(Cover picture courtesy of Tower Books.)
“Helen, The First Trojan Horse” is a great love story wrapped up in a brutal war during an incredible time in history. This book provides a unique twist on the legend of the Trojan War. Helen of Troy is the most enigmatic and villified woman in history. Like the wooden horse to come later, Helen was not what she seemed to the Trojans and she helped to fulfill the Trojan prophecy of their own destruction.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I was absolutely certain I’d love this book. The idea of Helen seducing Paris in order to help Greece because of an impending Trojan attack was too good to pass up. I mean, that turns the whole Paris-seduced-Helen idea on its head! What could possibly go wrong?
Well, the main problem was the execution. Michael Lally’s writing was very basic. Throughout Helen, The First Trojan Horse I was being told what was happening rather than being allowed to see what was happening and drawing my own conclusions. The descriptions were nonexistent and the dialogue was so stiff I had trouble even reading it, let alone doing my usual reading aloud test. Although I can usually forgive some historical inaccuracies and the occasional anachronism, this book was full of them: poor people holding out banners with writing on them, the very modern attitudes toward Helen’s kidnapping, the wedding vows being said, etc.
Helen was very much the main character of the novel, yet I didn’t feel any connection with her. Part of it was the overall poor writing, but the other part was that she didn’t change all that much throughout the novel. Sure, she agreed to go with Paris to Troy so Agamemnon and Menelaus could launch an attack against the Trojans (who had been plotting to attack the Greeks one by one in this version), but I never really felt her despair. We see that she is sharp with Paris and are told she misses Menelaus, but overall I didn’t feel much emotion coming from her. The lack of emotional quality in the writing made it very hard to connect with her character, let alone all of the secondary characters.
Another part of my problem with this book is the lack of transitions. One minute we’re with Helen in Troy and then in the next sentence we’re with Agamemnon plotting the war. Or with Menelaus trying to get Odysseus to join the war. Perhaps part of it was a formatting thing because there were no physical separations of such passages, but the main part was a lack of transitions within the writing itself.
So yeah, overall I was not impressed with Helen, The First Trojan Horse. It had an amazing premise that really could have changed how readers view the legend of Troy, but fell flat.
I give this book 1/5 stars.