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Hand of Fire: Compelling New Novel Brings Homer's Briseis to Life with Historical Authority, Examining Her Unlikely Love for Achilles.

Meticulously researched and written by Judith Starkston, ‘Hand of Fire’ thrusts readers back in time to the Trojan War, and gives new insight into one of mythology’s most pressing psychological puzzles. Homer’s ‘Iliad’ depicts a Briseis who falls in love with Achilles, but how is this possible when he was responsible for killing members of her family and destroying her city? In light of new archaeological evidence, Starkston gives Briseis a voice, attempting to answer this question and more with gripping aplomb.


Phoenix, AZ -- (SBWIRE) -- 07/31/2014 -- Millions have read and cherished Homer’s ‘Iliad’, an ancient Greek epic poem set during the tumultuous Trojan War. In the ‘Iliad’, Achilles destroys Briseis’s city and family, and yet Homer portrays her as in love with this complex, conflicted warrior. Why? The reasons behind this unlikely union, and the wider story of the enigmatic Briseis fascinated author Judith Starkston so much that she used the character’s story as bold inspiration for her new novel.

In ‘Hand of Fire’ Starkston transforms Homer’s few lines about Briseis into a powerful flesh-and-blood story of this young woman’s life and love. It’s the first time anyone has attempted to personify Briseis in this way.


In the Iliad, Homer gives only a few lines to Briseis, the captive woman who sparked the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon. ‘Hand of Fire’ brings Briseis to life against this mythic backdrop. Thrust into leadership as a young woman, she must protect her family and city. Sickness and war threaten. She gains much-needed strength from visions of a handsome warrior god, but will that be enough when the mighty, half-immortal Achilles attacks?

“My primary goal was to develop Briseis’s story and solve what had been a mystery to me—why she loved Achilles,” explains Starkston. “I had to balance what might have happened psychologically between these two with all that we have learned about this ancient place and time. Recent archeological finds on the site of Troy and elsewhere in modern Turkey made this a lot easier. Cuneiform clay tablets give us startling details about this world and fill out our understanding of the newly-discovered and appreciated Anatolia-wide culture we now know existed.”

Continuing, “Combined with the mythological tradition of Homer, the historical realities of the late Bronze Age shed new light on people like Briseis. Her union and devotion to Achilles always confused and fascinated me when I taught Homer’s poem to my students. I suppose curiosity got the better of me, and I’m so proud to bring Troy and Briseis to life.”

Advanced reviews for the book have been extremely positive. Author Priscilla Royal comments, “In her portrayal of Briseis, Judith Starkston has cast a bright light on one of the Iliad‘s most intriguing sub-plots. With her fast-paced story, three-dimensional characters, and fascinating cultural details, Starkston has given historical fiction fans a tale to remember.”

Professor Eric Cline adds, “Absolutely loved the book. Couldn’t put it down. Wonderful writing. And, I see no errors whatsoever as regards the history.”

New York Times bestselling author, Rebecca Cantrell, praises Starkston’s treatment of history, “This haunting and insightful novel makes you ache for a mortal woman, Briseis, in love with a half-god, Achilles, as she fights to make her own destiny in a world of capricious gods and warriors. I devoured this page-turning escape from the modern world!”

‘Hand of Fire’ is due to be published by Fireship Press on September 10th, 2014. For more information, visit: http://www.judithstarkston.com.

About Judith Starkston
Judith Starkston writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Her novel, Hand of Fire, tells Briseis’s story, the captive woman who sparked the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad. There was more to her than the handful of lines Homer gave her.

Starkston’s upcoming mystery series features the indomitable Queen Puduhepa of the Hittites. On the first surviving peace treaty in history, Puduhepa pressed her seal beside her foe’s, Rameses II, but she didn’t realize until now that she was a sleuth.

Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates.