May 11, 2021

Abbreviations #132: The Song of Achilles, Black Sun + How to Stop Time

It’s really hard for me to summarize Black Sun. I started reading it without any real knowledge of what to expect -- and that really worked for me. Feel free to check out the synopsis on Goodreads, but I’m just going to dive straight into my review. This multi-narrative adult fantasy series starter integrates elements that I love: a prophecy, a chosen one, political intrigue, religious beliefs, magical lore, a vibrantly portrayed variety of cultures. It really hits the ground running right from the start (and it seriously does not hold back -- that first bit was already enough to have me wide-eyed!), and doesn’t let up until the inevitable end is reached. This novel is rich in detail, which only makes sense considering it is introducing us to an expansive new world for the first time. It’s also told with a snappy storytelling style that combines shifts in narrative voice with action-packed moments, infusing just the right amount of quieter moments and flashbacks to whet our appetites and help us further our understanding of just what is going on. It was quite a reading experience from beginning to end, and I can certainly count myself among those who are eagerly anticipating the next book in the series! (I actually listened to this one on audiobook, thanks to the lovely folks at Libro.FM. The narrator did a brilliant job in their reading of this story, and I found myself very engaged with the material even with the rather large amount of new characters, settings and lore that are brought out through the course of this story. I’d definitely want a chance to reread it physically before diving into book two though!)

Pub Info: October 13, 2020 by Saga Press | Add it on Goodreads

My friend Pat read How to Stop Time a few years ago and liked it enough to pass on her copy for me to read. It took me a couple of years to finally get around to tackling it, but I can finally say I’ve read another Matt Haig novel! How To Stop Time’s central character is Tom Hazard, a man with an unusual and dangerous secret: he might look like a typical middle-aged man, but he’s been alive for actual centuries due to a rare condition. While he’s had his fair share of incredible experiences over the years, he’s finally ready for an ordinary life… except that the Albatross Society, a secret group that protects and works with people like Tom, still has a hand to play in the course of the rest of his life. A hand that will end up forcing Tom to decide just how he wants to spend the rest of his very long life. As with the other Haig novel I’ve read, How to Stop Time has a great concept that lends itself to the exploration of interesting themes specifically surrounding life, change and identity. It invited me as a reader to put myself in the main character’s shoes, and to start asking “what if…” questions that required some thought in order to arrive at an answer. But even with its solid premise and themes, this novel fell short with its characterization and storytelling. While it’s undeniably exciting to be jumping around in time with Tom, it felt like we were only touching the surface when it came to his life and him as a person. As you’ll know by now if you’re a regular blog reader, I generally prefer to have an emotional connection to the characters in a book; it usually ends up affecting my overall feelings, as it did here. Despite the fact that I did enjoy the novel overall, it wound up landing in the general area of “I liked it”. It might not be a standout new favorite, but if you’re intrigued at all by the premise, it’s certainly worth taking the time to check it out. (I listened to the audiobook for this one! The narrator was a solid reader, but definitely not a standout.)

Pub Info: February 6, 2018 by Viking | Add it on Goodreads

I had heard so much about The Song of Achilles prior to reading it this year. While I’d read another novel from Miller previously, I’d been eager to see what I would think of her most popular book. The Song of Achilles is the story of Achilles, who many of us Greek mythology enthusiasts will recognize as one of the best and brightest among the Greek wars who fell during the war depicted in the Iliad. What sets it apart from the story we might already know is that it’s told from the point of view of Patroclus, where Miller sets out to explore the possibility that there is much more to him being Achilles’ closest companion. Much like my experience with Circe, I was impressed by Miller’s ability to pull familiar personalities and events from the stories I’ve read (and in most cases, at least thoroughly enjoyed if not loved) and to write them into a tale that’s entirely her own. There is imagination and heart both infused into her storytelling, and it made for a novel that was compulsively readable from start to end. I did find the pacing to be a bit choppy (especially with some of those timeline jumps), and I didn’t necessarily feel as deeply invested in Achilles and Patroclus the way I did with Circe. But it was still an enjoyable read overall, and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to read it.

Pub Info: September 20, 2011 by Bloomsbury | Add it on Goodreads


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