The Hittite by Ben Bova

The Hittite by Ben Bova(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

This is the tale of Lukka, the Hittite soldier who traveled across Greece in search of the vicious slave traders who kidnapped his wife and sons.  He tracks them all the way to war-torn Troy.  There he proves himself a warrior to rank with noble Hector and swift Achilles.  Lukka is the man who built the Trojan horse for crafty Odysseus, who toppled the walls of Jericho for the Isrealites, who stole beautiful Helen–the legendary face that launched a thousand ships–from her husband Menaleus after the fall of Troy and fought his way across half the known world to bring her safely to Egypt.

I wasn’t really sure what I expected of The Hittite, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.  The opening scene takes place amidst the chaos of the sack of Hattusas where Lukka is desperately trying to keep discipline in the garrison while finding his family.  The once mighty Hittite empire has been thrown into chaos by a bloody civil war and once Lukka learns that his wife and sons are bound for Troy as slaves, there’s only one place he can go.  Except when he gets there, not all is as it seems.

The thing I like most about The Hittite is how Ben Bova portrayed all of the famous characters from the proud (and vain) Achilles to Helen.  I love how Achilles is the proud fool he was in the original legend while Helen is an independent woman desperate to survive in a world where women are, for the most part, chattel.  The most heartbreaking part of the whole novel is when we hear Helen’s tale from Apet her nursemaid and see just how much she really did suffer in Sparta.  It’s a much more realistic portrayal of Spartan life than I’ve ever seen and had I been in Helen’s place I would have done the exact same thing: use Paris to escape to Troy.

The other thing I liked was that Ben Bova’s writing style has the perfect balance for historical fiction.  He is able to describe everything so that I felt like I was there, but he never really gets into the long-winded descriptions that some authors of historical fiction do.  I liked how he explained the implausible things from the Trojan myth (Achilles’ weakness, the Trojan horse) in a way that makes you believe it really could have happened that way and the story could have just grown into something more.

Overall, I absolutely loved The Hittite.  I wasn’t going to pick it up at first, but it was in the bargain bin at my local bookstore so I figured I had nothing to lose.  Trust me, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall in love with The Hittite once you start reading it.  It’s well worth the cover price.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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