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mythology

Debut Print Book: Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Debut Print Book: Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I’ve had some concerns by readers who are primarily print readers that the coverage at Dear Author has been too focused on ebooks. When I asked the readers what they were interested in seeing, they responded that they would like to know more about print debut authors. We developed a little questionnaire and every Wednesday at 10:00 AM CST (as long as we have content) we’ll post the questionnaire answers along with links to the author’s site and a buy link to her book. I hope this helps people discovery new books. Now, on to the answers.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

 

Name of debut release: :The Song of Achilles” ( Goodreads | A | BN | S | K )

Release date: March 6th, 2012 (US), September 2011 (UK)

Publisher: Ecco in US, Bloomsbury in UK

2 sentence summary: A retelling of the story of the Greek hero Achilles, narrated by his best friend and lover, Patroclus. Though the novel is romantic, it doesn’t have the expected romantic ending.

Genre: Historical Fiction (or maybe, Mythological Fiction)

Characters:

  • Achilles, a half-god prince
  • Patroclus, his best friend and lover
  • Thetis, Achilles’ sea-nymph mother
  • Briseis, a slave-girl befriended by Patroclus

What makes this story different:

Although some of the stories around the Trojan War are well-known, Patroclus’ isn’t.  He’s a very mysterious character in Homer’s Iliad: Achilles’ love for him is one of the poem’s major plot points, yet we see very little of the man himself, or their relationship.  I wanted to write a novel that would explore who he was, and how he came to be so passionately beloved by the greatest hero of the Greeks.

I also felt very strongly about making this book accessible to all readers, whether they knew the Iliad or not.  I didn’t want it to feel like homework, but an invitation into these ancient stories.

Is this a series? If so what book #:
Not a series


Why you wrote this book:

Since I was a child, I have been deeply moved by the attachment between Achilles and Patroclus, and wanted to bring their story to a wider audience. I was also drawn to Patroclus because he is not your typical ancient hero-figure—he seems more interested in healing than fighting, and in the Iliad the slave-girl Briseis calls him “always gentle.” I liked the idea of telling the epic story of the Trojan War from the perspective of someone who isn’t really epic himself.  Patroclus doesn’t seek center-stage, but is pulled there by his love for Achilles.

Why is this your first published book? How many did you write before?
I have been working on this book for the past ten years, so I haven’t had a chance to write any others yet. But hopefully…

What’s your writing process?

Very slow!  I do a lot of editing and re-editing, oftentimes throwing out whole chapters and beginning again.  One of the most helpful things for me as a writer is being able to put work aside for a little while.  When I come back to it, I have more perspective and can see where the structural flaws lie.

Your next published book:

I am just beginning work on an adaptation of the Odyssey focused on the female characters, particularly the witch Circe.  I love writing in Homer’s world, so I am looking forward to exploring it from a different angle.

The last book you read that you loved:

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis.  A beautifully-written and fascinating version of the love story between Eros and Psyche.

The last book you read for research:

I am currently rereading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which is one of my favorite of his works.  The poetry is beautiful, and the mythological stories are told with Ovid’s inimitable and sparkling wit.

The romance book character you most identify with:

A hard question!  Does it count to say Eleanor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility? If not, then maybe Peabody from J. D. Robb’s In Death Series.

Madeline Miller


Thanks for participating, Ms. Miller. You can find more about Ms. Miller’s work at her website: http://www.madelinemiller.com/ and a fantastic review of this book at The BookSmugglers.

 I loved how The Song of Achilles is ultimately, Patroclus’ plea for Achilles to be not only remembered as the self-centred, egotistical Trojan War hero whose selfish actions were directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Greeks but also as a wonderful musician, playful mate, someone capable of deep feelings and a devoted companion and lover.

My own plea is that you read this book immediately.


If you would like to participate in this feature, please email jane at dearauthor.com


REVIEW: Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison

REVIEW: Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison

Dear Ms Harrison,

While I enjoyed Dragon Bound, the first novel in your Elder Races series of paranormal romances, I had a hard time finishing the second novel, Storm’s Heart. The third book, Serpents Kiss, felt rushed and left me unsatisfied. I went into your latest novel, Oracle’s Moon, hopeful, but worried. I wanted the sort of compulsive, engrossing read I’d found in Dragon Bound, but after books two and three, I was afraid I wouldn’t get it. Boy, was I wrong.

Oracle's Moon by Thea HarrisonI’m so glad I read Oracle’s Moon. I think it just may be my favorite in the series. It is that rare late-series book that appears to stand well alone. It features characters from previous books, and mentions earlier events, but aside from the set-up, the plot doesn’t hinge on them. Yes, it helps to have read Serpent’s Kiss first, but the paranormal politics subplot that threads through the rest of the series is not as strong here. In Oracle’s Moon, the romance is the primary focus and draw of the story. I really enjoyed it.

Poor but proud, Grace Andreas is the latest in a long line of oracles stretching back to ancient Greece. She is struggling to balance the enormous weight of her position as oracle while caring for her young niece and nephew, who were orphaned when her sister and brother-in-law died in a car accident.

Readers of the series met Grace in Serpent’s Kiss when she was inadvertently drawn into an Elder Races power struggle by the heroine and hero of that novel, Carling and Rune. In Serpent’s Kiss, Carling called in a favor from a powerful Djinn, Khalil, and asked him to protect Grace and her family. Grace doesn’t know it, but Khalil’s promise was not a time-limited deal. At the start of Oracle’s Moon, she’s pretty much stuck with the meddling, overprotective Djinn who has taken a shine to her niece and nephew.

In a way, Oracle’s Moon reminded me of one of those category romances that manage to wedge the words “babies” and “billionaire” into the title. Like those stories, this book offers the arc of a cold, powerful man who finds himself drawn to the comforts of children and family, only to fall in love with the woman struggling to hold that family together. Except, instead of a billionaire, the hero is a Djinn prince. And instead of a scrappy secretary struggling to manage kids and career, the heroine is an oracle struggling to support her family and accept her “gift.” And instead of the hero’s dysfunctional, snobby family standing between our protagonists’ happiness, Khalil and Grace have to deal with a threat to her life and Khalil’s dysfunctional, snobby family.

Though Oracle’s Moon is set in a decently-drawn paranormal world, it is basically a traditional romance story. Grace and Khalil are not drawn to each other because they are “fated mates” or because of some magical force; they begin a relationship because they are attracted to each other, and continue it because they like and respect each other.  The lack of any paranormal plot mechanism forcing Grace and Khalil together made their romance sweeter, and created a greater feeling of uncertainty in me about how they would work things out than I’ve felt with previous books in this series.

At first, Grace is leery of beginning a relationship with Khalil. She says:

…the kids must always come first…I’ve been too impetuous lately, about a lot of things, and I need to be more careful. I think friendship is all I can offer you.

To which Khalil’s response is a very thoughtful and well-reasoned:

I will not make things harder for you. I said I would protect you and the children, and I will in this way, too.

Of course, they do reconsider, and shortly thereafter decide to go on a date. Khalil’s preparation for the date is amusing and endearing. Though I adored Grace and Khalil together, I also enjoyed the scenes where they are each on their own. They’re smart and reasonable, and at various important moments in the story, they actually take a moment to stop, think things through, and act according to the result of their thinking.

At one point early on in the story, Grace reflects that the enjoyment she gets from teasing a powerful being like Khalil “might put her in the unforgivable range of TSTL—Too Stupid to Live.” No worries there. I think Grace and Khalil are Too Smart to Dislike.

In addition to an enjoyable romance and likable protagonists, Oracle’s Moon also has serviceable subplots. The death of Grace’s sister and brother in law may not have been an accident, her life is in danger from unknown forces for unknown reasons, and Khalil has some dangerous relatives who aren’t too pleased he has fallen for a human. While there was nothing particularly new or amazing in the development of these subplots I really enjoyed the way the resolution required a balance of power and trust between Grace and Khalil.

Before starting this book, I was curious as to how you would handle the inherent power imbalance between a magical, immortal being and a woman who is, aside from her gift/curse of prophecy, mortal. I enjoyed watching Grace take charge of her power almost as much as I enjoyed watching Khalil recognize and accept his tender emotions. The resolution to their power imbalance was a little strained, but overall, organic to the story.

I also appreciated the hint of uncertainty left at the end. Paranormals often take the romance genre’s fairytale-inspired Happily Ever After requirement too literally—characters don’t just live happily ever after, they live happily, immortally, forever and ever after. This story left me with the impression that though there were still some questions to be answered about the future, Khalil and Grace would work them out because they loved each other and wanted to be together. This ending left me with the feeling that while the book was over, Grace and Khalil’s story together was just beginning, and that, dear author, is fairest ending of them all.

A/A-

~ Josephine

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