In a rare reading victory on my end, I managed to wrap up three books in the last week. I don’t want to feature one single book for this week’s blog post, so we’re going to try something new today. No spoilers, no focus on any single book. I’ll give a little info on each one, talk about its pacing, characters, and, if applicable, world, and then I’ll finish it off with reader recommendations.
Let’s do this.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Drawing from the initial source material, the Iliad, the book is told not from Achilles’s point of view but rather from his lover’s, Patroclus. It spans his entire life, and if you’re familiar with the source material, you know where that leads. Rating it at four stars, my overall impression was something akin to disappointment. It wasn’t bad, but it was not as much as I’d hoped it would be.
- Pacing: It is slow, focusing as much on building up their relationship from a young age as it does on the events of Troy itself. And, because the war on Troy lasted ten years, even that is not action-packed. Written with soft narration, this is more nostalgia than action.
- Characters: The book features a cute, fierce love between Patroclus and Achilles, and I appreciate how it chose to draw the focus away from the latter’s war-like destiny. Patroclus, however, was a little too passive for me, overshadowed by Achilles even as the book tried to convince me they saw each other as equals.
- World: The setting felt alien, ancient and unknown. This isn’t your traditional Hollywood image of Ancient Greek life; it felt well-researched, like Miller knew what she was talking about. The book features deities and a mythical creature, but although there isn’t much in the way of a magic system, it didn’t feel like it was missing anything because of it.
If you’re looking for something that is action-packed, this is probably not the book for you. But it is cute, a soft romance between two historical figures (one more legendary than the other), and obviously the romance is gay, so love that representation. So if queer romance is more your thing, this will probably be right up your alley.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Art by Danica Novgorodoff)
Long Way Down is a graphic novel set in a poor, presumably predominantly-black neighborhood, following Will after he witnesses his brother Shawn’s murder. The need to follow the Rules wars against his own conscience, manifested in the ghosts of the people he’s already lost. It’s sad and hard-hitting, although it’s hard for me to speak at length about it since I was obviously not its target audience. Because of its abrupt ending, I gave it four stars instead of five.
- Pacing: It was a quick read, of course, but it was also a compelling one. It takes place in a very short time frame, the time it takes to get from the seventh to the ground floor. Of course, when you’re making a life-changing decision, it can feel like a very long time.
- Characters: Will has already lost a lot of people in his life, and we get to see just how systemic and violent the Rules are for those who feel forced to live by them. And despite the fact that each character only gets a brief interaction, their influence on Will’s life is surprisingly apparent and clear.
- Art: Since this is a realistic fiction graphic novel, it seems more poignant to talk about the art rather than the setting. It seems to be predominantly watercolor, and as a result, so much of it bleeds together. It all feels symbolic and beautiful.
I hesitate to recommend this graphic novel to anyone because the people that it’s meant for are, I think, live in a world completely different than my own. But I think that those who read and related to the characters in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas would probably also relate to the protagonist in Long Way Down.
Side note: It looks like there is a full-length novel with the same name by the same author, and this is just the graphic novel version of it. Sorry for the confusion. (If it helps, I was very confused too.) I’m half-tempted to read the other and see if I like it more.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
The book is something of a fantastical alternate history of the United States, where after the Vietnam War, the country split into ten different territories. It takes place in Verity, where monsters are born from violent acts and the capital city is at war with itself. Through the book, main characters August and Kate wrestle with their own demons until other events force their hand towards working together. I rated the book a full five stars because although it didn’t anything super new or special, it also didn’t try to be. It was just a well-written, compelling story.
- Pacing: I found it incredibly difficult to put my bookmark in at any given point. It was full of conflict, equal amounts internal and external. After all, as the synopsis says, “There’s no such thing as safe in a city full of monsters.” A little predictable at times, but not enough to be a turn-off.
- Characters: It’s the traditional dichotomy of monster-wanting-to-be-human versus human-wanting-to-be-monstrous. Both have family members that cast long shadows, and they want to live up to those expectations. I think sometimes their motivations were a little flimsy, but nothing unforgivable.
- World: The biggest divergence from the real-world, and the biggest thing the book focuses on, is the concept of monsters. With the three different types born from three varying degrees of violence, the book takes due consideration of how those crimes might manifest and might affect the entities born from that violence.
If you liked her Shades of Magic series, then This Savage Song is definitely worth checking out. It’s a nice, fun urban fantasy type book (again, urban=/=paranormal) for those who like books or series without much in the way of a magic system. If you like romanticish stories, there’s definitely some sort of chemistry between the protagonists.