by Elizabeth Cook

Achilles was more than a warrior, though that is the heart and meaning of his story. According to ancient Greek legend, he was the son of a king and a sea nymph. The centaur Chiron, an immortal who suffered from a spear wound through his heart, was his first teacher. His mother, fearing he would die in battle, disguised him as a girl and sent him to be raised with the girls at King Lycomedes' court. But the men who began the Trojan War found him anyway.

Cook's writing is as much poetry as story. She skims lightly over the parts of the tale already matchlessly told in Homer's Iliad, focusing instead on more darkly sensual details like the way his dead spirit comes at Odysseus' call to report that it's better to be a slave among the living than a king among the dead: "He has come up to the mouth of Hell with the others. To his great displeasure he has no choice.... He can still speak better than all the rest, now, when he can no longer act and make a difference - not even dent the waters he bathes in. But the smell of the blood in that tank cannot be resisted. The flavour of iron seeps through the earth and the rocks, reaching Achilles and all the other dead. The fine veins that riddle the rocks are filled with it; the rocks themselves are suffused. The longing hooks into his heart and pulls him." 2001, 107 pages.

More info on Achilles from Powell's Books

The classics on which Cook based her novel:

Homer, The Iliad More info
Homer, The Odyssey More info

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