Harper Collins, £7.99
If Helen of Troy is the face that launched a thousand ships, then perhaps the Trojan War is the tale that launched a thousand re-tellings. Lindsay Clarke's version is slow to start, but does remind us why this story has been so immortalised.
Clarke's take on the epic comes from the point of view of Phemius, the bard of Ithaca, who heard the tale from Odysseus, a commander in the war. Phemius traces the story from its roots in a conflict among the gods of Olympus to the brutal and bloody ten-year war, and finally to its sad and bitter ending.
Paris, a prince of Troy, becomes obsessed with a woman he sees in a vision, bestowed on him by the goddess of love Aphrodite. The woman is Helen, Queen of Sparta, and the wife of Paris' friend Menelaus. Despite his guilt over the situation, Paris spirits Helen off to Troy, where she is welcomed by his proud father Priam. Menelaus enlists the help of his brother Agamemnon, the High King of Mycenae and a host of Greek – known then as Argive – warriors to lay siege to Troy.
Phemius, and Clarke, resist the temptation to end their tale happily. Paris and Helen eventually fall out of love, the deaths are violent and brutal and the victory at the end means little in the face of such destruction.
Most interesting about Clarke's re-telling is the fact that he accommodates other versions of the tale while always outlining his own as the definitive, true, account. He even suggests at one point that Helen did not go to Troy at all and that she was merely the ideal that men fought for.
'The War at Troy' successfully breathes new life into a myth that has been around as long as we've been telling stories.