I think I’m a little biased when it comes to this book, because I have this huge thing for epic partnerships - stories about two people who share an iI think I’m a little biased when it comes to this book, because I have this huge thing for epic partnerships - stories about two people who share an intense, intimate, and long-term bond. Xena and Gabrielle. Frodo and Sam. Hephaestion and Alexander. For whatever reason, I can’t get enough of them.
This particular tale features the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, which I was familiar with but had never read about in depth. It crafts the details of their early childhood, friendship, and eventual sexual and romantic attachment to one another. This narrative is interwoven with complications involving their parents and a certain inevitable prophecy. The boys’ journey from adolescence to adulthood is perfectly paced and very believable. The second half of the book deals with the events of the Iliad and the long years spent at Troy. While it gets a little muddled as the war rages on, it comes full-circle in the end. The last few pages are very touching.
I loved the writing style, even though the prose was a little too flowery and poetic for my taste. However, since this book’s subject matter revolves around ancient kingdoms, gods, and mythical heroes, I think it works just fine, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. The result is that entire book is wrought with absolutely beautiful imagery, which is delicious to read.
A common criticism of this book seems to be that author applies many modern-day ideologies into the story, and while it is certainly apparent, I didn’t really mind it. I think classical stories such as the Iliad or the Odyssey need to be re-imagined every so often to make them more accessible to new readers. One change I didn’t like, though, was the stereotypical feminization of Patroclus. In the Iliad, he was a war hero, described as being “swift as a lion, terrible and bold.” In this rendition, he’s more of a housewife than a warrior. He was too domestic-minded for my liking, and his combat prowess towards the end literally came out of nowhere. Something about that irked me. The assumption that homosexual pairings fall into traditional masculine and feminine roles is outdated and unprogressive. That may have not been what the author intended, but I got that impression nonetheless. I think I wanted him to be this epic comrade-in-arms and was disappointed when he spent most of the book pining and wringing his hands.
The only other criticism I have is that the dialogue is frustratingly simple and redundant, especially on Patroclus’s part. None of the characters really have any “spark” to their dialogue, besides maybe Odysseus. I think the book could have really benefited much from bolder dialogue and longer conversations.
Overall this was a very good book. I read it in one sitting, and then immediately bought a copy for my bookshelf. I’m giving it four stars because I absolutely love the subject matter, and I did quite enjoy the writing style. Though, again, stories revolving around these types of epic friendships tend to move me more than others, so I was definitely predisposed to like it....more
The setting is Boston, 1965. In the wake of Stamp Act riots, a young woman has been murdered. However, she did not die by any ordinary means, and it fThe setting is Boston, 1965. In the wake of Stamp Act riots, a young woman has been murdered. However, she did not die by any ordinary means, and it falls to Ethan Raille, Boston’s only crime-fighting conjurer, to track down her killer. I really wanted to like this. I’m a history major, I’ve had a life-long fascination with colonial America, and I love fantasy books. Sounds like a perfect fit, right? Unfortunately, it didn’t captivate me the way I’d hoped.
I mean, the author certainly did his research - I can’t fault him there. The book was filled with rich descriptions that really took you back to the colonial period. I had the pleasure of visiting Boston last summer, and I liked envisioning the old meeting halls, taverns, and churches I’d toured in their original, historic settings. I thought the dialogue was a little overly modern for the time period, but it wasn’t jarringly out-of-place, either. I also wasn’t fond of the spelled-out accents, but I never really am.
Where it really suffered, though, was in its characters. Ethan was a typical “tortured hero” type. He was average in most regards, frustratingly dimwitted, and had an annoying martyr complex. He spent most of the novel getting his ass kicked. There wasn’t anything about him that grabbed me. Most of the side-characters were much the same - flat and two-dimensional. Sephira Price, Ethan’s rival, was particularly cringe-worthy. I wasn’t sure what her purpose in the book was - she spent most of the book obsessively stalking and tormenting Ethan, but to what end? The only halfway interesting character was Pell, because he was the only one who showed any development. Perhaps if he had been the protagonist, this book might have been more interesting.
I was also disappointed with the magical elements of this story. What was the whole reason behind the ghosts? That was interesting, but never explained. The magic system just didn’t seem fully integrated into the setting. It wasn’t a “fantasy” book so much as it was a cut-and-dry murder mystery with some nifty spells tacked on.
I really liked the idea of this book. I liked the premise and the setting, and I liked how the author brought colonial Boston to life. I just wish I had liked it more. ...more
Juliet Moreau, upon learning the whereabouts of her estranged father, travels to the remote island where he lives and carries out his grotesque scientJuliet Moreau, upon learning the whereabouts of her estranged father, travels to the remote island where he lives and carries out his grotesque scientific experiments. She becomes entangled with the island's strange inhabitants, her father's horrific projects, and the romantic interests of two mysterious men. I picked this up because the cover caught my eye, and after reading the synopsis, I thought I might enjoy it.
I did not realize until I re-read the summary that this was inspired by the famous H.G. Wells classic, "The Island of Dr. Moreau". So, of course, I had to go and read that one first. I'm glad I did. (I tend to be a little stuffy about this sort of thing...just a personal preference.)
It started out strong, introducing Juliet as a headstrong and intelligent female protagonist. The first few of chapters were very engaging. The further I read, however, the more my excitement began to dwindle.
The majority of the book generally follows the script of the H.G. Wells novel, so certain scenes had much less of an impact than they otherwise would have. The main difference between the two books took the form of a love triangle. (Ugh.) Juliet finds herself torn between the shipwrecked Edward Prince and Montgomery, her childhood friend. Both who, of course, are ridiculously handsome, mysterious, and completely in love with her at first glance. To make it worse, she bounced back and forth between the two without any rhyme or reason. It was completely ridiculous and detracted from the plot. I'd never have picked this up if I had known it would be so romance-heavy. (Why is it that so many YA novels these days must have a love triangle?)
I felt like the book had a lot of potential but never delivered. For example, I thought Juliet's relationship with Dr. Moreau was the most interesting part of the book and I secretly wished Juliet would have taken Moreau's place on the island and continued his work, but with her own twist. There were a lot of opportunities where the story could have branched out into new creative territory. Unfortunately, it ended up being little more than a rehashing of the original novel with a boring, cliche romance shoehorned in. There simply wasn't enough to make it compelling in its own right. Even the plot twist at the end fell flat for me.
People who haven't read "The Island of Dr. Moreau" or who appreciate the romantic elements might like it more than I did. I mostly found it to be unoriginal and irritating. Though, the one positive thing I gained from this book was the fact that it introduced me to the writing of H.G. Wells. I'd never read anything from him before, and now I'm curious to read more. I'm sure it has inspired other people to do the same, so I have to give credit where credit is due....more
"Verity", a spy, is captured by the Gestapo after her plane crash lands in Nazi occupied France. In order to buy herself time, she writes a detailed c"Verity", a spy, is captured by the Gestapo after her plane crash lands in Nazi occupied France. In order to buy herself time, she writes a detailed confession describing her friendship with the plane’s pilot and the events that took place leading up to the crash.
I really enjoyed this book. I like reading stories that take place during WWII, and the fact that this book revolves around women’s lives during the war had me instantly hooked.
The relationship between Maddie and Verity is the heart of this book. There was something about it that spoke to me on a deep emotional level, it was nice to have such a close friendship between two women spotlighted. I felt like I knew both of the characters personally, because they were both so vividly crafted. I grew quite attached to Verity's character as the book went on - she's the most complex, multi-dimensional character I've come across in a long time. The side characters were all interesting and each had their own part to play. Many of them ended up surprising me. I also loved the budding relationship between Maddie and Jamie, I thought they were really sweet together.
During the second half of the book, the story took a lot of surprising twists and turns, which was enough to keep me up all night turning pages. (Thank you, Elizabeth Wein, for throwing off my sleep schedule!) The ending was sad and caused me to tear up a little, which is really rare for me. I wasn't expecting a happy ending, but I wasn't expecting it to be so incredibly heart-wrenching, either.
The only major complaint I had was that the author frequently got carried away writing lengthy passages about planes, plane mechanics, and pilot jargon. I understand that the author is passionate about the subject because she is a pilot herself, however most of the descriptions were lost on me. There were times when the book read more like a monograph on piloting than a novel about two friends, and I found myself skimming over them towards the end. While I applaud the tremendous research effort it must have taken, I do think the book would have been much more enjoyable had it condensed many of those unnecessary technical descriptions. That said, I think it’s great how Wein is so passionate about the topic. Her enthusiasm is evident in her writing, and despite my disinterest, I find that kind of historical geekery admirable.
I know that some of the characters return in Wein’s next book, Rose Under Fire, and I’m definitely going to be reading it sometime soon. ...more
A mystery set in France during the year 1818. The famous French detective Eugène François Vidocq plays a key role in this book. I've always been fasciA mystery set in France during the year 1818. The famous French detective Eugène François Vidocq plays a key role in this book. I've always been fascinated with Vidocq, as he was regarded as the first ever private detective and was the inspiration for many beloved fictional detectives. I really enjoyed how the author wrote him. His dialogue was witty, sarcastic, humorous, and chock full of personality. Now I want to read through Vidocq's actual memoirs, as I'm curious how closely he resembles this author's portrayal of him.
I think my favorite aspect of this book were the interactions between Vidocq and Dr. Carpentier. They had very distinct, almost opposite personalities, which made their partnership engaging to read. The supporting characters were colorful and very much alive. But what really made this book work for me was the atmosphere it evoked. In fact the entire book has a somewhat Dickesian feel to it, and I'm a sucker for anything even remotely Dickens.
While I mainly read the book for Vidocq, the story itself wasn't all bad either. It definitely took the back seat for me, as I was much more focused on the characters and the setting than the politics surrounding the story. It's basically sort of a French version of the Anastasia mystery. Personally, I found it to be forgettable.
I'm afraid it wasn't a page turner for me, either - it took me a long time to finish. Overall, though, I'd say I enjoyed The Black Tower. It was dark, gritty, and gory, but it didn't take itself too seriously and even managed to make me laugh out loud at times. I'd probably read from this author again. ...more