Character Interview Thirty Two – Briseis – Hand of Fire Blog Tour – Historical Fiction


As some of you know I am quite a fan of history, especially ancient history so I was delighted when author Judith Starkson got in touch asking me to participate in the blog tour for Hand of Fire.   The Iliad is the epic tale of the Trojan War, told by Homer in true heroic fashion, but what of the women involved, Hand of Fire is the tale of one of the brave ladies who found themselves embroiled in one of the most epic battles in history.

In the Iliad, Homer gives only a few lines to Briseis, the captive woman Achilles and Agamemnon fought over. Hand of Fire brings Briseis to life. As healing priestess and strong-willed princess, guarding her city, an ally of Troy, from the Greeks, she draws strength from visions of a handsome warrior god she believes protects her. But when he appears, she realizes her tragic mistake. Achilles, the mighty, half-immortal Greek, destroys her city and kills her brothers. Briseis, fueled by unspeakable grief, raises a sword against the invincible warrior. With this act, she ignites a passion that seals his fate and changes her destiny.
Only recently has modern archaeology revealed the Trojan realm with compelling detail through vast cuneiform libraries and complex sites. Unlike previous novels set in this iconic war, Starkston has accurately captured the rich milieu of this Bronze Age world, in a lively and fast-paced tale that combines myth and history to give the long-silent Briseis a powerful voice.

Welcome and tell us about yourself.

Name (s): Briseis
Age:15 when you first meet me in my story
Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m the woman in the stories about the Trojan War who caused the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon. It wasn’t my fault, mind you. Agamemnon is a pig. Achilles is too stubborn to compromise, much as I love him anyway. I wasn’t even there when they blew up. Most people think I don’t have much to say because the most famous chronicler of the Trojan War, Homer, let me speak up once in his poem that’s 24 books long—once! Well, I’ve found a much better place to tell my side of the story—Hand of Fire. And I like this blog.

Before Achilles plundered my city and changed my destiny and his, I followed my mother as my city’s healing priestess. I was betrothed to the king’s son, so I was also going to be the queen someday. I had to protect my people from the gods’ wrath and, frankly, from my princely husband’s rash decisions. Then Achilles arrived, sword in hand. The gods sent me a big surprise that I can’t tell you about or it would spoil my story—let’s just say the gods like tricking mortals.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. A tall, gray-eyed redhead. Homer says I look “like Aphrodite.”

Would you kill for those you love? I was trained to heal illnesses and keep my people safe. To kill goes against everything I was raised to be, but there’s something deep in me I discovered that’s stronger than all of that. What does it take to bring that kind of dark strength out into the open and turn a healer’s hand to violence? I’ll let you read my story and find out—it’s all there in Hand of Fire.

Would you die for those you love? Many days, when I’d lost so many, I wished I had died, but I’ve realized that no matter how bad things get there’s a way to find joy in life. You can’t let death and sorrow dominate. Achilles once said to me, “simple joys bring healing if you let them.” Ironic he understood that then and I didn’t. He lost that wisdom later. It broke my heart, but I still believe he was right the first time.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? My father always said I was headstrong. He’s right and I think that’s been both a strength and a weakness for me. I cause trouble when I speak up without thinking things through when I really care about something. My husband did not take kindly to that—I have the scars to show that.

Another aspect that I’m not sure whether it’s a strength or a weakness is that I have visions the gods send me, or I think that’s where they come from. I was only ever able to tell one person about them—some of them are so…, well, intimate and passionate—I couldn’t get the words out to anyone else. I thought they were a gift and source of strength, but now I don’t know. See what you think. My mother trusted the gods completely. I know I should, but it’s complicated, now more than ever.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them. My mother and father and three brothers meant everything to me. Growing up with their love gave me strength—I understood that later. Not everyone has that well to draw from. Even when you lose someone you love so much, the strength they built into you stays. That’s one of the most important things I learned about myself. But “family” can be more than your parents and siblings—that’s a gift I found also. Given all the violence and destruction I had to live through, isn’t that amazing?
Tell Us About Your World

I lived in Lyrnessos, a town allied to Troy but on the far side of Mount Ida. When I was about 15 the Greeks sailed across the Aegean and attacked Troy. That changed everything in my life. We in Lyrnessos did what we could to help Troy drive away the Greeks, but I live in an age of half immortal heroes when a goddess can rise out of the sea to comfort her son and bring him golden armour the likes none of us had ever seen. When you have the gods against you, what chance do you have? I still miss the nights around the big circular hearth in my father’s great hall, the geometric frescoes dancing on the walls in the firelight as if alive. We’d listen to the itinerant bards sing stories of warriors and gods, never realizing those far away legends would come crashing into our peaceful world.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour. I’m a priestess of Kamrusepa, the goddess of the Trojans and Hittites who protects the fertility of the crops, herds and women. She is the protective goddess of my city Lyrnessos. If I anger her, she will doom us all. I wish I were as certain of Kamrusepa’s love as my mother was. But I bathe the goddess and offer her sacrifices. I sing her sacred tales and beckon her with my words to keep us safe. But goddesses cannot change the fate of mortals, I’m told, even when they wish to.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? You’d call it magic, so I’m told. To me, I can send away illness by saying the powerful words and transferring the sickness from the patient onto some wool threads. Then I tie the threads to a mouse and send it away so the mouse can carry off the illness. I can also bring the handsome protective god Telipinu back to my people by singing his story—I know this because he appeared to me and, well, what he did with me let me know the fertility of my people was assured. That was back then, though. Now, I’m still wondering what those visions meant.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.) My world is ruled by monarchy, but there are a lot of kings. My town of Lyrnessos was ruled by my father-in-law. He consulted his council and things were fine until he passed the rule over to his son. He may have been a good king but he hadn’t been a good father. The Greeks have many kings and they are constantly squabbling. Agamemnon has the most financial power—he’s a greedy pig—but he hates that Achilles, the King of the Myrmidons, is far more powerful than he is on the battlefield. Agamemnon couldn’t resist sending Achilles out to pillage towns and islands near Troy to pile up wealth for himself, but it infuriated Achilles to do this dirty work for a king he hated. When they fought about me, it had little enough to do with me—except that Achilles loved and needed me so that when Agamemnon took me away, that was the end. Achilles’ rage burned everything it touched but he was paralyzed by his fury. It became a kind of weakness. Odd, that I, as a woman, turned out to be the strong one. Certainly I proved to Agamemnon that I could terrify him.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some. My world is full of supernatural beings. I wish they’d leave me alone. Every time a god or goddess interferes it never comes out well. Immortal knowledge is poison to mankind—that’s what I’ve come to believe, but I’d be in trouble if the priests and priestesses heard me say that. But when Achilles held me in his arms and I felt both the mortal and immortal parts of his being, that was different.

Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears plus links

Hand of Fire 

Amazon Link

Barnes and Noble Link

Powell’s Link

Author name Judith Starkston

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.


Goodreads Author page:

Amazon Author page:

One thought on “Character Interview Thirty Two – Briseis – Hand of Fire Blog Tour – Historical Fiction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.