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Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad
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Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  1,880 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
Homer's epic poem, The Iliad, is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. Rich with arresting imagery and memorable characters, its powerful metaphors still permeate modern culture. This brilliant retelling offers young readers an exciting introduction to the heroes of ancient Greece while providing the complete story of the battle of Troy. The legendary beauty, ...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published September 16th 2005 by Frances Lincoln Ltd (first published 1967)
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Esteban del Mal
The verdict of a seven-year-old:

"There's too much killing! They shouldn't have done that over one stupid woman! They should've just talked things out!"
I didn't know, when I asked for this retelling of the story of Troy for Christmas, that it was illustrated by Alan Lee. It was enough for me that it was written by Rosemary Sutcliff! And even without the illustrations, it's well done: Rosemary Sutcliff brings a lot of pathos to it, with moments of insight and tenderness. I thought the moment from the Iliad with Astanyax being afraid of his father's helmet was well done, but there were other good bits. In most ways, though, it stuck close to the ...more
Luke's review:

This was about a 10 year long war called the Trojan War between the Greeks and the Romans. And there was large wooden horse which was Odysseus' idea which help the Greeks to win the war.

It was terrific and exciting and it had lots of action.

Momma's Note: We listened to the audio version of this book which was read by Robert Glenister, and I can heartily recommend it. Robert Glenister is a fabulous narrator and captured the attention of my young son.
avery ♞ do something revolutionary
It's...okay. I have to read it for class (ew) which kind of sucks the fun out of it.
Mar 21, 2014 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this with the kids for a children's book club. If it weren't for the book club, I probably would have stopped reading it to them but I would have kept reading for myself. There is a lot of violence in the Trojan war...and since I have never read the Illiad, I didn't realize how much violence is in the story. But I don't know how much they really understood. There are dozens of characters to keep up with so half of the time I was telling them which side a character fought on. And even towa ...more
Jun 30, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-my-classroom
I'm pleased to have such a well written version of the Iliad (including the Aeneid's fall of Troy) for my sixth graders! Sutcliff does such a wonderful job with language in this translation that I plan to focus our English lessons on word choice, metaphors, similes, personification, extended metaphors, foreshadowing, and prediction. Additional lessons will include an historical timeline, Homer and Virgil, a discussion of translations to suit a particular audience, historical evidence of Troy and ...more
Leah Beecher
This is the re-telling of The Iliad for kids. Rosemary Sutcliff is a great juvenile historical author for children. A homes-schooler go-to! This book is no exception. Lots of beautiful illustrations,a good descriptive narrative that did not read like a hacked condensed book for kids. But this condensed version is still very, very, long. I am sure to keep true and include all the elements of this very long piece of Greek literature. Did I mention long? I don't know much about ancient Greek litera ...more
Nov 27, 2012 Poiema rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a children's version of the Iliad, though not beneath the dignity of an adult. Sutcliff brings the many battle scenes alive in her meticulous telling and is very skilled in her use of vivid imagery. The character development is such that you are able to "see" people as neither good nor bad, but as humans who are capable of either. I think this is especially important in a children's book, because children by nature like to categorize characters in black or white, and literature like this ...more
Jamie Collins
Feb 14, 2008 Jamie Collins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent version of The Iliad for reading out loud. Illustrated by Alan Lee, famous for his illustrations of The Lord of the Rings books. The prose retains some recognizable elements of the original (there's the occasional simile about lions hunting their prey) while being obviously much more succinct (she takes only two or three sentences to describe the Shield of Achilles.)

This version encompasses more of the story than The Iliad: it begins with the quarrel between godesses that led to Pari
Adela Gradilla
Apr 12, 2016 Adela Gradilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Greek Mythology Fans, friends, and family
The book Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff tells the story of the war between the Trojans and Greeks. I thought the character, Achilles, was very stubborn. What made him such a stubborn character was that he would only fight when the fight came to him. My least favorite part of this book is realizing that a 9-year war was started because of a golden apple. My favorite character in the book was Hector. What made him such a great character was how noble he was and how noble he died. T ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This retelling of The Iliad by Rosemary Sutcliff (complete with artwork) is considered to be for children, but it is a fantastic introduction to Homer's works for people of all ages. She captures the essence of Homer's epic poetry in prose form, with all the anticipation, action, and emotion intact. Highly recommended for read-alouds with older elementary age children, or for adults who are afraid to try the full text, yet. This smart intro will probably whet your appetite for the real thing, an ...more
Do I have say more than this is read by Robert Glenister? Oh, okay. Sutcliff's young adult/child version of Troy is actually a pretty good combination of the various Troy cycles, though she does not go into the evens after the Fall of Troy. It's actually quite good.
This was a tad dry and I was surprised by the level of violence being that is considered a book for kids. I realize that there was quite a bit of violence involved in the story of Troy but the retelling was rather graphic and I would suggest previewing it before sharing with your youngsters. There were sections of equisite writing but not enough to sustain me through it all. 2.5 stars
Jun 15, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling of the Iliad. She keep a quick paced while reflecting Homer's style.
Jul 19, 2015 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myth

The Iliad in prose form with illustrations. Perfect level for those beyond picture book versions of the ancient myths – but not up for full on Alexander Pope.
Sep 11, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My s t udents absolutely loved this book!
Dec 08, 2014 CJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for school. I liked it a lot.
Sarah Guyette
Nov 06, 2016 Sarah Guyette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an outstanding retelling of the Iliad for children. The illustrations are gorgeous and the language is beautiful. I read it with an 8 year old and I think that was maybe a little ambitious. Eight is definitely the youngest I would recommend it for. Initially I started with the 8 and 6 year old but the 6 year old lost interest very quickly. I will never forget my son telling me through the last several chapters how hard it was that everyone was dying and how he wished there was an ending ...more
Rebecca Hill
Want to read the Iliad but not ready for the full version? You are going to want to read this one! Rosemary Sutcliff breaks down the story, to an easy to understand version just for kids! Get the full emotion of the story, but at the same time, retains the classic version of the story.

Join Helen of Troy, Paris and Hector as the battle for Troy erupts and then drags on for several years. This amazing retelling will have your children feeling as though they are in the city of Troy or the Greek en
Jan 27, 2017 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read as part of our homeschool study of Ancient Greece.
Jennifer Dines
May 09, 2012 Jennifer Dines rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
link: review originally published on

Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad (ISBN: 0-553-49483-X)by Rosemary Sutcliff retells Homer’s epic poem in the form of a novel. Several themes emerge in this retelling – betrayal, loss, revenge, and heroism.

Agamemnon Betrays Achilles
Achilles feels betrayed by Agamemnon, the king of the Greeks, when Agamemnon threatens to take Briseis – a captured maiden and spoil of war – away from Achilles, and, although he is the pride of the G
The Iliad condensed and easier to read.
Abigail B.
Sep 21, 2015 Abigail B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads Submissions ~ September
The Black Ships Before Troy
By : Rosemary Sutcliff
By : Abigail B. Petro
Mrs. Kubota/Mr. Collier’s Class

After ending an age old feud between the three most powerful goddesses in Olympus, Paris, Prince of Troy, is promised the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. Unfortunately, the lovely princess is already married to a powerful king. So, Paris travels from his home in the great nation of Troy, to steal the heart of the beloved woman. Though it ta
Sep 30, 2013 Ava rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J read The Iliad and the Odyssey: The heroic story of the trojan war the fabulous adventures of odysseus, which was meant for younger readers, to Logan (who is nearly 7) and although I only got this version for older kids for the pictures (by the same illustrator who illustrated Tolkien's books), L really wanted to read it too. I did find the language of this version more fun, complex, and poetic than the other, but boy, it was much more graphic. The funny thing is that L was completely unfazed ...more
Joel Simon
The Iliad for children. Can such a book exist and be good at the same time? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" Not for very young children, mind you, because you can't really dress up war, death and destruction for little ones, but if you want to get an 11-13 year old started on some Greek mythology, this is the way to go (and there is an Odyssey to go along with it too!).

The story, as we all know, is fascinating -- from the Judgment of Paris, to the wooing of Helen of Troy, to the death of Achil
This was an excellent retelling of the Iliad.
Aug 22, 2011 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A soft introduction to the story of the Iliad. The author does well to pick out key moments to form a simpler version of the classical text as we know it.
The book brings with it the traditional colour and vividness of the classical Greek style of writing. This style of writing highlights the brightness, passion and warmth in the way feelings, thoughts and events were described throughout the book.

The book explains the origin of the story of the Iliad, one of the greatest pieces of fiction of al
Dec 08, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting an introduction to the Trojan War story
Considering the intended audience for this Iliad retelling - teens - Sutcliff's version is succinct, yet covers all the major events of the Trojan War. Her prose elegantly retains a flavor of the original texts, yet briskly moves along in manner that I think would appeal to an average modern reader (myself for instance). She does not shy away from the brutality inherent in this epic, and certainly brings out Achilles' fury. However I do feel that some of the heroic themes of the tale, such as gl ...more
Feb 25, 2013 Manning rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-alouds
Zeus thought that there were too many people on earth, so he made a golden apple that would cause a humongous war. He gave it to Eris, the goddess of discord, and told her to give it to throw it on a table where Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena were sitting. When Hera saw it and picked it up and read its inscription "To the fairest," she claimed it was hers because she was the wife of Zeus and Queen of the Gods. Athena claimed it was hers because of the beauty of wisdom that was hers surpassed all el ...more
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Rosemary Sutcliff was a British novelist, best known as a writer of highly acclaimed historical fiction. Although primarily a children's author, the quality and depth of her writing also appeals to adults, she herself once commenting that she wrote "for children of all ages from nine to ninety."

Born in West Clandon, Surrey, Sutcliff spent her early youth in Malta and other naval bases where her fa
More about Rosemary Sutcliff...

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“Always, in these times, I am wretched save when sleep comes to me. Therefore, I have come to look upon sleep as the best of all gifts.” - Helen, about the war” 4 likes
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