Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label greece & rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label greece & rome. Show all posts

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield

19826252

Homer's style has gone out of fashion.

The good

  • The title - who wouldn't want to read Last of the Amazons?
  • It's about the Attic War, a lesser known Greek myth that's very similar to the Trojan War.
  • We know that the Amazons can't win against the Athenians, but it's still exciting and you want them to win.
  • The world building is pretty neat and I could picture the physical and cultural settings.
  • The Amazons seem to be polyamorous bisexual women who all live in triads, a cool and interesting concept, and mate with men once a year. I'm not marking this as LGBTQ characters though, because it's a very minor and brushed over part of the book.*

The bad

  • The characters should and do seem to believe in gods, plural, but but often speak about God, singular, which is confusing because are they pantheists or monotheists? Pantheists who focus on one god (Zeus?)? I'm still confused about this.
  • The songs and chants are kinda cool but definitely unnecessary.
  • Excessive repetition, especially of tribe names and character epithets and name meanings.
  • "Warrioresses". It sounds clumsy. What's wrong with calling them by their name: Amazons?

The ugly

  • The writing style mimics ancient epics, so it's very formal and old-fashioned and awkward all round. The sentence structure and word choice is strange and very difficult to understand. The endless (and pointless!) lists are very Homeric but very exhausting to read.
  • The structure is also very confusing as it's not linear and though it's written in the first person POV, it changes POVs (I often didn't know which character was talking) but I didn't realise these two things for ages.
  • The characters aren't fully developed so I had a hard time knowing who to like or not like.
  • Possible racism? At one point the Amazons paint themselves black and it's not really explained? Huh?
  • *Strangely, some Amazons slut shame and use homophobic language towards their enemies. Hypocrisy much?

The conclusion

The structure and writing style prevented me from enjoying this book and I just wanted to finish it so I could move on. I'm rounding up my rating from 2.5 stars because the concept and the title are so cool. However, I wouldn't recommend Last of the Amazons unless you're a huge fan of Homer's writing style.

The summary

In or around 1250 BC, so Plutarch tells us, Theseus, king of Athens and slayer of the Minotaur, set sail on a journey that brought him to the land of 'tal Kyrte', the 'Free People', a nation of fiercely proud and passionate warrior women whom the Greeks called 'Amazons'. Bound to each other as lovers as well as fighters and owing allegiance to no man, the Amazons distrusted the Greeks with their boastful talk of cities and civilization. And when their illustrious war queen Antiope fell in love with Theseus and fled to Athens with the king and his followers, so denying her people, the Amazon tribes were outraged. Seeking revenge, they raised a vast army and marched on Athens. History tells us they could not win, but for a brief and glorious moment the Amazons held the Attic world in thrall before vanishing into the immortal realms of myth and legend.

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Thursday, 6 April 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Gladiatrix (Gladiatrix #1) by Russell Whitfield

11688774
Genderbent Spartacus with lesbians.

The good

  • It's about female gladiators! Hell to the yeah!
  • Scheming Romans 
  • The book assumes the reader knows stuff about ancient Rome, because you'd hardly read it if you didn't (thank you, author, for treating us as the knowledgeable people we are)
  • LGBTQ representation! There are: lesbian characters and F/F relationships (but they're gladiatrices, so don't expect happy endings) and a very very minor M/M relationship with a hopeful ending
  • The protagonist, Lysandra, is Spartan and looks like Xena (just putting it out there)
  • Her character growth is subtle but it's there
  • Her gladiator name is Achillia, the feminine form of Achilles (how cool is that?!)
  • Friendship, sisterhood, and kinship are very important to the characters in this book
  • Lots of gruesome action (this could be a negative, depending on your POV, but I found it was fun and provided more realism)
  • Gladiators that actually die
  • One of the side characters is a prostitute, and her male lover doesn't judge
  • The ending is happyish (the main characters don't get what they want, but it's not all bad) and sets things up for a sequel.

The bad

  • Typos and strange paragraph formatting, but that might just be because it's an ebook
  • No Roman matrons (c'mon, where are the Roman daughters, wives, and mothers?)
  • No descriptions of the classical architecture (what do the arena and temple look like?) (I love my columns)
  • It's quite long, so there's heaps in it, but it's not a quick read (which could be a positive, depending on your POV).

The ugly

  • The one black male character is a creepy and violent rapist drug addict and his name is similar to the word "nasty" (need I spell out RACISM?)
  • Rape. Not only that, but it's a violent gang-rape. Gross.

Conclusions

If it weren't for the rape and racism, I would've loved this book. In addition to that, if there were no typos and we saw some Roman women as well as the gladiatrices and slave girls, I'd definitely give this five stars. I'm definitely reading the sequel though.

I felt a bit strange that this was written by a man, but he did a pretty good job at writing a vaguely feminist novel whose main characters are lesbians. I'm impressed.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to fans of women warriors and Spartacus: Blood and Sand. There's explicit violence and sex, so avoid if you're not into that.

    The summary

    Under the Flavian Emperors the Roman public’s hunger for gladiatorial combat has never been greater. The Emperor Domitian’s passion for novelty and variety in the arena has given rise to a very different kind of warrior: the Gladiatrix.

    Sole survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of Asia Minor, Lysandra finds herself the property of Lucius Balbus, owner of the foremost Ludus for female gladiators in the Eastern Empire. Lysandra, a member of an ancient Spartan sect of warrior priestesses, refuses to accept her new status as a slave. Forced to fight for survival, her deadly combat skills win the adoration of the crowds, the respect of her Lanista, Balbus, and the admiration of Sextus Julius Frontinus, the provincial governor.

    But Lysandra’s Spartan pride also earns her powerful enemies: the Dacian warrior, Sorina, Gladiatrix Prima and leader of the Barbarian faction, and the sadistic Nubian trainer Nastasen.
    When plans are laid for the ultimate combat spectacle to honour the visit of the new Consul, Lysandra must face her greatest and deadliest trial.

    Add it on Goodreads

    Saturday, 25 March 2017

    The good, the annoying, and the ugly: For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

    25493869
    Insta love, Stockholm Syndrome, and sex = love in Troy.

    I'm going to pick apart this novel, so beware of spoilers for both the book and the Trojan War (which is a millenia-old myth, but hey, not everyone knows it).

    The good

    • Gorgeous cover!
    • Retelling of the Trojan War that focuses on women!
    • The gods are included! Every so often there's a chapter where we get to see their pettiness, and it's so entertaining.
    • The writing style is pretty good, easy to read, and I loved the aesthetic.

    The annoying

    • Spelling Chryseis as Krisayis (the author wanted to show that Greeks and Trojans had different cultures)
    • I thought this book was going to focus on several different women (my mistake) but it only focuses on Briseis and Chryseis Krisayis. These girls are essential to the plot of the Iliad but are both slaves of the Greeks, so we don't get a range of perspectives.
    • The two main characters are very similar (see above) and I often got confused about which one I was reading about.
    • Where's Thetis? You know, the mother of Achilles, a sea nymph who's a fairly important part of the Trojan War? She's mentioned by other characters but doesn't appear with the other gods. She may be a lesser god, but she's still important to the plot. It was her wedding, after all, where the Thing happened that kind of caused the Trojan War. The Thing that the title For The Most Beautiful alludes to.
    • We see Patroclus from Briseis's perspective, but he's portrayed as a kind of boring character who doesn't fight and is rumoured to be Achilles's boy toy (according to Plato, Achilles was Patroclus's boy toy (yes, the Ancient Greeks had ship wars)). He seems to be in unrequited love with Achilles. This book isn't about Patroclus, but he deserves some credit.
    • Aeneas is a son of Priam in this book???? Why? Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Venus/Aphrodite (that's right, the goddess). He's unnecessary to the book, so it's even stranger that his parentage is changed.

    The ugly

    • The Trojan War lasted 10 years. In this book, it lasts less than a year, kinda similar to Troy (2004). It's such a simple canon detail, and it's ignored without explanation. (NB if you want to create a good work of fiction, don't do anything Troy did.)
    • The romances are really sudden and not developed. The romance tropes used include insta love, Stockholm Syndrome, and sex = love. Briseis's actual thought process: Wow, my fiancĂ© I've never met before is hot, I'm in love. *few months later* Achilles killed my husband so I will not sleep with him. *nek minnit* Achilles killed my family, I'm definitely never sleeping with him. Oh, he's apologised, I'm going to sleep with him now. Forgive me if I can't relate.
    • If it passes the Bechdel test, I don't remember it. A shame for a book intended to represent the forgotten women of the Trojan War.

    The conclusion

    This was a disappointing read, but I didn't put it down, so that's a point in its favour. 2.5 stars. If you're after a feminine (or feminist) retelling of the Trojan War that adheres to the mythology, look elsewhere.

      The summary

      Three thousand years ago a war took place that gave birth to legends - to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. It was a war that made - and destroyed - both men, a war that shook the very foundations of the world. But what if there was more to this epic conflict? What if there was another, hidden tale of the Trojan War that had yet to be told?

      Now is that time - time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

      Thrillingly imagined and startlingly original, For the Most Beautiful reveals the true story of true for the first time. The story of Krisayis, daughter of the Trojans' High Priest, and of Briseis, princess of Pedasus, who fight to determine the fate of a city and its people in this ancient time of mischievous gods and mythic heroes.

      In a novel full of passion and revenge, loyalty and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, Emily Hauser breathes exhilarating new life into one of the greatest legends of all - in a story that has waited millennia to be told.

      Add it on Goodreads

      Sunday, 12 March 2017

      The good, the bad, and the ugly: New Pompeii (New Pompeii #1) by Daniel Godfrey

      27833741
      Capitalising on time travel never ends well.

      The good

      • Time travel (they transport people from the past into the present, but it's actually quite complicated and gets confusing later)
      • Romans (always a plus)
      • But no romance! (even better)
      • Mother of all plot twists (I did not see that coming!)
      • Nice concise writing that's not too descriptive
      • Historical facts incorporated into the story (the author knows his stuff)

      The bad

      • Very confusing plot because of all the timeywimeyness (don't ask me to explain the plot)
      • I also got confused because there are too many characters

      The ugly

      • Not enough female characters (*spoiler*: there are 3, compared to a whole lot of male characters (that actually is a spoiler, because two characters are actually the same person))
      • No LGBTQ representation (you've got Romans and you've got people in the future, and none of them are queer? Really?)
      • The book shows that some people's  moral codes today (or in the near future) are no better than the Romans', which is quite sad.

      The summary

      In the near future, energy giant Novus Particles develops the technology to transport objects and people from the deep past to the present. Their biggest secret: New Pompeii. A replica of the city hidden deep in central Asia, filled with Romans pulled through time a split second before the volcano erupted.

      Historian Nick Houghton doesn't know why he's been chosen to be the company's historical advisor. He's just excited to be there. Until he starts to wonder what happened to his predecessor. Until he realizes that NovusPart have more secrets than even the conspiracy theorists suspect.

      Until he realizes that NovusPart have underestimated their captives...

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      Sunday, 13 November 2016

      Review: Pompeii by Robert Harris

      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/820530.Pompeii
      The punny quotes on the outside and inside covers killed me.

      Summary

      A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome's richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world - the mighty Aqua Augusta - has suddenly ceased to flow. Through the eyes of four characters - a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist - Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.
      This is the second book I've read this year about the Vesuvius eruption in 79 CE. The two were very different - the first was YA and centred on a romance, while this one was adult fiction and took place over 4 days. I rated both 3 stars, so neither was particularly special.

      As mentioned, Pompeii takes place over 4 days - the 2 days before the eruption, and the 2 days during. Because of this, it's fairly fast-paced, making it easier and more fun to read. Before the eruption, the plot centres on the maintenance of the Aqua Augusta, the huge aqueduct that supplied water to the Bay of Neapolis, where the book is set (there’s a map of the area at the start of the book, if you were wondering). Then, of course, it's Vesuvius's time to shine, in great detail.

      Pompeii promises four POVs, so I went into it expecting to be drawn into the lives of four different characters, however character - Attilius, the engineer - is the focus and the others' perspectives are minimal. This disappointed me, I have to say. As well as this, none of the characters are particularly interesting, developed, or otherwise special. It's hard to care about characters who don't interest you.

      The protagonist, however, is something of an antihero, so that made a nice change from the archetypal guy who has to save the people (maybe it's to do with him being Roman...). I love flawed characters, antiheroes especially.

      Sadly, this book fails the Bechdel Test. The one "main" female character, Corelia, has a mother, but they don't seem to speak to each other, even though they're not estranged or anything. You'd think a young woman in a Roman society would want to talk to other women - her mother, her maid, even girls her own age - but nope, doesn't happen, even though seeing how Corelia interacts with her own gender would add some much-needed depth to her character.

      On the plus side, there’s no romance! The book takes place over 4 days, so that shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was such a relief. There’s a bit of saving a damsel in distress, but they barely know each other so I’ll happily ignore any romantic connotations that might entail.

      Something I enjoyed in Pompeii was the scattering of historical details. I did wonder a lot about what was fact and what was fiction (eg. which characters are real?) but the author did plenty of research. I loved coming across little details such as mentions of the erotic Pompeiian frescos, of Spartacus, of Augustus and Livia, of throwing slaves to the eels. Call me a Classics nerd, but it doesn't take much to make me happy. It's the little things.

      To conclude, I don't know why this was a bestseller, as the characters are flat and the writing is nothing special. But I'm so desperate for books about Greece & Rome that I'll take what I can get.

      Add it on Goodreads

      Tuesday, 26 July 2016

      Mini review: Love in the Land of Midas by Kapka Kassabova

      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1015198.Love_in_the_Land_of_Midas

      Clickbait summary: Not as corny or romantic as the blurb makes it appear.

      Actual summary

      A love story that crosses generations and continents, from post-war Europe to the present day. The legends of the Greek myths are diffused with the complicated history of the Balkans in a story that takes the reader into the lives of an unforgettable cast of characters.
      This book was excellent, almost a five-star read. It's got lots of characters, which gets confusing because some have more than one name and remembering how they were connected is a pain. The characterisations are, however, strong and interesting. 

      The main problem I had with this book was the flashback structure, which was very confusing at first - it started in 1998 and switched to 1949 to 1997 to 1998 to 1997 to 1998 and so on until it switched to 1947. Thankfully, each chapter has a date and location, and after a while I got the hang of it.

      The central issue/event in Love in the Land of Midas is something completely new to me - the Greek Civil War. I didn't even know there was one! But yes, after World War 2, Greece had a three-year civil war. This is explained in the author's note at the start of the novel, and it's fascinating in the story. The politics and the war were new to me, and very intriguing.

      Being published in 2000, and the latest date in the book being 1998, it's a little dated now in terms of communication. Now, the characters could use the internet and mobile phones to research or keep in contact. However, the themes and ideas (eg. love, passion, war, family) are still relevant and always will be.

      Another issue I had was knowing that the author (at the time it was written) lived in New Zealand. To me, the book has a definite NZ flavour to it, especially in the dialogue, but the characters were European and Australian - no Kiwis at all. But if I hadn't known about the author, I might not have been distracted by this.

      So much for a mini review! I will finish by recommending this book to adult readers/readers of adult books who have an interest in Ancient Greece and post-war Europe. It's well-written and so worth your while.

      Add it on Goodreads

      Thursday, 21 July 2016

      The good, the bad, and the ugly: Bring Down the Sun by Judith Tarr

      Bring Down the Sun (Alexander the Great, #2)
      Clickbait summary: Horny priestess marries King of Macedonia, has magic.

      The good

      • About a historically intriguing woman, Olympias (Alexander the Great's mother) 
      • The setting! (Ancient Greece, 4th Century BCE)
      • Main character has a clear goal she is determined to reach (but she reaches it too easily to mane an interesting plot)
      • Ancient Greek girls usually have extreme levels of chastity, so it was a nice change to read about one with a sex drive (however, I think it could've been toned down a notch in place of a stronger plot) 
      • Just the right level of description, enough to get a rough idea of the visuals, not so much as to be overwhelming and boring
      • Strong female characters in a patriarchal society, and especially this quote:
      "I know what I want," she said. "I do my best to take it."

      "You should have been a man," he said.

      "Why would I want that?"

      She had taken him aback. "A man is - A woman-"

      "Ask yourself," she said, "why a woman has to be weak to make a man feel strong. Are men so weak that women's strength is a threat to them?"

      The bad

      • Lust = love; lust - therefore love - at first sight
      • Strange writing style with some weird phrases and sentences that don't quite make sense
      • The magical elements don't work for me (I don't like mixing my historical fiction with my fantasy, but that's just me)
      • Unlikeable, underdeveloped main character (unlikeable characters don't have to be underdeveloped, they're allowed some positive personality traits, and an interesting past)
      • All the name-changing is confusing

      The ugly

      • SNAKES!!!
      • Hints of bestiality 

      Conclusion

      • While I disliked many aspects of this book, overall I liked it
      • Would recommend to adult (or older teen, as it's not sophisticated but is sexually explicit) readers who like magic and historical fiction

      The summary

      Alexander the Great ruled the greatest Empire of the ancient world, but he was ruled by his mother, called Olympias. There are as many legends about this powerful Queen as there are of her famous son, and the stories began long before she even met Philip of Macedon.

      Priestess of the Great Goddess, daughter of ruling house of Epiros, witch, and familiar of Serpents...she was a figure of mystery, fascination and fear even during her own lifetime. Author Judith Tarr uses the legends to weave an intensely romantic fantasy novel set in ancient Greece and Macedon.

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      Wednesday, 8 June 2016

      Top Ten Reasons I Love Xena: Warrior Princess

      Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Ten Reasons I Love X. I thought and thought about what I was going to do, and finally decided on one of my two favourite TV programmes, the 90s cult classic Xena: Warrior Princess. 

       For those who don't know (gasp!) it's about Xena (Lucy Lawless), a warrior woman who kicks arse around Ancient Greece and the rest of the known world with her gal pal Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), a bard and Amazon princess/queen. It's an American show filmed in New Zealand, but most of characters speak with - or try to speak with - American accents, which can be both distracting and hilarious. Physics does not exist in this show.

      Okay, now you know the basics, here are just ten of the things I love most about this show.

      1. It's so absurd and even the creators didn't take it seriously. The humour, the AU episodes, the WHOOSHes... Ridiculousness will rule the show!


      Nigel interviewing Gabrielle and Xena in an actual episode

      2. It has two of the best female villains ever. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


                       

      Callisto                             Alti


      3. Women everywhere! This is possibly the most feminist TV show, even today, not just because of all the lady warriors, but because it's about inner strength as well. They don't shy away from female relationships, either, which is pretty special.

       

      Gabrielle and Xena fight together

      4. It's set mostly in Ancient Greece and includes a lot of Greek mythology, including the gods (my favourite is Aphrodite, but Ares is the star) but they also travel to Britannia, Rome, Egypt, India,  China, Japan, North Africa...

      Ares and Aphrodite

      5. It's anachronism central! Gabrielle meets Homer one episode after she and Xena meet Helen of Troy, which is ten years after Xena meets Julius Caesar; Xena invents CPR and the kite, she and Gabrielle get crucified and get sent to hell and heaven and meet archangels... There is a very long list of historical inaccuracies, and it's brilliant because it's not meant to be accurate.


      Ancient Greek underwear??

      6. The "subtext", or as I call it, "text".



      7. The same actors are recycled into different roles. Spot The Karl Urban is a favourite game that Xenites like to play.

       

      Karl Urban as Julius Caesar, Cupid, Mael, and Kor


      8. One of the main themes is tolerance: of different cultures, religions, world views, personalities, genders (there is a very progressive episode in which Xena kisses a transgender character, whose actor (also transgender) was actually HIV positive, to show the audience that you can't contract HIV from kissing someone who has it), etc.

       9. There's a musical episode! (Actually there's two, but the second one is terrible.)

       10. And of course, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. They are the most married of couples you can conceive of. They have the closest friendship and the deepest love. I saw someone refer to them as the "mothership", on account of the show being very influential on general fandom. One of my favourite things about this show is that it's about a positive loving relationship between two women, back in the 90s! No wonder it's so important to millions of wlw around the world.


       I could very easily add ten more things I love about this show, but I'll stick with the prescribed number. 

      What are your feelings? Nostalgia? Overwhelming fannish feels? Have I convinced any poor souls who aren't familiar with the show to watch it? Will you watch the reboot?

      Tuesday, 16 February 2016

      Curses & Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

      Finished reading on: 16 February 2016

      I'm experimenting with review styles, so let's see how this goes. Tell me what you think of this format.

      The good

      • Gorgeous cover
      • Great for young Classics nerds and fans of Spartacus (and therefore me) – Gladiators! Roman women! Pompeii!
      • Satisfied my need to read more things set in Ancient Rome
      • Cool use of Latin (which I largely understood, thanks to Spartacus)
      • Decent writing
      • Historically accurate - the author clearly knows her stuff without showing off too much; includes interesting author’s notes about the setting
      • Learnt some new things, such as curse tablets, and that Pompeii wasn’t always a Roman town (Sulla took it from the Etruscans in 80BCE)
      • Basically, the setting is the best aspect of the book

      The bad

      • The protagonists (Tag and Lucia) are tolerable, unlike a lot of YA characters, but I preferred Quintus, a main character who gets forgotten about, because I love arsehole characters
      • Written in the third person but the POV changes are unnecessarily marked
      • Having only two POVs (Tag's and Lucia's) is limiting, and I would’ve liked to read a least a chapter from each of Quintus and Cornelia’s perspectives
      • Repetitive likening of Tag’s good looks to Apollo's

      The ugly

      • Plot based on the romance (booooring!)
      • More gladiator and running-from-volcanic-eruption action needed (not at the same time; that drove me nuts about the 2014 film Pompeii)
      • Ending so disappointing it knocked a whole star off my rating (I was all set to give it four stars)
      • A whole lot of characters' fates forgotten due to limited POVs - what about Cornelia, Quintus, and the gladiators and slaves?

      The romance

      • Childhood friends suddenly fall in love
      • Would’ve liked to see the first move between Lucia and Tag at least another 50 pages later on (I prefer slow burn). However, I did appreciate Lucia considering the difference between love and lust this early on.
      • Love triangle avoided due to an unrequited love I’m proud to say I saw from the very start (although I had moments of doubt where I was wondering if my slash goggles were making me see things that weren’t there). The suggested solution for the trio's dilemma was on my mind since then, too.

      The blurb

      Two star-crossed lovers.
      One city on the brink of destruction.
       
      Tag is a medical slave, fated to spend the rest of his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But he yearns to fight in the arena himself and win the freedom to live - and love - as he wants.
       
      Lucia is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a man she doesn't love. But she's determined to follow her heart wherever it leads.
       
      Can they find each other before the volcano destroys their whole world?

      Add it on Goodreads

      Thursday, 12 March 2015

      The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

      Date finished: 11 March 2015

      I'd been meaning to read this book for about a year, ever since I did a Classics internal on The Iliad vs Troy (2004) in Year 12, and I'm very glad I finally read it. Doing this study meant that I knew the story - and loved it - so I hoped that I would also love The Song of Achilles. And I did.

      I knew the basics of what would happen (I won't give away any spoilers, even though the story is thousands of years old) but this book focuses on Patroclus, a character we don't get to see much in the original story, and gives him a background, which is new and interesting. I adored seeing his relationship with Achilles develop, and there were plenty of moments that made me fangirl. There is a tonne of foreshadowing, which I kept picking up on and almost crying over. *Spoiler alert* Even though I knew what was going to happen, I kept thinking, "Maybe Patroclus won't die this time," but it happens so fast that I was not at all prepared. I don't know how to describe the plot other than epic and tragic, and I loved how the author breathed new life into characters who have been around for a hell of a long time. (That's true immortality, I think - that we still remember the names of and care about Achilles and Patroclus in the 21st Century - even though they die.)

      The writing is beautiful. It flows very well and is easy to read. It's the kind of simplistic style that anyone can read and enjoy, and I loved the description and dialogue. As the book is written in the first person, we only get one character's perspective, but it's okay because it's a character we don't know much about compared to some of the more famous characters like Achilles, or Helen of Troy (*cough* Sparta!). To retell an age-old myth, emotive language is needed to give the novel some originality, and Madeline Miller succeeds in doing this.

      When I first learnt about The Iliad and the Trojan War, my favourite characters were Achilles and Patroclus. As they are the main characters of this book, that remains the case. Their characterisation in this novel is fantastic and, well, there's no other way to say this, but I ship them so hard! They are complete opposites, hero and antihero, and their relationship really makes you think about friendship and love and fate. They treat each other as equals, even though all the other characters think of Patroclus as a disgrace, an exile, unworthy of Achilles, but they love each other for eighteen years, and in the end they don't get the happy ending we want for them, which breaks the heart.

      There are strong themes in this book that also bring out the emotions. Love and sacrifice are important, as is the concept of heroism. At one point, Achilles says, "Name one hero who was happy," and I think that quote is just the saddest thing. In this book, we know that Achilles is fated to be a hero, and he is one, but we don't know if he, or Patroclus, is ever truly happy. Like I said, this story is tragic.

      In summary: This book killed me. It broke my heart with every bit of foreshadowing, and the last few chapters just hurt my soul. And I loved every minute of it, masochist as I am. If you are a young Classics nerd like me or just a lover of male/male relationships, you must read The Song of Achilles. It will break you and you'll thank the author for doing so.
      I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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