The Firebrand

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Reviewed by Coral

The Firebrand is the story of Troy, as told by Kassandra, prophet-daughter of Trojan King Priam.

Now despite the fact I liked this book I will admit to having some issues with it. The main one being the Earth Mother Goddess worship that permeates every single page, practically, central to a lot of Marion Zimmer Bradley books. I know the Mother Goddess has become a popular topic in works of both fiction and non-fiction but to me, in this particular setting, it just doesn't make any sense.

It's easier to believe of Crete, where images of powerful women and female deities are common. But not on the mainland (Athens, Sparta, etc.), where Bronze Age art is mainly male and masculine. While it's true we don't have all the answers to what was going on back then, and many interpretations are possible, we can't ignore the evidence we have to create a history we find more acceptable. And yes, it's true the Greeks had their own Mother Goddess, Gaea, but it was Zeus who was the central religious figure back then. If anything she manages to make a pagan society seem very monotheistic, with women worshipping this Earth Mother, and men worshipping this Sky Father. There's no ring of reality in her image of Ancient Greek society. Man, the more I go on the angrier I get at this book.

Aside from that, the author does a good job of finding a cohesive path through the tangle of contradictory Greek myths - was Helen Paris' twin or did she foretell doom at his birth? - although I don't ever remember hearing a version where it was Zeus disguised as a bull who fathered the Minotaur. I think she's getting two myths mixed up, one where bull-Zeus carries off Europa to Crete and the other where Pasiphae, Queen of Crete hides herself in a wooden bull to sleep with a bull sacred to Poseidon.

You can't read books like these expecting a retelling of Homer; besides if you know what to look for you can pick out the historical inaccuracies in Homer. So, I've never really minded a little tweaking of the myth here and there.

This is a good book by a great author and you should definitely pick it up.


Grade: B