While the book is indeed well-written, and with good characters, it is curiously lacking in plot. Not much actually happens during the story and, although it is set in the time of Troy, it is not at all clear how close to the siege the story is at the end of this volume. It certainly doesn't happen here. So the book is a little slow, and has also a faint sense of pointlessness - why, exactly, are we being told the story of these various people? What is their significance? It might have helped to have a brief summary of the Trojan war and its key characters in some sort of foreword - the historical novel equivalent of a map, perhaps. (And an actual map would also have been useful.) The book failed to evoke any real sense of reading about a very different culture - there is more alienness in Patrick O'Brian's stories of Napoleonic naval warfare than here.
Peak may have a point about the lack of plot, but her comment about the need for a foreword suggests that she's missed the point of what Gemmell is trying to do, perhaps through a lack of familiarity with the mythology. As I noted, Gemmell's is a pretty radical 're-imagining' of the Trojan cycle. Including a summary of how the canonical version of the myth would be pointless, as Gemmell isn't following that script. To include anything else would be to ask him to give his plot developments away. The comment on the map, however, derives from the fact that Peak is reviewing a proof copy, as the published version I received does include a map, albeit one which can be criticized for inadequacy (some locations where crucial events take place are not located on it). As for her final comment, I can see her point, in that the characters do sometimes seem to behave like twenty-first century AD humans -on the other hand, I did think Gemmell did a good job of making the inhabitants of the Bronze Age real human beings rather than archaeological abstractions.
(I should perhaps point out, in case anyone thinks sour grapes may be involved in my reaction to Peak's review, that I was offered this book for Vector, but had to turn it down as I'd already agreed to do the Diverse Books review.)
Elsewhere in the same issue, Niall Harrison, who in his role as Reviews Editor of Strange Horizons asked me to review Jeffrey M. Ford's The Cosmology of the Wider World , a book where the central character is a minotaur, writes a review of that selfsame work that is far more perceptive and thoughtful that what I have turned in for him.