Book review · novel

Books review: Children of Time / We Have Always Lived in the Castle / The Song of Achilles

This blog has been a little abandoned over the last few weeks and since I’m not seeing more time on the horizon I’ve decided to try and write shorter reviews and post them two or three at once! Not sure I’ll stick with it forever but for now I think this is the way I’ll manage to keep posting in a more regular manner.

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

01 children of timeSynopsis:
Who will inherit this new Earth?
The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.
But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.
Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

I had seen a lot of praise from people I trust for this novel, which even won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel. I couldn’t say I didn’t love it or was disappointed because it is indeed a great work. Though it didn’t gripped me like I hoped it would. Maybe because I read some other multi generational spaceship stories right before that I loved better?

It focuses on the ship and the planet: on one human character (a kind of historian) that is awaken at different points in time in the ship’s millennia-lenght voyage, witness to the way humans deal with crisis, and on the spiders and sometimes their guardian (part human part AI.) It was great to see their evolution both in their society and technology, but I never really felt myself rooting for anyone. While it is a theme of the book to make you empathise with everyone and make it hard to take a side, it felt more like watching a documentary to me. I was entertained and had to be because this is a very long book that felt even longer when reading it.

I feel bad for not liking it because it has a lot of cool elements but it just wasn’t one for me.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

Read in French, translation by  Jean-Paul Gratias at Rivages/Noir

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

I first took an interest in the title when seeing the new orange cover last fall and was able to read it when I found it in french at my library.
This was a creepy book, told from the point of view of an eighteen years old, though she sounded more like a child.
A short read that had me intrigued at what was really going on and what had really happened for the read of the family to die so suddenly.
At times bizzare, at times really sad, I was really rooting for the sisters. This had a strange atmosphere, like a tale of some sorts.

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, the boys develop a tender friendship, a bond which blossoms into something deeper as they grow into young men.

But when Helen of Sparta is kidnapped, Achilles is dispatched to distant Troy to fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

At first I thought this was going to be from the point of view of Achilles but, silly me, this is actually from the one of Patroclus. This is great because he is such a nice and kind character!

While the book didn’t have me in tears like so many people told me it would, I still was moved by this story. While I knew most of the elements of it, Miller managed to breath humanity into these characters. Patroclus, Chirron and Briseis were my favourite ❤
Maybe the author made it all seem a bit more gentle than previous iteration of the tale, but I’m glad of that in a way. The many rapes and killings aren’t really forgotten but aren’t too graphic, but still shook me a lot. I think the image of Achilles is kinder because it is told through the eyes of Patroclus who loves him deeply, but I also liked that Patroclus doesn’t close his eyes on the horror Achilles commits.
Overall I’m glad I finally decided to get this book from the library, a great 4/5 read.

I’ll be sure to read Miller’s latest, Circe, as well as a recent one from the point of view of Briseis, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

13 thoughts on “Books review: Children of Time / We Have Always Lived in the Castle / The Song of Achilles

  1. Hiiii!!!
    I tried to listen to the audio version of Children of Time! I can feel so related to what you said. It did not hook me from the beginning and I made half of the book like 8 hours out of the 16 hours and I just lost interest. I don’t see me finishing the book. It’s not Just that didn’t like it that much I think it is a really good work but it’s not my kind of work… XD

    We have always live in Castles… I remember it being a nice read. And I liked the gothic elements and while you said 18 year old kid haha it is creepy haha but a nice read. Not the best tho xD

    Achilles!! I did cry my eyes out with that book!!! I love your comments and point of view! How Patroclus is so in love but never stops seen the real face of Achilles which he has two! I love the novel and I died with how it ended :3


    1. Hi there!
      Oh yeah I guess if I had listened to it in audio I would have hit the “x2” thing to try and finish, but I can tell you if the first half wasn’t enough to make you want to keep listening the rest (while a lot happens) stays a bit dry as well. On the contrary I loved how NOUMENON by Marina J Lostetter made me care for the characters even when not spending a lot of time with them and I loved seeing the ship evolve through time!

      Yeah that’s a ‘classic’ I’m glad I got to but not a new favourite ^^

      Yeah the end really is an arrow through the hear! I guess without all the hype surrounding it I might have liked it more but I had such big expectations! Still a great one 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I tried the x2 haha but the narrator is British so it was hard to follow her XD yeah… I honestly lost all interest! I don’t quite like the ending though XD and it didn’t meet your expectations? I killed mine haha I loved it! Those other books Circe and The Silence of the Girls are like a nice addition to the reading selection of Greek tales! :3

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Yeah apparently Briseis POV only last a third of the novel and then there’s lots of POV from Achilles and Patroclus. The whole thing being just the story as we know it and the girls looking at it, when it’s about them.
              At least, from what I’ve been told!
              that’s too bad 😦 seems like the marketing team only read the first few chapters maybe


    1. Haha I’m glad to see I’m not the only one as well and that even people who like it understand how it’s easy to not connect with it. I had read NOUMENON not that long ago and much prefer it.

      Hahah I can understand! Would I have read it sooner before the book started to become THE known book that makes people cry I might have too, but it’s definitely a good one 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, even though I can feel there was an effort made to make the characters interesting but it still doesn’t hold up compared to other novels I think. I still appreciated it, but yeah after all the good I heard about it it was a little bit of a let down maybe


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