A THOUSAND SHIPS is the first of what Eric Shanower intends to be a seven-volume series called AGE OF BRONZE, recounting the entirety of the Trojan War in historical fiction and this is - I think - my fifth rewrite of its review. Sixth, maybe? It doesn't matter. I've written at least 3000 words of what should be a 300-word piece.
Here's where I fall down: I get caught up in how important Ancient Greece was to me when I was a kid, how lectures on the Golden Age of Athens are the first time I remember paying attention in school - I even go off on how Greek Mythology got me into comics via Wonder Woman. Or maybe it was Wonder Woman via Greek Mythology? It's chicken and eggs at this point. The problem with all of this glorious nostalgia is that A THOUSAND SHIPS is not a book for kids. Which is not to say that a young teen wouldn't get anything out of it, in fact, I could see a precocious 13 year old becoming obsessed with the minutiae of the Trojan War with A THOUSAND SHIPS as a guide. But it's not for kids. Follow me here?
A THOUSAND SHIPS is a well-researched retelling of the Trojan War, as Shanower has pieced it together from various sources - literary and historical, that manages to clarify without simplifying. We learn in A THOUSAND SHIPS, for instance, that while Helen was most certainly a woman of great beauty when women were primarily valued for such things, and while Helen's capture could certainly be called the inciting incident in the Trojan War, politics and geography played no small part in launching those thousand ships.
Oh, and Paris appears to have been kind of a jerk.
If I wasn't afraid it was copping out to describe Shanower's style by describing what it's not, I would call him "unaffected." If I wasn't afraid I'd scare off readers with Liberal Arts degrees, I'd call A THOUSAND SHIPS "scholarly." I'm afraid of both of those things, though, so let's just end this here.
Kelly Sue DeConnick relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, MO, where she lives with her husband and artbomb.net colleague, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue writes the English adaptations of several manga titles published by Tokyopop and Viz. She can be found on the web at kellysue.com.