Black Ships Before Troy
Front cover of first edition
|Genre||Children's novel, supernatural fiction, Greek mythology|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|LC Class||BL793.T7 S88 1993|
|Followed by||The Wanderings of Odysseus|
Black Ships Before Troy: The story of the Iliad is a novel for children written by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by Alan Lee, and published by Frances Lincoln in 1993. Set during the Trojan War it retells the Iliad story that is known from Homer more than 2500 years ago. For his part Lee won the annual Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject.
Sutcliff had died in June 1992. Kirkus Reviews noted the "compelling vision and sensitivity to language, history, and heroics" that she brought to retelling both Arthurian legends and the Homeric epic.
Kirkus praised Sutcliff's "vivid, exquisitely cadenced prose" and observed, "though Sutcliff has focused on their honor and courage, she ensures that it's the ironic futility of their venture that lingers in the mind." And praised Lee's pictures: "Carefully researched, delicately detailed, rich in character and action, they beautifully evoke the setting and heroic ambience." It recommended the book for children ages 10 to 18.
Black Ships is a large format book, measuring approximately 8 by 11 inches, and similar to the Great Illustrated Classics in combining text and illustration. It comprises 19 chapters averaging 8 pages each. Detailed color illustrations by Lee accompany the text by Sutcliff on nearly every page. Appendices provide a guide to pronunciation and report the reference materials Ms Sutcliff used. The version maintains a realism typical of Ms Sutcliff's writing style without sacrificing the pivotal actions of the gods and other supernatural occurrences.
The main human characters are those of the original Iliad: Paris, Helen of Troy, Hector, Ajax, Achilles, Patroclus, and Odysseus. Focal Greek gods include Eris, Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, and Zeus; focal subjects include the Judgement of Paris, the Amazons, funeral games, and the Trojan Horse. Both personal motivation of the human characters and direct intervention of the gods are shown to drive the events of the story.
Sutcliff's retelling of Homer's Odyssey story was also illustrated by Alan Lee and published by Frances Lincoln in a companion edition, The Wanderings of Odysseus: The story of the Odyssey (1995, ISBN 978-0-7112-0862-9).
Kirkus praised both Sutcliff's text, for preserving "a certain formality of language" and for graceful "winnowing", and Lee's "spectacular paintings": "Beautiful and detailed ... the pictures are obviously the result of careful research and reward close scrutiny. A gorgeous book, more than worthy of its predecessor." It recommended the book for ages 10 and up.
- "Black ships before Troy" (first edition). WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
- "Black ships before Troy: the story of the Iliad" (first US edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- (Greenaway Winner 1993). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- "Black Ships Before Troy". Kirkus Reviews. 15 October 1993. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- "The Wanderings of Odysseus". Kirkus Reviews. 15 May 1996. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- "Formats and editions of The wanderings of Odysseus". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- Black Ships Before Troy in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, contemporary US reprint
- Rosemary Sutcliff —curated by Anthony Lawton, literary executor