Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Romance

Pederasts, POV, Priorities: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Book Thoughts)

Let’s share the bookish quick facts first so you guys can have a refresher, then I’ll dive into my wonderfully trollable thoughts 

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Song of Achilles
  • Series; n/a
  • Author: Madeline Miller
  • Publisher & Release: Ecco, 2012
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ I mean I disliked the book and I disliked her premise but she’s a phenomenal writer
Here’s the synopsis from the back cover:

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice

My thoughts:

Despite The Song of Achilles being wildly popular and appearing everywhere forever since it’s been published, I held off until I was bored and saw someone stating that they learned “a lot about mythology” from the book

I said good lord it can’t possibly be accurate to the legends, because first and foremost in the Illiad, Achilles and Patroclus were only described as close, and later as pederastic at best. Any ”lovers” interpretations came later on with societal change but will never be true to the Illiad. That to me automatically invalidates the entire premise unless you’re seeking to inject “love stories” into places where they didn’t exist, and are reading it for what it is. (I wouldn’t like the book from that angle either).

Friends or Pederasts?

When one man is described as gangly, ugly, gray, a wet blanket, etc, and the other is described as a golden boy, that’s a very typical Greek description of pederasts with the attractive one being the younger man.  In the legends, Patroclus was older, so Miller had to make them roughly the same age to make it would work and seem less like socially acceptable pedophilia. Seeing as that she was loyal to that description, I think she was acknowledging the multiple ways that things could have been, but then apparently decided to make them gay (more in line with later variations).

At the end of the day, this is a “romance” and these are made up characters from a legend, so Miller can do what she wants with the mythology. I just don’t care for this reimagining of the myth.

If you want to read a more educated article about Achilles (a made up fictional character) and the debate of his sexuality throughout literature, here is a great article on it

Let’s talk about point of view

So more specifically about why I couldn’t get into this book, as soon as I see first person POV, if I can’t relate, I tune out.  I tuned out Patroclus after a few chapters because I’m not a man, I’m not gay, and that’s also about the time I shut the audiobook off and grabbed the text so I could dissociate from his voice a bit. I can’t imagine a woman wanting to write this from first person POV, but to each her own. I do much better with stories in third person than first.

I’ve seen this book recommended for ages as young as 14 and there’s way too much explicit and drawn out sex scenes (m/m, m/f), for that age group.  100% 18+ on this one, which is sad because the rest of the book reads like something to be marketed towards teens, as in, fairly repetitive and basic in structure, plus very character based.  I had to flip at least two pages to clear that first m/m scene. 

That said, the characters are wet blankets

Patroclus has NO personality outside of Achilles, who has NO personality outside of Patroclus and his pride.  I’m not even relating them to their Illiad descriptions. In The Song of Achilles, they have no personality. It’s also fairly clear to me that Thetis helped Patroclus become a hero at the end as not to dishonor Achilles, so I mean yeah he was brave but he just wanted the war to end and Achilles was going to hold everyone there for ever.  I never felt drawn to either character at all except for when Patroclus was interested and practicing medicine.

Oh, there’s another point: Patroclus was obsessed with Achilles and we were told multiple times that he wasn’t interested in women, but he had no problem hauling off without a backwards thought and banging Achilles’ wife. Explain how that fit into Miller’s story or personification of her main character at all? If she had an idea this might eventually be marketed towards teens, I just, don’t get it. Smut sells though so 🤷‍♀️

Ok, let’s say a few positive things

I’m losing my train of thought. I do think Miller had a few good scenes, mostly the brutal ones about human sacrifices. I liked the atmosphere and her descriptions of the local scenery and people, water and waves, weather, food, etc, she has a good overall sense of setting.

I like how we spent some time in the medicine tent and in places other than the battle, but also if you’re going to write a romance, why pick this?  The princes and kings spent an awful lot of time sitting around during the Trojan War (10 years went by awful fast in the book) so it made sense to talk about camp life and such, which is about the only place I was interested in the entire story.  I also liked the old centaur.

To touch quickly on what I said up top about Miller being a phenomenal writer? If this wasn’t in first person POV and was less sexualized, I’d have personally like it a lot more. Miller has a distinctively readable style and handles tricky narrative situations surprisingly well.

I mean I’m somewhat Greek, I love legends and Mythology, but I am just not into Miller’s re-imaginings.  I didn’t *love’ Circe either but I think she was at least more loyal to the myths in that one. If you want action, don’t read a romance, yeah yeah, but I never interpreted the Patroclus and Achilles story (and most don’t) as more than friendship, or based off the descriptions that even Miller was loyal to: pederasts.

Alright come at me, I’m ready to get trolled for this one 🤷‍♀️

Tl/DR: I would not read it again but I’m not going to deny that she’s got tricks

Thanks for checking out my rambling book thoughts on The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I was gifted this book many years ago and finally picked it up. As always, all opinions are my own

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard

Happy slightly late pub day to Game of Strength and Storm! Thanks to Flux Books via NetGalley for the digital arc, all opinions are my own

This is a very loose labors of Hercules retelling. It sounded interesting despite the fact that I don’t tend to be a fan of mythological retellings and have been breaking up with YA, so maybe don’t take my opinions too seriously

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Game of Strength & Storm
  • Series: The Labors of Gen
  • Author: Rachel Menard
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 06/07/2022
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for me personally. Content wise I would recommend for a pretty clean YA fantasy read

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Victory is the only option.

Once a year, the Olympian Empresses grant the wishes of ten people selected by a lottery—for a price. Seventeen-year-old Gen, a former circus performer, wants the freedom of her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for murders she knows he didn’t commit. Castor plans to carry the island Arcadia into the future in place of her brother, Pollux, but only after the Empresses force a change in her island’s archaic laws that requires a male heir.

To get what they want, Gen and Castor must race to complete the better half of ten nearly impossible labors. They have to catch the fastest ship in the sea, slay the immortal Hydra, defeat a gangster called the Boar, and capture the flesh-eating Mares, among other deadly tasks.

Gen has her magic, her ability to speak to animals, her inhuman strength—and the help of Pollux, who’s been secretly pining for her for years. But Castor has her own gifts: the power of the storms, along with endless coin. Only one can win. The other walks away with nothing—if she walks away at all.

I seem to be in the minority here as the book has great early ratings, but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough for YA but took me almost three weeks to finish because I honestly was not interested and had trouble with the repetitive inner monologue.

The concept was interesting and there was plenty of action interspersed throughout, but overall as an adult reader I just wasn’t as engaged as I think a teen would be.  I also like the theme of family loyalty which is explored in different ways.

Character wise- I can’t deal with inner monologue that never changes. Pollux said the same thing over and over and so did Castor who had no character growth at all.  It’s hard for me to read multiple points of view when the characters just keep repeating themselves. The main character, Gen, didn’t really change much either except to open her barriers to a proximity romance and gain slightly more awareness of the way the empire works. I liked the magic, abilities, and attitude of the characters, although the most enjoyable part for me was the animals

What do you think it would be like to ride in a whale’s mouth? A monkey with 100 eyes? Flesh eating mares?

Gen’s ability to communicate with different creatures was the high point for sure

Plot wise I wanted a little more from some of the tasks. Overall it was fairly fast paced but I found myself skimming over a lot of repetitive introspection. The final battle’s ending struck me as a bit silly and I thought the book would be a standalone. I can’t see myself reading the sequel.

I like that the content and language was appropriately clean for YA.  There were a few kisses between m/f and briefly w/w but otherwise the content was extremely low. One of my favorite things about the Flux imprint is that they tend to keep things on the tame side!

I would recommend for YA 100% and accordingly went with my three star, aka neutral rating

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

The Keeper of Night (ARC Review) by Kylie Lee Baker

Bring on the morally grey characters and complicated endings, it’s fall! Thank you so much to Inkyard Press for my proof of The Keeper of Night! This is a YA fantasy with Japanese mythology, and I still enjoyed it quite a bit as an adult

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Keeper of Night
  • Series: The Keeper of Night #1
  • Author: Kylie Lee Baker
  • Publisher & Release: Inkyard Press, 10/12/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ all the stars for this dark fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy duology set in 1890s Japan.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

I liked the premise here, a young British Reaper is also half Japanese Shinigami, and she is bullied by the other Reapers. They don’t treat her much better in Japan and she just goes into this totally selfish spiral of darkness after being forced out of London. Her brother, Neven, would have followed her to the ends of the world and I was surprised by Ren’s lack of empathy towards him, how brutal!

I guess that’s what makes a good morally gray character, their self serving attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

It was cool to get a look at Japanese mythology and legends too, especially the underworld.  Baker does a great job with descriptive language, world building, and setting.  I felt like I was there, seeing the sights and smells, being crushed by darkness, wondering what would come next.  A very immersive read.

The magic system was pretty low key, the Reapers had a very cool time turning ability and a lot of the Japanese folklore involved abilities as well.  It was well described and once again I liked the concept of magic/legends/beings only being susceptible to the fatal influences of their own culture.

This is a great October read. I’m shocked that it’s a debut. Minus a few wordy forays into similes and purple prose that I thought hurt the flow – it was beautifully descriptive enough without going over the top those few times!  I thought overall it was a mature enough novel to enjoy as an adult.

There was some humor and good dialogue too, as well as a darker romance, but my favorite part was definitely the legends and stories.

Overall? This is an interesting, fast paced novel with good themes, morally questionable main characters, lovely language, and fresh mythology. You might cry though! A big ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me as an adult or for YA

Categories
Fantasy

Loves of Shadow and Power (book review) by Edith Pawlicki

Hi all! Sorry for my relative silence across media recently, I’m having a hard time getting anything done that’s not work and sleep related. Also I am on a Northeast road trip for the next two weeks but I’ll be back towards the end of the month

I finished Loves of Shadow and Power and really want to thank the author for the early copy! I love anything orange so I’m super happy to have these in print!

One fun note is that Edith will be joining me on the blog next week for the Sunday Brunch Series!

Here is my review for book one in the series!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Loves of Shadow and Power
  • Series: The Immortal Beings #2 (duology)
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/14/21
  • Length: 393
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍁🍁🍁🍁 for Asian based mythology and character driven adult fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

Are the worst demons within or without?

Finally in the Underworld, Jin must find the black peony – and survive the immortal creatures that hunger for her.

Xiao would prefer ravenous immortal creatures to his parents. Imprisoned and continuously drained of power, Xiao is spiralling into addiction and despair…

Nanami doesn’t know Xiao is drinking again. She just knows she needs to save the man she loves, even if it means getting help from an old foe. And if no one believes she can handle the powers she is challenging, well, Nanami has always defied expectations.

Speaking of expectations, Bai is shocked by the power that mortal worship grants the gods. Humbled by a confrontation with them, he must reinvent himself if he wants to claim the place next to Jin.

Separated by circumstance, the four friends must fight gods, monsters, and even themselves to come together again. But if they find each other, will they have changed too much to reunite?

I think the biggest difference in the second novel was the pacing and style.  She went for longer chapters and more breaks, with a mini cliffhanger style that I learned is called Xianxia.  It helped the pacing a lot and made the book hard to put down.

I went pretty deep into the world building in my review for book one.  The main addition to LoSaP was the Underworld, which I think was also my favorite part.  Meeting many of the Immortal Creatures was another high point since the author is skilled at creating lush visual images of places and animals.  I liked that Jin had to reason with them and trust her judgement as well as her power.

The characters learned (mostly) to love and trust in themselves in book one, and now they have to get over initial misconceptions and changing world views to see if they can truly love each other and embrace their roles as responsible deities.

Does deification change them? How do prayers even work? Where does this immense amount of power fit into the grand scheme of things?  Bai and Cheng had me laughing trying to figure these things out.

Theme wise there was self reflection, cause & effect, consequences, and lots of coming of age in this one.  Friendship and sacrifice, justice and judgement, plus natural vs found family and breaking ties

You all know I’m a sucker for a found family.  There was a bit of a morality nosedive towards the end that I would have really appreciated if I wasn’t half brain dead.

I just docked a star for some repetitive language and other small things, nothing serious at all.

Overall: a satisfying conclusion to the duology. Definitely recommend this series for fans of Asian based mythology & fantasy, lush descriptions, character driven coming of age stories and lore.

Stay tuned on the 19th for the author interview!

Categories
Fantasy Thrillers

Comfort Me With Apples (ARC Review) by Catherynne M. Valente

Thank you so much to Tordotcom for the ARC of Comfort Me With Apples!  I received the book for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own! 

The editorial letter states that the book is extremely hard to describe because of spoilers, and that we just have to read it. I completely agree with this! I definitely really enjoyed it and recommend for a short, fast paced fall read with tons of atmosphere

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Comfort Me With Apples
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Catherynne M. Valente
  • Publisher & Release: TorDotCom – 10/26/21
  • Length: 112 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for pretty much anyone, it crosses genres!

Here is the book blurb:

A terrifying new thriller from bestseller Catherynne M. Valente …

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…

But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?

Other than the book blurb, I don’t want to say too much about the plot itself because the whole thing leads up to the twist! The book lives for the twist.

Sophia is happy, living a perfect life in a perfect community called Arcadia Gardens. The book almost immediately starts introducing some fairy tale elements, but the reader has no idea what direction the story is going in. Is it a fairytale retelling? A fantasy? A new legend? Something out of folklore or mythology? A combination? Why is Sophia finding bones in the house and cracks in the facade of her existence?

With beautiful imagery, a mystery to solve, a general sense of unease, and a deeply atmospheric fairytale tone of voice, definitely you just have to read this one to find out exactly what is going on in Arcadia Gardens.  

It lists as a domestic thriller, fantasy, mythology.  I think there’s something in it for most readers, and it’s so short that it can be read in one sitting on a breezy October afternoon.

Thanks for reading!