Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review: 'The Gift of Darkness' by V. M. Giambanco

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Twenty-five years ago in the woods near the Hoh River in Seattle, three boys were kidnapped. One did not come home.

A quarter of a decade later, a family of four is found brutally murdered, the words thirteen days scratched near their lifeless bodies.

Homicide Detective Alice Madison ran away from home as a child, one breath away from committing an unforgivable act; as an adult, she found her peace chasing the very worst humanity has to offer. Madison believes these murders are linked. And she has thirteen days to prove it.

To stop a psychopath, Madison must go back into the woods and confront the unsolved mystery of the Hoh River Boys. She must forget her training and follow her instincts to the terrifying end as enemies become allies and, in the silent forest, time is running out to save another life.


Review

I seem to be making a habit of this crime-fiction-reading malarkey!  This time it was to branch fully out into serial killers, grim descriptions of the murder of a whole family and a glimpse into the inner workings of a psycopath's mind.  The Gift of Darkness follows Detective Alice Madison and her colleagues as they investigate the murder of a local tax lawyer along with his wife and two young children.  The early parts of the book are pretty full on: there's very little held back when the detectives are at the crime scene and I was a little bit sceptical about whether or not I'd make it to the end without giving myself horrendous nightmares.

After the initial wave of detail, though, matters move more from the gross to the sinister and, I'll admit, the downright creepy.  You know in films where there are those *horrible* moments where you're screaming at the detectives because there's a killer RIGHT NEAR THEM and they just can't see them?  I *hate* those moments (even while I love them a little bit).  This story is full of moments like that where the tension ratchets up ridiculously high and I spent a good few mornings and evenings having those "Must. Keep. Reading" moments, gawping at the pages with wide eyes.  Whatever The Gift of Darkness may or may not be, it is definitely a page-turner.  And if you read this at a time/place when unexpected loud noises are likely, you'll probably have a heart attack.  Just saying.

Without a doubt my favourite thing about The Gift of Darkness was how its blurring of the lines between the "good" characters and the "bad" characters.  Madison is a pretty hard character to get behind because she's quite detached.  I actually quite liked that about her - she isn't made out to be a hero just because she's a woman doing a traditionally masculine job and she isn't super feminine just to make a point.  She's just a professional woman going about her job and I felt kind of respectful of her even while I was a little bit neutral.  It's the 'bad' characters that Giambanco excels at writing.  If an author can make me have even one  moment where I have to check myself for starting to sympathise with a serial killer, it would take something pretty catastrophic to sway me away from admiring it.  As always with novels with any kind of twists, it's hard to tell you much more without giving too much away but be prepared to shift your perspective a few times.  In a good way.

My only gripe with The Gift of Darkness was that the writing style wasn't always one that I found particularly comfortable to read.  Not in terms of subject matter (my hopelessness at reading anything even remotely gory being well-documented enough), but in terms of style.  The whole story is told in the third person and moves between a few characters.  I don't have a problem with books written in the third person but there were a few moments where the writing was a bit disjointed.  And there was something...awkward about some of the dialogue.  Maybe I talk in a particularly sloppy manner but when two characters are talking informally, there's something jarring about them doing so in "proper" English.  There's a point in the book, for example, where one person is asking another about how well they knew someone and their response is, "We did not go out for food and beer".  There are quite a few instances like that and every time it pulled me out of what was going on and had me repeating the phrases in my head to try to get them to sound right.  But maybe that's just me.

Let's end on a health warning: if you're wary of blood and gore and the like, you probably won't be a fan.  Think more CSI Las Vegas than Miss Marple.

Overall:  A clever variation on the good guy v. bad guy theme with more than enough to keep both hardened and fledgling crime fiction fans flipping pages.  With the lights on.  Obviously...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  03 April 2013
Format:  Paperback (ARC)
Source:  Received via The Book Depository's Affiliates scheme in exchange for an honest review
Genre:  Crime fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by Quercus Publishing Plc in June 2013

The Gift of Darkness is due for release on 6th June 2013 - you can pre-order a copy at The Book Depository HERE

Monday, 22 April 2013

Wondering what to read next? There's a GUIDE for that!

Like any sensible British reader, I have a Waterstones card.  Books = points = more books. I can't remember how I found it but it turns out that there's a section on Waterstones' website here dedicated to everything good and bookish including some handy hints about where to go when you've read something you love and want something similar or only have an inkling of what you fancy reading.  I can't say that they're all super accurate, because in a lot of the cases, if I've read the lead book, I haven't read any of the recommendations or vice versa.  The ones where I have read more than one of the featured books, though, are pretty good...

Let's start with what I know: EPIC FANTASY

I may not always read it (those books are HEAVY!) but when I do find a humongous series to really get into, I feel a little bit like I've come home.  The longer, more complicated, more politically mangled and more convoluted the better. I wish that when I was a teenager and had all the time in the world, I'd have had the nerve to dawdle my way through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of the local bookshop/library.  

The Read Me First... in this particular guide is The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, with The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and The Malzan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson spotlighted as highly recommended.

Added to the wishlist: The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson - I've had the first part of the series on my eReader for ages but I just haven't got round to reading it yet. Maybe because I've never heard much about it other than that I should read it.

Lit Addicted Brit bonus recommendation: I'll get no prizes for originality here but The Wheel of Time series, definitely.  I *love* the magic system in the series the most but I basically love everything else about it and I would never even try to review it.  Some of the instalments are stronger than others but overall it's terrific.

For when you're craving some sleuthing without the nightmares: COZY CRIME

I've mentioned roughly a thousand time on the blog how much of a wuss I am (and will do so again in a little while...sorry!).  But seriously - I'm just not grown up enough for creeping through dark corridors, bangs and crashes when you least expect them and sinister serial killers.  Not even a little bit.  And YET I do love the following of clues, using logic and deduction and finding a killer.  I don't read a lot of cozy crime because I find the feel of them quite repetitive, even when they have a unique twist or are part of a series with a theme that I like, but I do really enjoy them when I do.  I think that maybe they're what I'd give as my "guilty pleasure", if I had to pick one.

This is the only guide that I'm mentioning where I haven't read any of the recommendations BUT I've read a few of Agatha Christie's novels so I think that means I'm faintly comfortable talking about this sub-genre.  The We Love... and Read Me First... spotlights both fall on Agatha Christie; The Murder at the Vicarage and Murder on the Orient Express.  I haven't read either but it's nice to have some direction in the face of Christie's epic bibliography!  

Added to the wishlist:  Dying in the Wool by Frances Brady - the first book in the Kate Shackleton mystery series features scandal against the backdrop of a Yorkshire village, with an amatuer investigator looking into the disappearance of a mill owner.  I live in a Yorkshire village but am originally from Lancashire so I kind of love anything that tries to explain to the particularities of Yorkshire life to "outsiders".  The more fun stereotypes for me to throw at my Yorkshireman boyfriend, the better ;)

Lit Addicted Brit bonus recommendation:  Ok, so the series isn't spectacularly literary and I've only read two books in the series but if you like a few recipes sprinkled through your stories (because who doesn't, really), the Hanna Swensen series by Joanne Fluke is kind of cute. Just don't come back here when you're full of cookies and on a sugar down.  The first in the series is Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, which I did a teeny tiny review of here.

For when you're craving some nightmares without the sleuthing: SPOOKY STORIES


Obviously I rarely fall into this category but I have found recently that I occasionally get struck by a fit of bravery and dare a ghost story.  The Woman in Black by Susan Hill was my most recent indulgence, I think (reviewed here), and features in this guide as the We love... feature title.  Excellent choice, Waterstones.  I own The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert after seemingly forgetting how much of a complete wimp I am and downloading the eBook.  I obviously haven't read it yet because it looks SCARY but it's nice to know that I have an endorsement of its quality should I ever find myself feeling courageous.

Added to the wishlist:  Complete Ghost Stories by Charles Dickens - I don't have a great deal of experience of Dickens' writing (by which I mean that I've read A Christmas Carol and nothing else...) but this guide makes this collection sound packed full of gothic-y goodness.

Lit Addicted Brit bonus recommendation:  I can't believe I'm about to recommend it again after the many, many years it took me to face up to it but Dracula by Bram Stoker (reviewed here).

Want to check out the whole collection?  Head over HERE to the Reading Guides section of the Waterstones Card area!  The list seems to be ever-growing and there just has to be something for everyone - ENJOY!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

YA Fiction Review: 'Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters' by Rick Riordan

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

After a summer spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson is finding his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson, a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any normal friends. But things don't stay quiet for long. 

Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: the magical borders that protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millennia. Only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name: The Bermuda Triangle.

Review

I liked the first instalment in this series, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, quite a lot (and reviewed it here).  If I had any criticisms of that book, they were that Percy's voice as he narrated the story seemed a bit younger than he was supposed to be and that the character development could probably have been a bit stronger.  I loved the story and the twists on Greek mythology but felt a bit...disconnected from such young characters.  With The Sea of Monsters, Riordan has strengthened his characters and allowed Percy to grow up a bit without moving too far away from what made The Lightning Thief great.  The same nods to mythology but a book I found much easier to enjoy.

Part of the shift up is probably owed no more than to the fact that this is the second in a five-part series.  Readers have a bit of background with Percy and Camp Half-Blood and its residents so there weren't any over-engineered social situations to introduce the students to one another.  On the flip side, it's clear that Riordan's in no rush to stride through an over-arching story; there is some development of the series but there's also plenty of time for fighting Cyclops, evading harpies and navigating the perils of the Sea of Monsters.

Riordan's relaxed writing style complements the fun side of his books perfectly. The sentences and chapters are short and snappy and the dialogue has what seems to me (knowing no teenagers at all as I do) a quite authentic, cheeky teenage feel.  When the story gets going (which doesn't take long) that 'just one more chapter' quality that we always hear so much about kicks in.  They're only short books so they're ideal for racing through in big chunks on weekend mornings.

For the most part, I loved the development of the characters' relationships in The Sea of Monsters.  Because of the age group that it feels as though the story is aimed at, the focus is on friendships rather than romance and it's a surprisingly pleasant change.  There are some hints at a budding romance but in a fairly innocent, child-like way, emerging from a strong friendship. I know, love born out of friendship, what a ridiculous idea...The main new introduction to the series (I assume) here is Tyson, a slightly slow, hulk of a teenager who would do anything to protect those he cares about.  I don't want to stray into spoiler territory but the way that Percy handles his relationship with Tyson is weak and selfish.  I get that what younger readers might be getting is a lesson in loyalty and such like but the way Percy behaves towards Tyson at times made my heart hurt for him.  Then again, the fact that I cared enough to mention it is probably actually a good thing?  *sigh*  Oh, Tyson...

Read The Lightning Thief and not yet ventured on to The Sea of Monsters?  You don't need to worry - it's easily as good and I'm looking forward to picking up The Titan's Curse and getting wrapped up in another quest before too long.

Overall:  The best thing about this book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously or have any dillusions of grandeur.  The Sea of Monsters is good, honest fun and part of a series that I would love to be able to share with younger children just getting into reading; one of few series that I would confidently recommend for both genders and parents and children alike.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  27 January 2013
Format:  eBook
Source:  Bought
Genre:  Fantasy; YA
Pictured Edition Published: by Puffin Books in April 2007

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Review: 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Review

Back in April 2011, I read The Trespass by Rose Tremain and remember thinking that for a book full of characters I hated, I'd enjoyed it a surprising amount.  Gone Girl is the new winner of my Favourite Book Featuring Hateful People award.

Nick is apparently a handsome, down on his luck sort of chap who lost his job as a writer because of the evil Internet and is living out some kind of manly fantasy by running a bar with his twin sister, Margo ('Go').  I really disliked him but couldn't quite put my finger on why.  Sure, he's whiny and too quick to blame almost everybody else for his problems, seems to feel that he is for some reason entitled to more than those around him and ridiculously ignorant of how his actions/comments will be perceived.  But then, his wife has just disappeared under seemingly violent circumstances so I felt as though I should be giving him a bit of a break.

So the first part of the book follows Nick as he blunders his way through being investigated by the local police as the main suspect for the murder of Amy, his apparently beautiful, charming and devoted wife, while also letting us get to know Amy through her diary.  By itself, that part is good as far as your average 'Did he? Didn't he?' type mystery goes.  It's the second half that makes Gone Girl stand out.  It's rare that a book completely blind-sides you, I think, but this is unlike much else that I've read before and ridiculously hard to describe to anyone.  I leant my copy to a friend at work (who has incidentally destroyed the poor thing) and after mumbling at her for a bit just had to say, "Just trust me and read it and then you'll know why I'm recommending it"...It's definitely chilling, just not in a turn-on-all-the-lights kind of way.  More just a pervasive sense that things aren't...right and a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I got back to reading.  Except in a good way.  Kind of.

I suppose what it comes down to is that everything is just so bloody clever.  The plot weaves around, about and back on itself so perfectly that by the end, I didn't have any idea what I wanted from the ending.  With most books, you know who and what you're rooting for.  With Gone Girl, I hadn't a clue.  I didn't know who I liked, what I wanted to happen to them, who I wanted embroiled in whatever was going on or who I wanted to stay relatively clear of blame.  I do know now, however, that the ending I got was the one I didn't know I wanted and was pretty perfect.  I can imagine it not being wildly popular but I loved it.

Impossible though it would have been, I kind of wish I'd gone into reading Gone Girl without knowing anything at all.  Which actually has made this review REALLY HARD to write in case when all the hype dies down, someone happens across this review and I do to them what I'm bemoaning myself.  So let's just say that I wish I'd been able to go into this with a simple recommendation.  As it was, I found myself second-guessing everything even more than I knew that I was supposed to be doing and generally trying to prove to myself that watching back-to-back episodes of CSI with Boyfriend had given me some sleuthing skills.  It hasn't...

I guess all I can really say is: Just trust me and read it and then you'll know why I'm recommending it.

Overall:  Disturbing. Full of people you wouldn't ever want to know, going through things you wouldn't ever want to go through but almost impossible to put down.  If you want a thriller that will consume you and keep you wrong-footed until the end, Gone Girl is your book.  Just don't come crying to me if you wind up concerned about the state of humanity or something...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  23 January 2013
buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryFormat:  Paperback
Source:  Bought
Genre:  Crime fiction/thriller
Pictured Edition Published: by Phoenix in November 2012

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Top Ten Favourite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger

I *love* this week's topic.  I've spent pretty much all of my time as a book blogger getting caught up in what books everybody's reading RIGHT NOW and posting about the books I've just read and cooing over the books that I've bought and am excited about reading that I've completely neglected the terrific books that I read before Lit Addicted Brit was born.

Want to reminisce along with me?  Head over to The Broke and the Bookish...

And I'm not even close to being organised or ruthless enough to actually rank these so these are in no particular order whatsoever!

1)  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

When I started this tome at the beginning of January 2010, I admit that I was intimidated. Over 1,000 pages about the building of a cathedral in the twelfth century? I don't know what I expected when I bought it but I never expected it to be so full of emotion.  One of my favourite books, without a doubt.

If you're a historical fiction fan, I can't imagine you finding better.  There's tragedy and heartache against a soaring triumph of architecture.  I actually do own World Without End (the next in the series) but these books are killer to carry around so I'm saving it for a time when I can race through it within my own home.


2)  The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

When I was in high school, I was a student librarian.  I know, not exactly the coolest but some of the best half-hours I spent at that school were in that library.  What can I say?  All girls comprehensives can be pretty bitchy and libraries are never bitchy.  So anyway, while in that library, I met a girl who was one of the only people that read as much as I do.  After some time spent sizing each other, she put herself out on a limb and leant me this book.

It isn't flawless and I know that but it was my first experience with epic fantasy and I will always love it.  Whenever I got the chance to race through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of our local Waterstones (which I was too shy to dawdle in), I would grab the next in this series.  If you're even remotely an epic fantasy fan, please read this series.  Just don't tell me if you hate it, because I am way too fond of it to hear your criticisms!

3)  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I know, big surprise!  I'm pretty sure that this one doesn't need an explanation...I could have included any one of the Harry Potter books really but this one is the one that I always remember as my favourite so it wins the spot.

4)  Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

I have absolutely no idea when or where or why I picked this book up.  No idea at all.  What I *do* know, however, is that this whole series is incredible.  Set in Feudal Japan against breathtakingly exotic scenery with a dash of fantasy, it is so completely unique and utterly completely.  I read this, the following two in the trilogy, the follow-up and the prequel in quick succession and I would love to do it all over again for the first time.  

If you haven't read these and fancy something a little bit different, The Tales of the Otori series should be at the top of your list.


5)  The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

The final instalment of The Black Magician trilogy and, for once, the last was my favourite.  Usually I love meeting all of the new characters and getting caught up in their stories but with this series, it was the resolution of those stories that became my hands down favourite.  Maybe because there are plenty of hints at action still to come in the Traitor Spy trilogy.  Or *maybe* because I had a mega literary crush on a character whose name I don't want to give away so that I don't get spoiler-y.  

Love yourself a strong heroine?  Go and find this series - it's just fantastic.  A few grown-up moments mean this is probably more sensible for a recommendation at the top end of the YA spectrum. 

6)  Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

I remember finding a lovely copy of this in a charity shop (although I can't remember where that charity shop was...) and then I remember leaving it on my shelf for a criminally long time.  

"Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history"  I couldn't put it better myself.  Set on the beautiful Greek island of Cephallonia while under occupation by part of an Italian regiment, it is just awe-inspiringly terrific and I fell in love with the setting as much as the characters.  And the ending!  The ending is one of the best (and perhaps least expected) in fiction.  I haven't ever seen the film adaptation but I'm led to believe that it is massively inferior - read it instead.  Right now.

7)  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

I read this back when I was at university and was completely floored by how incredible it was.  It is a source of much consternation that I didn't read more while I didn't have to work for a living but I suppose spending my days reading musty law books probably made reading in the evenings a little less appealing.  

Regardless, this story of friendship, guilt and atonement is harrowing and so hard to just walk away from.  Set part in Kabul, Afghanistan and part in America, the blend of cultures and language appears effortless and is so wonderful.  A Thousand Splendid Suns would also be on this list but I read it a couple of weeks after I started the blog so close but no cigar...Hosseini's writing is incredibly powerful and you should do yourself a favour and read one of his books.  There's a new one coming out soon too so you have no excuse!

8)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Not the most sophisticated on the list, I'll grant you but still a book I loved.  And then leant to my entire family for them to love.  I know that it's been criticised heavily in the media for flaws in how it portrays a child with Asperger's syndrome.  It might not be accurate and it might never be quoted in a science journal but it is a charming, funny and touching story about a boy that it is impossible not to root for.  

Looking for something short and snappy with a narrator that you'll love unreservedly?  Look no further!

9)  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

There's an antiquarian book dealer of a main character, a mysterious book, Barcelona and a Cemetery of Forgotten Books - what more could you want?!  Nothing, book-loving friends.  You could want nothing more!

Seriously, though, I really do love Ruiz Zafon's writing in a way that is impossible to describe in a couple of sentences.  The Angel's Game is a pretty strange follow-up but The Shadow of the Wind is pretty much the best mystery ever.

10)  The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams

Ok, so a quick scan of Goodreads has awakened me to the fact that this isn't exactly a popular book.  But I loved it so it's staying on the list.  It's a standalone fantasy novel that boasts a hefty page count but I tore through it.  Either my mum read it and loved it and then leant it to me or it was the other way around...I can't remember (which seems to be a common theme for this post!).  ANYway, I do know that I leant it to a friend that I used to work with and she read it and loved it too, so I'm calling it a hit.

About a man that stumbles into the eerie world of Faerie and finds himself at the centre of a war, it's a really kooky story that remains my favourite book featuring any variation of fairies.  Think warring nobles and fast-paced action but with a sprinkle of fairy dust.  Want to read an urban fantasy but don't want to get embroiled in another series?  The War of the Flowers is a winner.

So there they are! The top ten books I read before I started blogging.  If nothing else, highlighting these has shown me how little I remember about the way books come into my life!  It does show, though, that I need to spend a little more time remembering the treasures I discovered before I carved out this teeny tiny space on the internet.  Tell me all about your pre-blog favourites now, please :)

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Literary Fiction Review: 'The Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals...


Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Review

And so continues my run of gushing reviews.  Actually, reading so many fabulous books in a row is making my review writing life so much harder!  I always find books I loved the hardest to review, although I don't know what it says about me that I find it easier to rant acerbically than gush lovingly.  

The Song of Achilles is told by Patroclus, a young man that finds himself shunned by his father and exiled to live with King Peleus in Phthia.  Through the first few chapters, I was immensely frustrated by Patroclus.  He's rather wimpy, quite self-pitying and could generally do with a good shake.  Achilles, demi-god that he is, positively glows in comparison.  As their relationship develops, though, it's this balance that makes them so beautiful to read about;  Achilles is the greatest warrior of his generation while Patroclus can barely wield a spear but Patroclus is sensitive where Achilles is almost ignorant.  Fiction could do with more couples like them - they don't always agree and aren't blinded by the other's sheer brilliance, they bicker and argue and yet it's clear that they always love each other.  Really, the characterisation is impeccable and Achilles and Patroclus may well be my favourite literary couple ever.  

I also loved the angle from which I got to read about the mythology surrounding the Trojan War.  I knew roughly why it started ("the face that launched a thousand ships" and all that...) and I'd been beaten over the head with the story of the Trojan horse at school but I'd never thought that the myth would stretch to the actual fighting of the war that spanned years and with which the Gods persisted in interfering.  The fraying tempers of Achilles and Patroclus after days of fighting on the sand and the bitter rivalries between the various Greek kings there to make their name made the story of a war very gripping and very moving indeed.

For a story with a hefty cast of characters, there are still many that stand out (other than Patroclus and Achilles, obviously).  There are gods, demi-gods and mortal kings, warriors and sons, many with names that are not too dissimilar.  After a few chapters, though, the characters are chiselled out enough that they're easy to keep straight.  A special mention should also go to Odysseus.  His wit and intelligence make him as light a relief as you're likely to find on a battlefield and I would be one of the first in the queue to buy a book that followed this particular representation of Odysseus through the end of the Trojan War and his voyage home.

In the interests of balance, I've sat and tried to come up with some downsides.  I suppose that there are a couple of sex scenes that might offend particularly sensitive readers.  Sorry but that's the best (worst?) I can come up with.

I read the last few chapters through the blur of tears.  Actually, that makes it sound as though I welled up in a dignified and elegant manner.  I didn't.  I was pretty much sobbing my way through the final pages, eyes and nose streaming while I tried my best to breathe without snorting too badly.  Unattractive stuff but a sure fire sign that The Song of Achilles had burrowed its way under my skin and wasn't going to move on without a fight.  I had an idea of what was coming and still Madeline Miller managed to break my heart.  

Overall:  If you want your heart trodden upon by human and god alike, this is the book for you.  If you own a copy of this and haven't read it yet, go and rescue it from your shelves and start it this weekend.  Truly, epicly wonderful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Date finished:  19 January 2013
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideFormat:  eBook
Source:  Bought
Genre:  Literary fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in April 2012


Read an excerpt HERE