Greek tragedy. Which makes sense, because that’s precisely what it’s meant to be.

Mild spoilers below.

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I was amazed by the sheer scope of the show’s storytelling, and was surprised that it drew not only upon the Iliad but also the Odyssey and Aeneid, as well as Sophocles and Euripides. I get the sense that the show-runners wanted to convey the full sweep of the Trojan War and approach it from as many angles as possible. This ambition is simultaneously the show’s strength and its weakness. Though the cast is enormous and the story is rich with intrigue and tension, we never really spend enough time with any of the characters to become overly invested. I seldom had the sense that it was anybody’s story in particular, or a sense of the characters’ development or growth. The difference between this story and HBO’s Rome is striking. I think casual audiences would prefer to cheer on a likeable viewpoint character whom they could follow through this sea of names and faces. Troy: Fall of a City really needed an everyman character like Lucius Vorenus or Titus Pullo to work as a straightforward heroic narrative.

That said, the show plays with a lot of the tropes of Greek myth in a really clever way which absolutely drips with irony. A good example is a scene where Achilles slices an enemy’s Achilles tendons before he kills him. Another is where Hector declares that he would rather a short life with his family than a long one alone– a brilliant inversion of Achilles’ choice to have a short life as a warrior than a long one as a family man. The show also manages not to make the Trojans look like idiots for bringing the horse into the city, and that is actually quite a feat. The writers included gods in the story and succeeded in invoking a sense of the numinous rather than high camp. I’ve never seen that before.

Troy: Fall of a City differs greatly from the 2004 film Troy in that it doesn’t glorify war, and perhaps you’re not really meant to like any of the characters. There’s no honour or love to be won on this battlefield. Instead, the show captures the brutality and pathos of a Greek tragedy. It doesn’t have any of the warmth or human moments which fill Homer. One of my favourite scenes in the Iliad is from Book 6, where little Astynax interrupts an argument between his parents by crying at the sight of his father in a crested war-helmet. Andromache laughs and sniffles at the same time as Hector whips the helmet off and cuddles his son to calm him. It’s a tender scene, simultaneously sad and funny. You won’t find many such moments in Troy: Fall of a City. It’s mostly bluster and blood.

There’s no talking horses, either. But whatever.

It isn’t meant to be Homer, but a tragedy staged for the screen. It differs from most sword and sandal epics in that it’s a meditation on the horrors of war, told in a thoughtful and unrushed manner. The characters could be more approachable, but then, you don’t necessarily  go see a Greek tragedy because you want to cheer on the heroes as they rush toward their doom.

Until next time,

Valete

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Supanova Gold Coast, 2018

Salvete, readers!

A couple of weeks ago I attended Supanova Comic Con and Gaming on the Gold Coast. This is one of the biggest pop culture events in Australia. My publisher, Odyssey Books, very kindly provided me with a ticket so that I could promote my upcoming novel The Way Home, the first instalment of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy. The novel will be available at all good online retailers on 31 July, 2018. Supanova GC was actually my very first convention, and I’ve been reflecting on it as a learning experience.

 

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At the Odyssey table

I have never really felt the urge to attend these events up until this point, for a few reasons. Besides the fact I have never really had that much in the way of disposable income, crowds aren’t really my thing. And yet it was more than that. Though I’ve always adored pretty much any story which featured spaceships or dragons or robots or magic swords, I’ve always shied away from the social aspects of pop culture. I was always happy to enjoy the genre stuff in the comfort of my armchair, perhaps quietly geeking out with a handful of friends online. Doing it face-to-face always felt weird. Besides the fact I tend to be an introvert, I always worried I was doing it wrong.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been surrounded by nerds berating me for not liking the right things, or liking the wrong things, or still being into the thing they’ve now decided was uncool. Or I quite like something but am a complete novice and therefore unworthy. So I guess I approached this event with a certain amount of trepidation—what if I was doing it wrong, not just with the stories I like, but with a story I had created?

Well, I had to get over it fast, because the doors were opening and literally thousands of people were pouring into the convention centre. The cosplay was amazing and colourful. I’m astounded and impressed by the effort people put into celebrating the things they love, but I must admit I felt a little surge of adrenaline as a legion of superheroes, anime characters, zombies, and Vikings came rushing in…

Well, the good news is that nobody told me I’m doing it wrong. In retrospect, I don’t think I needed to worry.

Lots of people stopped by the table for a chat. I swallowed my nervousness, pressed my promotional postcards into their hands and gave them my elevator pitch. To my amazement, most people seemed genuinely interested in the story and impressed by the artwork on the postcards. A lot of people said they’ll look out for the book when it’s available. Some wanted advice on how to start writing or get published, and I was more than happy to share my experiences. I got to share my enthusiasm about some of the books on the Odyssey table and managed to sell a few books by my friends—I love having the opportunity to help fellow authors out. I also went wandering and met some local indie authors, bought a few books, and had a merry chat about the industry and where it’s going. I even had the chance to meet Terry Brooks, creator of The Shannara Chronicles, and he gave me some awesome advice—but that story is probably worthy of its own blog post!

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Here’s a promotional postcard!

By the end of the day, I had found my tribe—the folks I met that day are genuine, friendly people who adore stories just as much as I do, and aren’t afraid to show it. Turns out I do have a place in this world, after all.

Of course, that was only the trial run. The real test will be at Supanova in Brisbane later in the year, when I’m promoting my actual book.

I hope I see you there!

Until next time,

Valete

P.S. Sign up to my free monthly newsletter for news and previews, as well as an exclusive prologue chapter to the Ashes of Olympus series!

Cover Reveal! Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home

Salvete, readers!

As promised, I’m absolutely thrilled to unveil the cover and blurb for my upcoming novel, Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home, coming July 2018 from Odyssey Books. It’s a YA historical fantasy based upon Greek mythology, in which a band of refugees must face the wrath of the gods to find a way home.

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I’m absolutely in love with the cover, and I am so grateful to my editor and the graphic designer for coming up with such a wonderful image. But what’s it all about? Read on for the blurb…

The gods betray you.
The winds are hunting.
Nowhere is safe.
The journey begins…

The war of the gods has left Aeneas’s country in flames. Though he is little more than a youth, Aeneas must gather the survivors and lead them to a new homeland across the roaring waves. Confronted by twisted prophecies, Aeneas faces the wrath of the immortals to find his own path.

First in a trilogy based on Virgil’s epic poetry, ASHES OF OLYMPUS: THE WAY HOME is a tale of love and vengeance in an age of bronze swords and ox-hide shields.

The novel will be released both as an ebook and in print, July 2018.

Until next time,

Valete

 

P.S. Sign up to my free monthly newsletter for news and previews, as well as an exclusive prologue chapter to the Ashes of Olympus series! Over the next couple of months I’ll be giving readers an exclusive sneak preview of the amazing interior artwork in the book.

 

Fantasy Maps

Salvete readers and happy Easter!

I’ve been in a very visual space this week. Along with my publisher, I’ve been looking at concepts for the cover of my upcoming novel, Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home. It should be finalised very shortly and I can’t wait to share it. All I can really tell you for now is that the cover will be red and gold, Gryffindor colours! Just as exciting, The Way Home will feature nine internal illustrations as well as an incredible map. I’ll share more on the internal illustrations as we get closer to release– here’s a teaser if you can’t wait! But for today’s blog post let’s focus on the map and the thinking that went into it.

I love maps in books. Done properly, they can evoke a sense of space and place, making the story that much more real to readers. It’s great fun to follow your heroes’ journey on the map, and sometimes it can enrich the experience of the author’s world. A map can convey a sense of politics far more effectively than mounds of exposition. The most effective maps, I think, are those which are created to be in-world, because they become a form of world-building. A good map draws you into the story before you’ve even read a word.

However, I’ve also read many fantasy novels where the map actually detracted from the experience of the story. I think if your reader can’t make sense of the story without the map, something has gone terribly wrong. And there are times when the map is included seemingly out of a sense of obligation. They’ve become a staple of fantasy. If you’ve got a map for the sake of having a map, it becomes grating. There are times also when they are nothing but a gigantic spoiler. If every place your characters visit is included on the map, it destroys a sense of discovery. Even worse, if they feel like something out of our world, maps can yank the reader out of the story before you’ve even started. Maps rendered on a computer are too painstakingly accurate for a medieval fantasy, for example. And having a scale in modern miles or kilometres is equally problematic– leaving aside the fact these measures might not exist in your world, the last thing you want is to take away a sense of wonder by having everything precisely quantified. The key is to create the map in a very deliberate way, keeping in mind that it’s a form of story-telling too.

It was very important for me that the Ashes of Olympus trilogy have a map, for a number of reasons. It’s an historical fantasy which uses ancient Greek place names, eg Sikilia for Sicily and Hesperia for Italy. It helps readers connect more if have that visual link between past and present. And to evoke the sense of the past, I wanted it in an antiquarian style, with ships and sea monsters in the water. I did make a couple of concessions to anachronism in drawing up the brief. It wasn’t entirely possible to have the map come from within the universe because the majority of my readers probably don’t read Greek. And I thought it would be confusing to present the slightly jumbled geography we find in Homer and Virgil. Artist Linc Morse rose to the occasion with an exquisitely crafted design. Check it out below!

Map of Middle Sea

 

I particularly love the little Scylla! Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home will be available in July 2018. Sign up to my free monthly newsletter for news and previews, as well as an exclusive prologue chapter to the Ashes of Olympus series!

Until next time,

Valete