Fifteen-year-old Alexi and Melantha, his nineteen-year-old sister, awaken on the morning following a day of wild celebrations to mark the departure of the Greeks’ black-sailed ships after ten years of war. Along with their fellow Trojans, Alexi and Meli danced and ate and drank late into the night, overjoyed at end of a decade-long siege that has kept them captives within their city walls and made orphans of the young siblings.
The two have endured three years of poverty since their physician father’s death. Forced to sell everything they owned to support themselves in a city close to starvations, Alexi and Meli live in a storage room above a bakery on the wrong side of town with nothing but a small table, a stool, a battered tripod and pot, and the worn clothes on their back.
With the end of the Trojan War, perhaps things will improve for Alexi and his sister but the boy will remember, later, that Cassandra, King Priam’s mad daughter, ran through the celebrating crowds shouting of Priam’s city, in flames and dying. He will also recall that she grabbed him out of the throngs and, fixing her mad eyes upon him, urged him to, “Live. Accept [his] father’s gift.”
One that morning after their celebrations, it is the sound of shouting and doors being broken down that will rouse the two in their small room. Looking out of their small window, Meli sees men in armour breaking down the doors of Pylacon’s smithy, and recognizes them as Greek soldiers. Shocked, Alexi cannot understand how the Greeks got with the walls that have repelled them for ten years of war; those walls are as high as an oak and wide enough for two chariots to race along the top. Perhaps he will never discover that the gates to Troy were opened for them by Greek soldiers hidden inside a great wooden horse.
Alexi and his sister huddle behind their tattered blanket and almost escape detection when two soldiers burst into their room but the door is ripped from its leather hinges and lands on Alexi’s toes, causing him to gasp in pain. In a desperate bid to save her brother, Meli steps forward, begging the soldiers not to hurt her. When one of them throws the girl over his shoulder, she stabs him in the thigh with her dagger and is flung down the stairs where she lands in a lifeless heap.
Horrified by what has happened to his sister, Alexi cries out, drawing the attention of the soldiers, and, grabbing his sister’s knife from the floor, he stabs her captor in the neck, killing him. Determined to honour Meli’s sacrifice by saving himself from capture, the boy climbs out the window to the roof and scrambles across a beam that spans the street. From there he clambers down to street level and throws off the soldiers who hunt him by hiding in a sewage culvert. When he creeps out of the sewers the following day, it is to the sight of neighbours lying in pools of blood.
Mischance propels Alexi into the arms of some Greek soldiers and, although he runs, he is soon captured by one who is eager to cut his throat. He responds with a retort that earns hatred of the soldier, a brutish bully whose name is Ury, as well as the notice of the soldier’s commander, for Alexi has spoken in Greek. Questioned, he admits that his grandmother was Greek and lies that he is only twelve years old.
The Greek commander decides that the boy might prove useful, and so Alexi becomes a slave. Under Ury’s orders, he helps to haul carts of looted treasure from Troy down to the Greek ships that line the shore, the same ships that had sailed away only days before, and begins to learn the hardships and simmering resentment of slavery. He watches as the Greeks slaughter and eat Trojan livestock, and meets other Trojans enslaved to Lopex, the Greek commander. It is only when soldiers come to Ury to tell the Greek of his brother’s death, does Alexi realize that this piece of work is brother to the man he killed. He doesn’t need to hear Ury’s vow to find his brother’s killer and make him beg for death to know that he has made a dangerous enemy in the brute.
Alexi and his fellow slaves endure the casual brutality of the Greeks, and are worn thin and exhausted by a never-ending list of tasks, and too little food or rest. When the Greeks set sail, some three days after their rout of Troy, Alexi learns that his new master, Lopex, plans to use him as ship boy, the messenger who hops from bench to bench over rowers’ oars from the bow, where his master sits, to the stern, where the steersmen ply their poles.
Alexi and his fellow slaves observe as Lopex and his men plan and carry out a raid on a nearby town, only to narrowly avoid snatching defeat out of the hands of victory when the Greek soldiers decide to celebrate their prowess rather than stowing their spoils and setting sail as their commander orders. Only Lopex’ inspired leadership saves the black-sailed ships and their crews. Though he continues to view the Greeks as enemies and bitterly resents his enslavement, Alexi finds himself admiring his master’s wily and inspiring leadership. Nevertheless, it comes as a shock to discover that Lopex is the Greek’s nickname; he is, in fact, the famous Odysseus.
Lopex recognizes Alexi’s skill as a healer and puts him to work caring for the wounded. He also sees in the young boy a humanity that supersedes his natural resentment. Soon Alexi is accompanying small parties of Greek soldiers on their explorations. With them he will visit the Island of the Lotus Eaters, and come under the powerful spell of the narcotic. He will cower in abject horror as a Cyclops traps and eats hapless Greek soldiers after trapping them in his cave home, before stumbling upon the perfect ruse to escape the one-eyed giant. As the months pass and the adventures multiply, Alexi will discover that, though he has lost his family and his home and his people, he may have gained a new father of sorts.
Written by Patrick Bowman, Torn from Troy is the exciting story of a young boy’s experiences following the sack of Troy and his enslavement to Odysseus, the Greek hero whose fantastical ten-year voyage home from the Trojan War was chronicled in Homer’s Odyssey. Filled with historical detail, and the stuff of myths and legend, and certain to be the first of a series, Torn from Troy is bound to delight readers from Grade 6.