The Songs of the Kings by Barry Unsworth

The Songs of the Kings

"Troy meant one thing only to the men gathered here, as it did to their commanders. Troy was a dream of wealth; and if the wind continued the dream would crumble." As the harsh wind holds the Greek fleet trapped in the straits at Aulis, frustration and political impotence turn into a desire for the blood of a young and innocent woman--blood that will appease the gods and allow the troops to set sail. And when Iphigeneia, Agamemnon's beloved daugh...

Details The Songs of the Kings

TitleThe Songs of the Kings
Release DateApr 17th, 2004
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology, Cultural, Greece, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Songs of the Kings

  • Collin
    The Songs of the Kings is a more realistic and political retelling of the Greek tragedy, Iphigenia in Aulis. I have never read this play written by Euripides, but I have read The Iliad, the great poem by Homer which chronicles the end of the Trojan war, which this play precedes.The invasion of Troy has stalled at Aulis. A strong wind is preventing the ships from setting sail. This is Ancient Greece, of course it cannot simply be atrocious weather...
  • Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
    I have just finished reading The Songs of the Kings by Booker Prize winner, Barry Unsworth. This is an eloquent and powerfully written novel that is quite thought-provoking on several levels. The novel was published in 2003, and I have to wonder if there was an external motivation behind Unsworth's writing of the novel than simply writing a good story? More on that in a moment though. First, I think it will be useful to provide a brief bit of bac...
  • Jane
    Certainly an unusual book!! I really liked it. At first I took it as a straight retelling of the Iphigenia on Aulis myth. Then what I'd call "Charlie Brown" expressions, [like the "Peanuts" comic strip]--e.g., 'good grief', 'blockhead', were put into the mouths of the characters. I began to get an inkling the novel was more than it purported to be. The use of modern slang, clichés, and jargon words finally clinched it: this book is a satire on o...
  • Marquise
    Interesting retelling of the events leading to the Trojan War until right when the Achaean ships sail from Aulis after Iphigenia's sacrifice, from a perspective I'd not seen done before.
  • Elaine
    Stupid,weak, arrogant, egotistical men fill this insipid book. However, the underlying story on which this book is based is a classic.The ancient Greeks thought the Trojan War was a historical event that had taken place in the 13th or 12th century BC.The Trojan War has its roots in the marriage between Peleus and Thetis, a sea-goddess. Peleus and Thetis had not invited Eris, the goddess of discord, to their marriage and the outraged goddess storm...
  • James Burns
    The face that launched a thousand ships, Helen of (Sperta)Troy, or could the real face that launched a thousand ships belong to Iphigeneia, beloved daughter of King Agamemnon? This the Story of the Trojan war, The Greek fleet is trapped in the straits at Aulis by a strong wind that was unfavorable to set sail to Troy, deniying the Greeks of plundering of great fortunes, and battle fame and Victory. The Men are layed up Idle, Tempers and nerves fr...
  • Jrobertus
    The song of the kings, by Barry Unsworth., read by Andrew Sachs. This is a retelling of the play Iphigenia at Aulis, by Euripides. The Greek army under Agamemnon is trapped at Aulis by a high wind. There is a lot of plotting by Odysseus and a seer Calchas to undermine the king. A sign, including an eagle killing a pregnant hare, is interpreted to mean there is trouble between Zeus and Demeter (protector of mothers) and that to remove the curse an...
  • K
    Disclaimer: I gave up on this book 20% of the way through.It was immediately obvious that this wasn't really my style (overly descriptive and deeply strange style of speech), but I really tried to stick with this, because I not very secretly hoped that Clytemnestra would make an appearance. I should have given up when I realized that Unsworth made every character into an obnoxious caricature based on their most easily identifiable characteristic ...
  • Beatrice Gormley
    The Songs of the Kings retells the part of the Iliad in which Agamemnon and his troops are waiting for the wind to change so they can sail across the Aegean Sea to Troy, supposedly to kill Paris and get Helen back, but actually to loot the prosperous city and get rich. If what it takes to please the gods and change the wind is sacrificing the king's daughter, well, that's what it takes. Unsworth has an entertaining take on each of the Greek "hero...
  • Melody
    4 stars in terms of ideas, but the author's stylistic choices weaken a pretty solid story.Recently, I finished Colm Tóibín's House of Names, a retelling of the Greek tragedy of the House of Atreus, which starts with (spoiler!) Agamemnon's decision to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia prior to sailing his army to Troy. In this book, Barry Unsworth interprets the events leading to that conclusion, a story apparently far less heroic than the bards ...
  • Jim
    The Songs of the Kings was one of the two choices to be read together for my book club; the other, Silence of the Girls. Together, they were said to form a women’s and men’s eye retelling of the Trojan Wars. I found great differences in the quality of the writing, and the emphasis, but in the end, the ‘glory’ of this war could perhaps be summed up in the final line from The Song of the Kings that spoke of how things were later considered:...
  • Stephen Lewis
    I listened to this book to wash out the remains of Dan Simmons' Illium. It didn't do that, but made me rather sad thinking about the superstitions and other mumbo jumbo (as they seem to me anyway) of so much of life here in modern Asia. We can't say it was only in ancient times that people looked for signs and omens. Today we still have nonsense like I don't know if rhino horn or dried tiger's penis will make me more or less potent - so I might a...
  • Ryan Houck
    With vivid imagery, Unsworth wraps the old tale with humor. Again and again I laughed reading The Songs of Kings. The book plays with Ancient Greek tales and contemporary politics and religion. He has jokes about Homer and Odysseus, but also obliquely mocks Judeo-Christian ideals and the logic of the machinations of war. Again and again, I felt like this book explains the illogical Trump and the masses that enable him. It also reminds me of Arthu...
  • Kara
    Facts are manipulated and fictions are made real by repetition. Those without power are told of the great sacrifices they have to make while those with power sacrifice nothing, only concerned with how much wealth they can amass in shady deals. No, this book isn't set in the 21st century - this is a retelling of The Iliad, focusing just on a particularly horrific act that took place early on in the Trojan War. The characters talk in a modern, slan...
  • Rasha
    I wasn't exactly blown away by this book.  It was certainly interesting in that it showed the event of Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter from multiple view points.  Bu there was something about it that bothered me, mostly the way Odysseus talked. Granted, there is no pretence that the prose conforms to a modernisation of how we believed they would speak, but some of the terminology was so glaringly modern (like refering to someone's CV) t...
  • Kaye Arnold
    Can't say I ever imagined I would get through an entire book set in the days of Greek gods! This book surprised me, in that I quite enjoyed it. I don't have much background knowledge regarding Greek mythology, so I struggled a bit with who was who. However, the book had a good storyline, which involved human sacrifice.....and goats.... It had moments of humour that were appreciated by me - witty bits do that. So I give a three out of five. I'm gl...
  • Ella
    Was The Song of Achilles too full of likable characters for your Troy-related tastes? Did House of Names give you a hunger for more novels about the House of Atreus? Did you get angry with and also fascinated by the Eleusis episode in The King Must Die? Is judicious use of anachronism one of your favorite literary devices?If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, this might just be the book for you.
  • Derek Bridge
    This is a retelling of the legend of the sacrifice of Iphigeneia with some of the psychology of the characters sketched in. But there is a thread that connects it all: it's all about the stories we tell to convince ourselves and others of our motives. "Spin" at both a personal and public level are shown to be part of our innate psychology.
  • Rachel Wang
    An interesting read, but very much a retelling of Homer influenced by contemporary culture. Although I think Unsworth predates the beginning of the era of "grizzled reinterpretations" of old stories (see: Batman), this felt very much as belonging to the same school. Herein lies antiheroes.
  • Philipp Leube
    A strong reminder of how tragedy can be turned into farce and that is that farce, which could be considered tragic in this day and age. At the same time funny and witty but also unsettling in the message it wants to convey.
  • Brenda Clift
    An interesting back story to the Trojan war. Sometimes the mix of ancient characters and modern jargon got a bit irritating. Overall good characterization and a cohesive way to bring many different stories into line.
  • Jeff Lacy
    Homer retoldThe Iliad and Oddessey retold in current English concerning the Greeks held in Aulis by the winds and the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphemeneia. Unsworth does another good job at historical fiction.
  • John Newcomb
    Those pesky Greeks are out making human sacrifices to their gods again. It will all end in tears.
  • Paul Scheller
    Not what I thoughtIntroduction to the war of Troy which turns into an afterthought. Touchstone for many myths and characters. Time well spent.
  • Kenneth
    Slightly longwinded, but not intolerably so, and with some really great characters.
  • Jan Hallam
    Slow burn but powerful second half
  • Krista
    Delightful storytelling. Worth sharing.
  • Maria López
    Had to read for uni’s a men’s world.
  • Tracy Griffin
    I like the retelling. But I was a little disappointed. There were some mentions of Helen. And book did not put me in Troy.The song miss the rhythm.
  • Marian Deegan
    An army has gathered at the ocean's edge to sail across and plunder Troy. The motivation? Wealth. The excuse? Helen. Unrelenting winds prevent their departure, and must be appeased by sacrifice so that the war may commence. The sacrifice of the innocent for the sake of prosecuting a war; that is the story. An old story of a timeless {and very current} theme told new by a Booker Prize-winning master who manages with incisive verve to shrug off the...