Being brutally honest about books

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The good, the annoying, and the ugly: For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

Insta love, Stockholm Syndrome, and sex = love in Troy.

I'm going to pick apart this novel, so beware of spoilers for both the book and the Trojan War (which is a millenia-old myth, but hey, not everyone knows it).

The good

  • Gorgeous cover!
  • Retelling of the Trojan War that focuses on women!
  • The gods are included! Every so often there's a chapter where we get to see their pettiness, and it's so entertaining.
  • The writing style is pretty good, easy to read, and I loved the aesthetic.

The annoying

  • Spelling Chryseis as Krisayis (the author wanted to show that Greeks and Trojans had different cultures)
  • I thought this book was going to focus on several different women (my mistake) but it only focuses on Briseis and Chryseis Krisayis. These girls are essential to the plot of the Iliad but are both slaves of the Greeks, so we don't get a range of perspectives.
  • The two main characters are very similar (see above) and I often got confused about which one I was reading about.
  • Where's Thetis? You know, the mother of Achilles, a sea nymph who's a fairly important part of the Trojan War? She's mentioned by other characters but doesn't appear with the other gods. She may be a lesser god, but she's still important to the plot. It was her wedding, after all, where the Thing happened that kind of caused the Trojan War. The Thing that the title For The Most Beautiful alludes to.
  • We see Patroclus from Briseis's perspective, but he's portrayed as a kind of boring character who doesn't fight and is rumoured to be Achilles's boy toy (according to Plato, Achilles was Patroclus's boy toy (yes, the Ancient Greeks had ship wars)). He seems to be in unrequited love with Achilles. This book isn't about Patroclus, but he deserves some credit.
  • Aeneas is a son of Priam in this book???? Why? Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Venus/Aphrodite (that's right, the goddess). He's unnecessary to the book, so it's even stranger that his parentage is changed.

The ugly

  • The Trojan War lasted 10 years. In this book, it lasts less than a year, kinda similar to Troy (2004). It's such a simple canon detail, and it's ignored without explanation. (NB if you want to create a good work of fiction, don't do anything Troy did.)
  • The romances are really sudden and not developed. The romance tropes used include insta love, Stockholm Syndrome, and sex = love. Briseis's actual thought process: Wow, my fiancĂ© I've never met before is hot, I'm in love. *few months later* Achilles killed my husband so I will not sleep with him. *nek minnit* Achilles killed my family, I'm definitely never sleeping with him. Oh, he's apologised, I'm going to sleep with him now. Forgive me if I can't relate.
  • If it passes the Bechdel test, I don't remember it. A shame for a book intended to represent the forgotten women of the Trojan War.

The conclusion

This was a disappointing read, but I didn't put it down, so that's a point in its favour. 2.5 stars. If you're after a feminine (or feminist) retelling of the Trojan War that adheres to the mythology, look elsewhere.

    The summary

    Three thousand years ago a war took place that gave birth to legends - to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. It was a war that made - and destroyed - both men, a war that shook the very foundations of the world. But what if there was more to this epic conflict? What if there was another, hidden tale of the Trojan War that had yet to be told?

    Now is that time - time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

    Thrillingly imagined and startlingly original, For the Most Beautiful reveals the true story of true for the first time. The story of Krisayis, daughter of the Trojans' High Priest, and of Briseis, princess of Pedasus, who fight to determine the fate of a city and its people in this ancient time of mischievous gods and mythic heroes.

    In a novel full of passion and revenge, loyalty and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, Emily Hauser breathes exhilarating new life into one of the greatest legends of all - in a story that has waited millennia to be told.

    Add it on Goodreads

    I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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