Blog Tour – 26th May: The Last Princess by Shelley Wilson @BHCPressBooks @ShelleyWilson72 #netgalley #review #excerpt #author #interview

Welcome to my blog, Shelley. This is such an enticing read. I love the title and the cover is gorgeous!  

Thank you so much, Marje. I’m thrilled to be here and able to share Edith’s story with you. The cover is a firm favourite of mine too!

I’d love to find out more about The Last Princess, so let’s chat…

  1. Tell us a little about your background, your life today and how you came to writing.

Like many of my fellow author pals, I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. As a youngster, I used to write and illustrate a story and then bind it into a book using old wallpaper scraps and string. I think my future was mapped out back then!

I first saw my name in print at 13 when my letter was published in Jackie magazine. Seeing my name in print was an incredible feeling and I think that was the moment I knew I wanted to be an author. However, it would take until I was in my forties for me to get my act together.

In 2014 I self-published my debut book which was a non-fiction title (I worked in the mind, body, spirit industry at the time) called How I Changed My Life in a Year. Thanks to the fabulous support and reviews of the book blogging community it shot up the Amazon charts to number one in self-help and women’s biographies. That book really has changed my life!

I’m an avid networker in my local area and an associate for a women’s business network. As I used each event to introduce myself and my books I began getting asked how I got started writing my books and how I published them. Through the network, I was asked repeatedly to run workshops and speak at events. Over time this grew into my writing mentor business where I help women in business write their own non-fiction books and blogs to boost their brand.

My dream of writing for a living became a reality as I fill my days writing my own novels and helping my clients with their word counts.

  • What do you think are the most important qualities of a female heroine?

Great question! The answer may differ for each of us as we all have unique core values that drive us. For me, it’s authenticity, vulnerability, and loyalty. These qualities are important to me in my real life and so I like to see the same in a heroine.

  • As it is a historical tale what sort of research did you do for this particular novel?

As soon as I knew I was going to write this book I began reading anything I could get my hands on about Vikings. I’ve always been fascinated by this period so it wasn’t a hardship to immerse myself in the sagas and legends.

The Last Princess is based in Bamburgh, Northumberland, and also Hedeby (once a vital Danish trading settlement at the southeastern base of the Jutland Peninsula, and now in Germany). I couldn’t visit Germany thanks to a certain pandemic, but I did drive up to Bamburgh a couple of times to visit the area. It certainly brings a story to life if you can stand in the exact spot your character stands in.

I also took a trip to the Jorvik centre in York which is a great day out if you’re ever in the area.

  • I’m curious, what attracts you to writing YA Fiction?

In 2004 I left a violent marriage and started to rebuild my life. My reading had taken a back seat for so long that I didn’t know what I enjoyed anymore. I couldn’t read romance or crime as these genres were too raw for me at that time, so what could I turn to?

Wandering through Waterstones I came across the teen fiction section. I’ve always loved fantasy, supernatural, myths, and legends (The Folk of the Faraway Tree and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe are firm favourites), so when I picked up Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and read the blurb about werewolves I was hooked. I’m not sure if I enjoy the fast pace, the honesty (no subject is taboo), or the coming of age aspect which allows me to turn back time, but I know I found a genre I adored.

The more I read, the more story ideas began to bubble up. Having three children who were then rapidly approaching their teens also helped me secure my place in writing YA.

  • What were the hardest, most challenging parts to write? And why?

As you know, I’m a fantasy fan so I love making stuff up. When I decided to use real places, refer to real people, and other historical references I knew I had to get it right. I also needed to find the balance between history and fiction.

Writing The Last Princess was a passion project as I researched timelines and decided how to fit Edith’s story into real-life events. I didn’t want to recite facts and figures, but I did want the reader to feel like they were part of the action. The challenge was how much reality to include. In the end, I only referred to historical figures such as Ivar the Boneless and Alfred rather than integrating them into the thick of the story.

I hope it worked, eek!

  • I believe you also write non-fiction too. Would you recommend it? And why?

Non-fiction was my big break into writing so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m a fully qualified holistic therapist, Reiki Master Teacher, crystal healer, and meditation tutor, and writing about these topics was my way of reaching and helping more people.

I used non-fiction self-help and personal development books to help me piece my life back together and I see the power in books of this genre all the time.

My writing mentor clients tend to write books based on their business coaching programmes, leadership, business development, and wellbeing. There are so many topics you can write about that will help your audience, and position you as an authority.

If you’ve got a non-fiction book idea then it’s definitely worth exploring.

  • Why Vikings? And which actor/s would you cast to write the main/various male part/s? Or female parts! 

Why Vikings? Aside from my fascination with the Viking age I also discovered a tenuous link between Vikings and my ancestors. A few years ago I did the Ancestry DNA test where you spit in a tube and send it off for analysis. The data that comes back is incredible. According to my DNA, I’m 38% Scandinavian! So, obviously, I’m descended from shield maidens! 😉

It was this DNA result that inspired the entire book as I let my mind wander to the possibilities of who my ancestors could have been. Genealogy is a wonderful tool for writing inspiration.

At a talk I gave recently one of the questions from the audience was ‘do you cast actors when thinking up your characters?’ This is something I do with all my books as I find it helps bring the story to life for me, although I tend to choose images of actors when they were younger so they probably couldn’t play a seventeen-year-old if Netflix came knocking!!

In The Last Princess, I cast Lyndsy Fonseca as Edith and Greyston Holt as Leif, with Laura Donnelly as Solveig, Rune Temte as Jarl Aaric, and Rossif Sutherland as Aelle.

  • I believe you have a camper van. Where do you like to go? What adventures have you had whilst out travelling?

Buying Snoopy (yes, it’s the law to name your camper) was the best decision I’ve ever made. It took me twenty years to manifest him but I got there in the end. Since picking him up in August 2020 I’ve been to Staffordshire, the Lake District, Norfolk, Edinburgh, Wales, Somerset, Warwickshire, and Northumberland. Snoopy accompanied me on my research trips for The Last Princess.

There’s something special about packing up your laptop and writing on the road!

Thank you so much for letting me share my writing journey and The Last Princess with your lovely blog readers, Marje.

My pleasure Shelley.

If anyone wants to connect with me then here are my links:

Author website: https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/ShelleyWilson72

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorslwilson/

Publisher: https://www.bhcpress.com/Author_SL_Wilson.html 

The Last Princess, is out on 24th May 2022, published by BHC Press Books.

The Last Princess Blurb

Northumbria, 866 AD

Edith still has much to learn about the art of ruling a kingdom, but when her family is murdered, she’s faced with the challenge of staying alive. 

As a young woman in Anglo-Saxon England, Edith finds it hard to be heard above the Eldermen who are ripping the kingdom to pieces, but nothing can prepare her for the arrival of the pirates and the Vikings. Torn from her homeland and sold into slavery, she’s determined to survive at any cost. 

Finding allies in the unexpected and enemies closer to home, Edith clings to her dream of returning home one day to reclaim her throne and to exact revenge on those who harmed her family.

BUY your copy of The Last Princess

BHC Press – https://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Wilson_The_Last_Princess.html 

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

Barnes & Noble 

Waterstones 

Google Play 

Kobo 

Apple Books 

MJ’s Review

Well, after reading the blurb and seeing the beautiful cover I had a feeling I would love this story. And I was right.

This is such a compelling tale of bravery, love, friendship, family, disloyalty, greed, slaves and vikings! Everyone loves a good viking story… who could not? There is passion, war, fight scenes, sword wielding and shield maidens! Yes, women are fierce too. And, I liked the finer touches of this story too… the details of viking marriage ceremonies. It is obvious that Shelley Wilson has researched with care and this is evident in her descriptive passages, and the finer details.

In my opinion, the story really comes into its own as it progresses. I’d say the beginning had me wondering a little… My initial uncertainty was perhaps not quite enough emotion at the beginning given the terrors of what happened to the heroine Edith. But, in the midst of such terror perhaps there is not much time to pause and reflect. This is a time period when such experiences, death is all to common I suppose. So, this slight hiccup, which pulled me momentarily out of the story is soon swept away by the brilliance of the storytelling. Everything thereafter is captivating A real page turner, I loved this.

My rating… 4. 5 stars from me.

About the Author

Shelley is an English multi-genre author. She has written nine young adult/middle-grade supernatural, fantasy, and historical novels, a children’s meditation book, and six motivational self-help titles for adults.

She is a proud mum of three and lives in the West Midlands, UK. Shelley loves travelling in her VW camper called Snoopy in search of stories. She also enjoys paddle boarding, Tudor and Viking history, supporting Leeds United, and obsessing over to-do lists!

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Promotional Tour: May 9th – A Ghost and His Gold by Robbie Cheadle @RobertaEaton17 #supernatural #historical #novel #promotional#book #tour #review #giveaway

A Ghost and His Gold
Supernatural Historical
Stand-Alone Novel
Publisher TSL Publications (1/27/2021)
Number of Pages 264 pages
ISBN 9781914245039


After Tom and Michelle Cleveland move into their recently built, modern townhouse, their housewarming party is disrupted when a drunken game with an Ouija board goes wrong and summonses a sinister poltergeist, Estelle, who died in 1904.

Estelle makes her presence known in a series of terrifying events, culminating in her attacking Tom in his sleep with a knife. But, Estelle isn’t alone. Who are the shadows lurking in the background – one in an old-fashioned slouch hat and the other, a soldier, carrying a rifle?

After discovering their house has been built on the site of one of the original farms in Irene, Michelle becomes convinced that the answer to her horrifying visions lie in the past. She must unravel the stories of the three phantoms’ lives, and the circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths during the Second Anglo Boer War, in order to understand how they are tied together and why they are trapped in the world of ghosts between life and death. As the reasons behind Estelle’s malevolent behaviour towards Tom unfold, Michelle’s marriage comes under severe pressure and both their lives are threatened.

Review:

What an ambitious book! A Ghost and His Gold combines two genres: Paranormal and Historical Fiction and delivers on both counts. Robbie has done her historical research and it shows as she delivers considerable detail on such matters as the “Scorched Earth,” British military policy Boer War 1899-1902 and the concentration camps for Afrikaner women, children and black people. The story is imaginative, moving, educational and written with exceptional flair. Hats off to Robbie, she has done a fabulous job.

The narrative begins with friends getting together partying around an Ouija board  in South Africa. If you chance playing with an Ouija board you may welcome a ghost into your home and this is exactly what happens to Michelle and Tom! As the story unfolds we are introduced to the ghosts of Robert, (a British soldier – through his journal, ) a Boer named Peiter, and a young girl named Estelle (Pieter’s daughter,) whose life story is particularly harrowing and poignant revealing the sadness of her home life and the horrendous atrocities against females during the Boer War.

Mysteries are unearthed. Michelle has to come to grips with disturbing revelations that threaten her marriage to Tom.

The Boer women in the story are portrayed as unflinching and immensely determined, even though they suffer terribly.

A Ghost and His Gold is a novel about forgiveness and understanding, and the terrible cost of war in terms of human suffering and regret.

As I read this I kept on thinking this would make a wonderful film!

My recommendation: 5 stars. Highly recommended.

GIVEAWAY!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Robbie Eaton Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions that children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Children’s picture books – available as a square book and an A5 book (co-authored with Michael Cheadle):
Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Crystal Caves story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Ice Cream Rainbow Fairies story and cookbook

Middle school books:
Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town (includes five fun party cake ideas)
While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with Elsie Hancy Eaton)

Poetry book:
Open a new door (co-authored with Kim Blades)

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Supernatural historical adult novel:

A Ghost and His Gold

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Spellbound
Nightmareland
Dark Visions
Wings & Fire

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Follow Roberta Eaton Cheadle at:

Website https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19631306.Roberta_Eaton_Cheadle

Twitter https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

Purchase Links – Paperback: https://tslbooks.uk/product/a-ghost-and-his-gold-roberta-eaton-cheadle/ – https://amzn.to/3sqtkBH

Ebook: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/robert-eaton-cheadle/a-ghost-and-his-gold/ebook/product-d858km.html?page=1&pageSize=4

Follow the tour:

A GHOST AND HIS GOLD TOUR PARTICIPANTS

May 3 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

May 3 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

May 4 – This Is My Truth Now – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

May 4 – Dodi Oviatt Author – REVIEW

May 5 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

May 5 – ebook addicts – SPOTLIGHT

May 6 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST

May 6 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

May 7 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

May 8 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

May 8 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

May 9 – Kyrosmagica– REVIEW

\May 9 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

May 10 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST

May 10 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

May 11 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – GUEST POST

May 12 – Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT WITH RECIPE

May 12 – Carla Loves to Read – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

Congratulations to Robbie, a huge accomplishment.

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Writers In Isolation: Katherine Mezzacappa #Isolation #Writers #Authors#Historical #Fiction

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Katherine Mezzacappa coping with this enforced isolation?


At time of writing, lockdown here in Italy is easing, but I am still wary of emerging into the sunlight. To begin with, it wasn’t isolation per se that was difficult to cope with from a creative point of view, but the fear of all the unknowns around the pandemic – I’ve got a little better at living with them. I had the advantage of having worked from home for years so I was used to not having the routines of a commute and a shared office. However, my job is paused at the moment until later in the year, which meant I had to think about how best to use that time. Time is what writers often complain they don’t have enough of, but when you’re suddenly faced with lots of it, the prospect is daunting, and you feel guilty if you don’t take advantage. I know from my writing network that I’m far from alone in feeling that. I had final edits to do on two books, The Gypsy Bride (Katie Hutton) and The Casanova Papers(Kate Zarrelli) so having the space for them was a boon, though revisiting a book set in Venice when I could see that city on webcams, silent and shuttered, was also heart-breaking. Writing did pick up though, as well as other ‘writery’ activities. I’ve co-presented at a virtual litfest with an old friend from MA days, though we’re thousands of miles apart. I am now an assessor for a writing consultancy and a proofreader for a new Italian publisher. Writing predominantly historical fiction is an advantage in lockdown, as the writer must perforce go in her head into a vanished world, and the less interference from the modern one there is, the better (provided that for research purposes, Google works, and ABEbooks still deliver!). Frustration as a writer lies in not being able to do field visits for future projects – a first world problem, and those places will be waiting for me afterwards. The virtual company of other writers has become more important than ever before. There have been some stellar online opportunities, like the Society of Authors workshops, and the Arvon at Home readings. I hope these persist alongside conventional offerings once the pandemic has passed, as they represent real accessibility and democratisation of the business of writing.

Katherine Mezzacappa is an Irish writer of mainly historical fiction now living in Italy. She also writes as Katie Hutton and as Kate Zarrelli.


Her début historical novel as Katie Hutton, The Gypsy Bride, was published May 2020 on Kindle and Audible by Zaffre Books, with the paperback to follow in June.

A sequel, The Gypsy’s Daughter, is in preparation for June 2021. As Kate Zarrelli, writing for eXtasy Books, she is the author of Tuscan Enchantment (2019) and The Casanova Papers (June 2020). Her short fiction (as Katherine Mezzacappa) has appeared in Ireland’s Own, Erotic Review Magazine, The Copperfield Review, Turnpike, Asymmetry and in anthologies with the Bedford International Writing Competition, Henshaw Press and Severance Publications. She’s a member of the Irish Writers Centre, the Irish Writers Union, the Society of Authors, the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists Association. She was awarded a Cill Rialaig residency by the Irish Writers Centre in 2019 for the writing of a Renaissance novel, Giulia of the Albizzi. Katherine regularly reviews for the Historical Novel Society. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Canterbury Christ Church University in addition to an MLitt in Eng Lit from Durham and a first degree in History of Art from UEA.


You are never alone with a book; that’s as true now as it was when I was a lonely teenager. Historical fiction allows us to escape into a different world, and without being preachy about it, can help us realise that we’ve been through terrible times before without the advances in healthcare and communication that aid us now. I do not believe that writers of historical fiction should offer nostalgia to their readers – more perhaps a realisation that human beings are often more resilient than they realise.

Author Links:


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gypsy-Bride-Katie-Hutton/dp/1838770259/
https://www.facebook.com/katherinemezzacappafiction/
https://www.facebook.com/katezarrellibooks/
 @katmezzacappa
 @KatieHuttonAut1

Thank you so much to Katherine for being my guest. It is interesting to hear her thoughts from a historical fiction perspective.

It’s been wonderful featuring such a variety of authors and bloggers in this series. All have shared such interesting and perceptive thoughts on lockdown and isolation for writers.

We truly are living in history at the moment. No doubt future generations will reflect on this time period in their studies to come.

I have to agree with Katherine, the human race will find a solution. It will take time but we will get there.

For now, this is the last in this series. Thank you to all that have taken part. I am currently working on my COVID19 diaries, flash fiction and poetry collection which I hope to release soon. And I will also be finalising my YA fantasy The Curse of Time #2 Golden Healer.

More about that soon.

Please comment below, I’m sure Katherine would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well.

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#NeverlandBlogTours – The Land Girl by Allie Burns – #HistoricalFiction – 18th July 2018

I am thrilled to be welcoming Allie Burns to my blog via Jenny Marston of  Neverland Blog Tours: https://jennyinneverland.com/tag/neverland-blog-tours/

I am one of the blog stops on the tour which runs from the 16th to the 22nd of July. Do visit Allie Burn’s other blog tour hosts  to see all the reviews, q and a’s, excerpts, etc.

 

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Today I am sharing this excerpt from Allie Burn’s novel:

 

Excerpt 1

The beginning of The Land Girl
March 1915

Emily held her breath as she stood at the top of the stairs. When she was sure it was safe she tiptoed down, which was not that easy in her brother John’s work boots, even with the gap in the toes stuffed with balled-up newspaper.
The muffled chatter from her mother’s knitting party flooded the hallway. She quickened her pace to reach the safety of the door that led through to the kitchen, only to narrowly avoid colliding with Daisy – the housemaid – and a platter of crustless sandwiches. They greeted one another and before Emily could remind her, Daisy nodded and said, ‘Don’t worry, I haven’t seen you.’
Emily opened the back door and the dazzling sunlight caressed her skin. She would have to make it up to Mother later because she couldn’t sit in that stifling sitting room, knitting socks for the soldiers at the Front when the sun shone.
‘By the way,’ Emily called back to Daisy who was straightening out the sandwiches again. ‘Did you leave this on my pillow?’ She waved a newspaper cutting that she’d found on her bed in an envelope addressed to her.
Daisy shook her head. ‘I found it on the doormat, hand delivered.’
Emily shrugged. She would thank whoever the sender was when they made themselves known.
Outside, she leant back against the scullery door, and admired the plump, carefree clouds, shifting their shapes and rushing onwards against the backdrop of the heavenly blue sky.
She held up the notice cut from the Standard, reading it slower this time to take it in. Her heart began to thump.

Women on the Land

Highly trained women of good birth and some country-bred women, hitherto working in service, or in trade, will make themselves useful in any way on a farm to gain experience.

May we make known that we wish to hear from farmers, market gardeners and others wanting the services of women for work on the land.

The notice went on to say that educated girls would act as a shining example to village and city girls – encourage them out in their numbers to do their bit for the war effort.
But whoever posted this through the door must know that she wasn’t ‘highly trained’ in anything other than English literature, and that wasn’t an easy situation to fix. She did spend far more time on the farm and outdoors than was usual for a girl like her, as Mother was always reminding her, but that didn’t mean she could turn her hand to farming so easily; she’d need to be trained and the notice in the Standard said that took six weeks.
She couldn’t in all good conscience leave her Mother to attend a course. Mother hardly slept and was afraid to be left alone since Father had died two years ago, and it was even worse now Emily’s older brother, John, had received his officer commission, turning Mother a ghastly pale whenever the delivery boy came up the path.

 

Blurb: War changes everything…

Emily has always lived a life of privilege. That is until the drums of World War One came beating. Her family may be dramatically affected but it also offers her the freedom that she craves. Away from the tight control of her mother she grabs every opportunity that the war is giving to women like her, including love.

Working as a land girl Emily finds a new lease of life but when the war is over, and life returns to normal, she has to learn what to give up and what she must fight for.

Will life ever be the same again?

 

Author Photo

About the author:

Allie lives in Kent with her family and two tortoises. When she is not writing for business or penning her women’s historical fiction. She has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and The Lido Girls is her debut novel. She is currently working on a second interwar years novel, which is due for publication in the summer of 2018.

Website: http://www.allie-burns.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/allieburns1

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/allieburnsauthor

Goodreads: Goodreads The Land Girl

Amazon UK: The Land Girl

Blurb: War changes everything…

Emily has always lived a life of privilege. That is until the drums of World War One came beating. Her family may be dramatically affected but it also offers her the freedom that she craves. Away from the tight control of her mother she grabs every opportunity that the war is giving to women like her, including love.

Working as a land girl Emily finds a new lease of life but when the war is over, and life returns to normal, she has to learn what to give up and what she must fight for.

Will life ever be the same again?

 

Website: http://www.allie-burns.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/allieburns1
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/allieburnsauthor

 

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Buy Book: myBook.to/TheCurseofTime

Social Media Links:
Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Collaborative Blog: https://sistersofthefey.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time
#ABRSC: Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829166787333493/

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mjmallonauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
Tumblr: http://mjmallonauthor.tumblr.com/

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My Kyrosmagica Review of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly re-imagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, Miller’s debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights. Fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.  

Awards:

Orange Prize for Fiction (2012), Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Novel (2013), Chautauqua Prize Nominee (2013)

My review:

I loved The Song of Achilles, which didn’t surprise me because I love Greek mythology and I adore a well crafted love story.  In fact I enjoyed reading it so much that my copy was stuffed choc a block full of my tiny post it notes. I use a system of post-its to mark passages that I want to return to later, maybe to quote, or in this case just to re-read. So when this happens it is a sure sign that the novel I am reading is a 4 star or a 5 star read.

It is astonishing to me that The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s debut novel. Miller writes with such effortless style, she grabs the reader by the you know whats and mades you purr. Given her background, maybe this is what I should have expected, she has a BA and MA from Brown University in Classics and is an accomplished student from the Yale School of Drama, specialising in adapting classical tales for a modern audience.

One of the novel’s great strengths is its ability to make Greek legends accessible to all readers even those with little or no knowledge of classical history.  Miller chooses Patroclus  as a first person narrator rather than the more obvious choice: Achilles, giving the story a powerful human touch. The reader is so blinded by Patroclus’s love for Achilles, that he or she is unable to see Achilles faults, right up until the end.

This tale of love and betrayal is set against the backdrop of the agonisingly long Trojan War. The developing love story between Patroclus and Achilles is crafted wonderfully, you sense the gentle tread of their initial attraction, from their first kiss when Patroclus calls upon the gods:

Dear gods, I think, let him not hate me. I should have known better than to call upon the gods.”

Followed by the full on progression to them becoming lovers. The sexual act between the two is not graphically described, and in my opinion it is better that way.  In so doing Madeline Miller ensures that this is a sensual delight, rather than blatant titillation. Some might argue that she is treading sensitively with this portrayal but anything else would have in my opinion jarred with her style of writing.

Achilles must avoid killing Hector, Patroclus sums up the dreadful prophecy with these words:

“And Hector must live, always, he must never die, not even when he is old, not even when he is so withered that his bones slide beneath his skin like loose rocks in a stream.”

Madeline Miller attributes Achilles with God-like characteristics, his beauty is without question, yet it is his  lack of awareness that makes him all the more appealing to the reader and to Patroclus:

“Perhaps most remarkable was his un-self-consciousness. He did not preen or pout as other handsome children did. Indeed he seemed utterly unaware of his effect on the boys around him.”

Achilles has a tender side to him, it appears that his human side is stronger than his goddess mother Thesis would like, after witnessing the sacrificial death of a young woman he is distressed:

“I was close enough. I could have saved her.”

When Patrolus watches him sleeping he reflects : “His face is innocent, sleep-smoothed and sweetly boyish. I love to see it. This is his truest self, earnest and guileless, full of mischief, but without malice. He is lost in Agamemnon and Odysseus’ wily double meanings, their lies and games of power.”

Miller engages the reader’s interest by showing Achille’s human side, his ability to love another human being. She demonstrates that being the son of a Goddess  isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, what with all the prophecies, and the potential crises of angering the Gods.

It is clear that Achilles could have had any young man, so why indeed did he choose gawky Patroclus to be his lover? Achilles is so near perfect as it is possible to be, so why would he want a mirror image of himself?Patroclus cannot compare in looks, or courage, or ability to Achilles, but I think the answer lies in Patroclus’s human characteristics. Patroclus is kind, and caring. It is Patroclus’s human weaknesses that attract Achilles. Patroclus is flawed. In the beginning, young Patrolus is exiled to the kingdom of Phthia because he killed a boy.

“In exchange for my weight in gold, they would rear me to manhood.”

There, his is fostered by King Peleus, who happens to be the father of Achilles, a youth the same age as Patroclus.  Patroclus could have pretended that the boy’s death was an accident, yet he did not.

If I had lied, I would still be a prince. It was not murder that had exiled me, it was my lack of cunning.”

He cares deeply for the welfare of others, and ends up attending to the battlefield victims. He feels such pity for Deidameia, the mother of Achille’s son:

“She did not know that I almost asked him, to be a little kinder to her.”

Patroclus is especially fond of Breisis, Achille’s war prize, claimed under Patroclus’s influence to save and protect her from the lecherous clutches of Agamemnon.  In fact it is clear that Patroclus loves Breisis, albeit in a platonic way. Breisis pays a very pivotal part in the story and Agamemnon’s actions towards her in the latter part of the book have dire consequences.

The character of Thesis, Achille’s sea goddess mother scares the pants off of Patroclus and no wonder:

“She leaned closer still, looming over me. Her mouth was a gash of red, like the torn-open stomach of a sacrifice, bloody and oracular. Behind it her teeth shone sharp and white as bone.”

Patroclus and Achilles spend some time in an idyll with the centaur Chinon, before they have to grow up, become men and fight in what seems like a never ending war:

“There was something in Chiron’s face, firm and calm and imbued with authority, that made us children again, with no world beyond this moment’s play and this night’s dinner.”

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***** Spoiler Alert Below in Italics******

The tender aspect of Patroclus’s character leads to the story’s final tragic outcome, he wishes to protect Achille’s reputation. Breisis is taken forcibly by Agamemnon. Patroclus wishes to protect her from Agamemnon’s carnal desires, Achille’s resents Patroclus’s caring so much for Breisis, but more than anything he resents Agamemnon’s actions, the insult to his honour, he has become vain. Can a God be conflicted? Can a God feel pain and jealousy? In the end it is Patroclus who leaves in Achille’s armour, adopting his persona, promising that he will not fight. In donning Achille’s armour he becomes a God-like warrior for a brief moment of exquisite triumph, but ultimately he can’t sustain this as he is not Achilles, he is a human, not a God. When he realises what impact his well meaning actions will have upon Achilles he knows that he has made yet another terrible decision. This time the outcome will be tragic for all those he loves, his first thought is Achilles, but by the time he realises this, it is too late.

 

Highly recommended for Fantasy, Historical, Mythology, Romance, GLBT, and War readers.

Well, it’s got to be a definite 5 stars, and it’s most certainly one to grace my favourites shelf.

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Authors Website: http://www.madelinemiller.com/

Excellent interview with Madeline Miller: http://blog.booktopia.com.au/2011/07/20/madeline-miller-author-of-the-song-of-achilles-answers-ten-terrifying-questions/#comment-187225

Have you read The Song of Achilles? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.

Bye for now,

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Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

 

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