Friday, June 21, 2019

The Iliad by Gareth Hinds

Hinds, Gareth. The Iliad
March 12th 2019 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Long ago in Ancient Greece, a prince of Troy, Paris, steals the most beautiful woman in the world from another prince, Menelaus of Sparta. Unfortunately, when Menelaus won Helen as his bride, he made all the other Greek leaders swear allegiance to him. Paris' action puts the Greek war machine into motion, and soon Troy is besieged. This goes on for a very long time, and there is a lot of drama over whether men want to be there (Odysseus famously tries to get out of fighting), how the fighting should go, and whether after almost ten years they should all give up. Lot of people die, in very gruesome ways, and a fair number of women are enslaved and treated horribly by all sides. There are heroes and villains on both sides, and the war is finally ended when the Trojans infiltrate the city inside a giant wooden horse, open the gates for the other forces, and finally take the Trojan stronghold.

This classic epic tale, whether written by Homer or another Greek man by the same name in about the 8th century B.C. is a tale with which everyone should have a passing familiarity. Readers who like to read about war will find this especially appealing, as Homer describes everything in the most florid manner. Hinds sticks closely to the original text, cutting out a great deal because of the graphic novel format, but still preserving the arc of the plot, description, and the type of language found in most of the English language translations. ("Like reapers who start from either end of a rich man's field and with sharp scythes bring barley tumbling down in armfuls till their swaths unite, so the armies closed to cut each other down." page 105)

The twist, of course, is the format. Full color illustrations capture the action, including some beheadings, with a yellow palette that reflects the sandy Greek landscape. The costumes and appearance of the characters is true to the descriptions in the original, and the style somewhere between classic book illustrations and cartoons. There is a lot of text, and the language is very descriptive, making this a good choice for high school students who want a more visual approach to this story but don't want to sacrifice details.

Hinds' specialty is graphic adaptations of classics (Romeo and Juliet, Beowulf, King Lear), and this hefty tome would make the Greeks proud, since they valued retellings of stories. Hinds' research is documented in notes in the back, and the translations he consulted are discussed. Hand this one to high school students struggling to comprehend this for class, or for middle school students who want to look really smart!

What I Really Think: This is a LOT of text for a graphic novel-- I don't see my middle schoolers checking this out at all. Homer's prose is rather deathly dull considering how full of action the story is, and had I written this, I would have pruned it quite a bit. The snobby former Latin teacher (my minor in college was Ancient Greek!) in me wants to complain that the story was based off of translations and not the original, but that's a pretty silly quibble! This is Hinds' style, and he has a point in wanting to preserve the original language-- I prefer stories to be updated with modern language that students can understand. I was probably scarred by the Good News Bible popular in my youth.
Ms. Yingling

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