Breaking The Foals by Maximilian Hawker
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Unbound Digital (26 April 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1911586726
- ISBN-13: 978-1911586722
BLURB: The Troy of myth was a real city and it was called Wilusa. This is its story… Hektor’s life of privilege is forever changed when a man, allegedly possessed by the sun god, inspires revolution among the oppressed people of Wilusa. For Hektor, son of the city’s despotic ruler, social equality contradicts every principle he has been taught. And his obsession with duty is alienating him from his own young son, Hapi, with whom he has a fractured relationship. But when Hapi’s life is threatened, Hektor is compelled to question his every belief as he rebuilds his relationship with his child through the breaking of a foal. As Wilusa collapses into political violence and the commoners rise up, Hektor must finally decide whether to defend the people and lose his identity, or remain loyal to his irrational, dangerous father.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maximilian Hawker is a 30-year-old writer who lives in Croydon, South London, with his wife and two daughters. He is author of the novel Breaking the Foals, due to be published with Unbound in March 2018. An alumnus of Kingston University, he has a postgraduate degree in English Literature and has worked in education, editorial and design. Currently, he works in frontline children’s social care for Croydon Council, providing a service for care leavers and also runs a YouTube channel for looked after children and care leavers called formeR Relevant, which he aims to eventually promote at a national level. He has had poetry and short stories – occasionally nominated for awards – appear in publications run by Dog Horn Publishing, Kingston University Press, Arachne Press and Rebel Poetry, among others. He also aims to see the word ‘asparagi’ added to the English Dictionary, as its absence troubles him
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This was definitely a different style of book to what I normally read. It is Historical Fiction which was good as it dealt with areas that I always found interesting. What I found the best part of this book was that it was so unique from anything that I have read in the past that you just had to find out how it ended.
The titles to me were a bit confusing but added to the authenticity of the book as well since I always assumed that they would have names that aren’t pronounceable to those that speak English.
It had a lot of religious fervor which made it even more interesting to me as I liked how they kept using terms that just seemed off to me but kept me wanting to read more to see just what the story was about.
While I was confused for part of this book I did find if very enjoyable and I think given the proper mindset and a second reading I could easily get more into the details and move this into one of the best historical fiction books.
Research for my debut novel, Breaking The Foals, commenced over 10 years ago, shortly after I read The Iliad for the first time. I remember wondering whether Homer’s timeless tale was purely myth or whether there was actually any hint of truth to it. I quickly discovered that the Troy of myth was a real city and had been largely excavated in the 1870s by a German archaeologist named Heinrich Schliemann in what is present-day Turkey. Schliemann and his team unearthed the ruins of the city along with a horde of treasure, though managed to do irreparable damage to the site in the process. You see, ancient Troy was not a single city, as such, but rather a city that evolved through nine distinct incarnations over the course of several thousand years. Schliemann, unfortunately, tore through the ruins of more recent iterations of the city in his hunt for the Homeric Troy, which was all that interested him, and he has attracted a great deal of criticism for having such little regard for the integrity of the site. There has been dispute over whether the ruins are the historical Troy, though the vast majority of scholars do agree that it is.
Now that I could marry up the mythology of the city as set out in the Epic Cycle (various poems, including The Iliad, that tell the full story of the Trojan War) with the archaeological proof of its existence, my ambitions – at least, at the time – were to do little more than retell the Trojan War. I drafted a novel called The Walls of Troy back in 2009 but was dissatisfied with it and realised that I was doing nothing new: there were already many retellings of the myth and there was really no need for someone to do it anew – at least not in the way I had done.
I returned to my original notes about the archaeology of Troy and wondered what the city might have been like beyond the mythology. Who lived here? What did they do? What was their place in the Bronze Age? I commenced a new research project during which time I managed to finds answers to much of what has been lost behind the Homeric tradition. The mythology gives us insight into ancient cultures but not necessarily a completely accurate portrayal of how these peoples lived and died.
Ancient Troy was a city called Wilusa, and it was – for a long time – a vassal state of the wider Hittite Empire, which occupied modern Turkey and was quite colossal. As I said before, there were multiple iterations of Troy – nine that we know of – and scholars agree that the likeliest candidate for what would have been Homer’s Troy existed at some point in the 12th or 13th century BC. This knowledge gave me a specific period to further research.
As I read around the subject, it became clear that the city of Wilusa, situated on the Aegean at the mouth of the Hellespont, was a major trade centre and very metropolitan. Bringing together a fusion of cultures, it would have had a striking sense of individuality and was – as far as we know – THE major power in western Anatolia in its heyday. I learnt about its religion; its laws; the structure of its royal family; how it was divided into an upper town for the rich and a lower town for the poor; how the farming communities toiled to survive; what languages were spoken; and much else. The more I discovered about this vibrant city, the more I realised that I didn’t want to write about the Trojan War at all – there were plenty of novels already focused on the Mycenaean civilisation (i.e. ancient Greece) anyway, but very few that explored the culture of the Hittite Empire and its vassal states.
So, what should I write about, if not the Trojan War?
Again, I turned to what decades of archaeological digs had turned up, as well as records of Hittite history that have been unearthed in the form of baked clay tablets. From my fresh research came a nucleus for Breaking The Foals. The basis of the novel is a social uprising in Wilusa, pitting the poorer classes against the wealthy, and this is a theme that comes up time and again in the Hittite records. Certain keys events in the book are also linked to evidenced events, such as the drama that unfolds in Tablet Eight or the finale in Tablet Nineteen. What I’ve written is fiction, of course, but fiction informed by evidence. The world I’ve created is as accurate a portrayal of what the real Troy would have looked, sounded and smelled like, thousands of years ago, as I could possibly muster. My protagonist, Hektor, is a man completely immersed in the customs, duties and trials of his age, confronting ideals of parenting and servitude to his father that would surely have challenged the real figures from history upon which I have based his character.
I think good historical novels swallow you entirely and make you forget, at least for a while, exactly where you are in time. But the best historical novels are driven by characters who reflect the difficulties and ‘otherness’ of a distant world, and it is through them that you are able to appreciate what it was to have lived as they might have lived. Does Breaking The Foals do this? That’s up to you, as its reader, to decide.