Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War


The spark for “Hand of Fire” came from a few lines penned by Homer in “The Iliad” referencing Briseis - the captive woman who caused a fight between Achilles and Agamemnon. Set a few thousand years ago during the Trojan War, Ms. Starkston's novel takes place when gods, goddesses and demi-gods walked among mortals, often fighting and falling in love with them.


The strong-minded Briseis is a Greek trophy of war. She is an appealing captive, using her innate leadership and resourcefulness; her appeal even has Achilles stopping the brutal war for a short interval. After sacking her city, Achilles swears an oath to marry Briseis who lost her father and brother in battle. For Briseis, It’s difficult to think of Achilles in a positive light, especially when she remembers him killing her brother. 

The amount of research done by the author shows in Ms. Starkston's portrayal of the details of everyday life. The narrative is third person and stays consistently with Briseis.  Achilles and Briseis do not meet until the middle of the book and there is no real chemistry between them, but some mutual admiration and understanding does develop between the two. Ms. Starkston does a fine job of weaving a life for her heroine full of mythic details and colors from a long ago culture. “Hand of Fire” would serve as an excellent resource book in reference to the period. As actual fiction, the narrative keeps the reader a little distant, as if keeping secrets from mere mortals.

Morgan Stamm