Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: "Hand of Fire" by Judith Starkston

Synopsis:  The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis. 

My Thoughts: I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Hand of Fire. I don't read books about ancient times very often so I had no idea what to expect from this book.  Ms. Starkston did an amazing job of weaving mythology and history into a beautifully written tale of war, love and loss.

Likes:    I haven't read The Iliad ( but now I really want to!) so I'm not really familiar with Achilles and the only thing I know about this time period is the Trojan horse (which is not in this story) so I was a little clueless in the beginning. Despite knowing nothing about the background to the story, there was so much to love about this book.  The story itself was fantastic. It’s a tale of love during a time of war and it is a terribly romantic story.  The description of Briseis’ family home, the citadel of Lyrnessos, the priestess' rites were breathtaking.  I also loved the descriptions of the armor; because Briseis came from a metal-working family, there some very detailed descriptions of her father’s and Achilles’ armor and the images these descriptions evoked were absolutely beautiful.  I loved the incredibly detailed Author’s Note and I’m seriously impressed by the amount of research Ms. Starkston did. 

Characters:  Briseis is an incredible character.  I love that she is a strong female character but at the same time she doesn’t always see how strong she is.  I really enjoyed the parts of the story that detailed her role as a priestess and healer.  I am fascinated by the role of the healer throughout history so I loved that aspect of the story.  I struggled with Achilles as a character.  Achilles is supposed to be the hero of the story but he just seemed so incredibly damaged.  It was almost like the knowledge of his fate was sucking the life out of him and it was hard to watch.  Eurome was by far my most favorite character.  I loved her kind, calming presence and she was pretty sassy too.  

Dislikes:  I thought the story ended rather abruptly.  I was left with a lot of questions at the end and would have loved to know more.  

Overall, Hand of Fire was an excellent read. Ms. Starkston's writing is wonderful and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Judith Starkston writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Ms. Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates. Hand of Fire is her debut novel.

Find an excerpt, Q&A, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community on Starkston’s website

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You can purchase Hand of Fire here:


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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not familiar with this author, but I do love stories about the ancient greeks. This sounds really good.


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