The Rage of Achilles

Written by Terence Hawkins
Review by Michael I. Shoop

From its opening pages in which a young servant girl (who may or may not be Achilles’s mother) in the house of Peleus meets with a terrifyingly sudden and violent death, Hawkins’s tale moves with the force of a cyclone. Using the classic Iliad as his base, Hawkins’s retelling focuses on Achilles from the time he is forced to give High King Agamemnon the captured maiden Briseis to his avenging, rage-filled confrontation with the Trojan prince Hector and its aftermath.

This version of the monumental struggle between the Achaeans and Trojans over the abduction of the fabulously beautiful Helen has the reader feeling the pain and horror of spears and swords slicing flesh, hearing the terrible sounds of battle and cries of agonizing death, and seeing the utter destruction that a decade-long war brings. His use of contemporary and explicit language lends a sense of immediacy to the saga that engulfs the reader and pulls him along. Hawkins’s portrayal of Achilles as a tortured god-like monster with human flaws seeking ultimate glory is fascinating; Odysseus, Diomedes, Patroclus, Hector, Paris, etc. are compellingly written, his depiction of the few female characters (including Helen) less so.

Even though the characters and their fates may be quite familiar, it will be impossible not to be entertained and moved by this rendering of the age-old story. Not for the faint of heart, the narrative abounds with scenes of graphic brutality and sex. For all fans of the Trojan War, but it may especially appeal to the male audience who enjoyed the films Troy and 300.