Monday 16 May 2011

Readalong: The Iliad part1 Books 1-12

This is for a readalong that Allie from A Literary Odyssey is hosting.

Not sure how I should review a book in parts like this so I am just going to do what feels natural.

The story so far;

I am actually going to split this in two as there are really two stories running. There is the fight between the Trojans and the Achaean's (that's Greeks to you and me) and then there is the squabbles amongst the Gods.


Paris (or Alexandrus as he is actually called which confused me no end - thank you glossary) has stolen the beautiful Helen from Menelaus. Funnily enough he is non too happy about it (and I don't think Helen is either to be honest) and so his brother, Agamemnon, decides to bring an army of Achaean's to ransack Ilium (otherwise known as Troy). It's ten years into the war and still it continues. It looks like things are going to go bad for the Achaean's as Achilles is pulling himself and his men out of the fight. He isn't happy with Agamemnon who brought down the wrath of Apollo onto them. Agamemnon then takes his favourite slave girl which results in Achilles hissy fit. Later when Agamemnon realises he needs Achilles he offers her back with a whole load of other stuff but Achilles decides to keep pouting. Mainly though I think it's because he knows his destiny and will die if he fights.

Despite all that it did look like the Achaean's were going to win. Agamemnon, Odysseus and Nestor are quite good at raising the fighting spirits of their men. Plus there is Diomedes who seemed to be in a blood lust and invincible. He even had the audacity to attack a couple of Gods. Things go downhill for them when Hector (leader of the Trojan army and brother to Alexandrus) enters his own blood lust. He manages to push the Achaean's right back to their ships (it's at this point that Agamemnon begs Achilles).


To be perfectly honest the Gods started all this in the first place. Namely Aphrodite who encouraged Alexandrus to pinch Helen in the first place. It's what she does and she has a soft spot for Alexandrus so naturally wanted him to have the most beautiful woman. However, it resulted in a ten year war so when Diomedes attacks her and then both Zeus and Athena patronise her I have little sympathy. At one point there is a truce between the two armies until of course Aphrodite once again steps in to save Alexandrus.

Things might still have been okay but Athena and Hera are having none of it. They like The Achaean's and want them to bring down Ilium. So Athena encourages the Trojans to break the truce and fighting starts out again. Athena and Hera interfere quite a bit. It's Athena who makes Diomedes invincible. She helps rally the troops and she even distracts Ares from helping the Trojans.

Finally Zeus has had enough. He loves Ilium and is fed up with everyone interfering (particularly Hera and Athena) and tells them all to back off. Of course being the father of the Gods he can still do what he wants and it's him who helps push Hector forward.

If you can't tell I am loving this book. I knew there was more to it than battles (which are a bit gruesome in their descriptions) but I didn't realise how much. I particularly like the petty rivalries amongst the Gods and how this is affecting the outcome of the war.

I was actually never worried about liking the book. I have come across so many retelling's of it in various books and I always enjoyed those. What I was worried about is that it's in verse. Poetry is not my strong point. High school was the last time I studied it although I have read bits and pieces since. Thankfully, I am finding it a lot easier to read than I thought. In fact I think if I wasn't pacing myself for the readalong I would have finished it by now. I'm glad I am taking the slow road though as I think I am taking more of it in.

Only one character is really annoying me in the book and, believe it or not, it isn't Achilles. Actually there has been very little of him so far. It's old Nestor. I get why he is such an important part of the book. He is the wise man. The one who the younger Captains rely on for sage advise especially when they are about to do something rash. There is only so much of "back in my day..." or "if only I was as young now as I was then..." I can take. At this point I am routing for Hector to get to him.

Like I said I am loving it and I am looking forward to the next half of the book. What I really wish though is that Agamemnon and Hector decide they aren't going to be messed about with the Gods anymore and rise up against them. Don't worry, I know that doesn't happen (at least not in this book - try Ilium by Dan Simmons).


  1. I'm so far behind! I think I'm definitely more of an Odyssey type of gal. I just haven't been drawn into it and have had a busy couple of weeks so I'm just going to read a little bit at a time.

  2. I'm looking forward to the Odyssey too although who knows when I will get to read it. I want to read Penelopaid after that one.