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Saturn Loft

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About me

Nerd. 35, Female, United States

Occupation: Writer & artist


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Recent reviews

All reviews - Books (80) - Music (40)

Alexander: Child of a Dream review

Posted : 3 years, 10 months ago on 2 October 2013 12:25 (A review of Alexander: Child of a Dream)

-Spoiler Warning-
This is one of those easy reads, so easy to read in fact, that it tends not to linger very long in the mind after finishing the last page.

The historical component of the book is actually pretty decent. The author did his research and it shows, but he also doesn't overload the reader with details to demonstrate his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Macedonian. That's refreshing.

However, he tones down the homoerotic relationship between Hephaestian and Alexander. They seem more like Super Good Innuendo Friends with a bit of touching (done tastefully behind the scenes of course). The problem with this is that it doesn't illustrate the kind of relationship that would cause Alexander to go absolutely mad with grief when Hephaestian died later on. The author doesn't really manage to sell us this.

Likewise, Alexander's own personality doesn't really come through. He was clearly a very driven, passionate, and volatile person, but aside from the occasional tantrum in this book we don't see much of it. (Maybe we'll get to more of that in the next volume.)

So- decent historical read, just not particularly memorable.

PS: I thought the author was at his best during a certain assassination scene. Well-written and perhaps the one truly striking bit in the book.


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Occidental Mythology (Masks of God) review

Posted : 3 years, 10 months ago on 29 September 2013 04:01 (A review of Occidental Mythology (Masks of God))

This is the volume in Joseph Campbell's Masks of God that covers Judaism, Christianity, & Islam. It is especially useful for illuminating the fascinating and often surprising foundations of Judeo-Christian myth, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more meticulous and thorough guide to such things. This is an exemplary work, although not quite perfect. For instance, Campbell sometimes made connections that later historical discoveries proved erroneous (He implied Stonehenge was inspired by Mycenaean constructions. This was believed by a number of people in Campbell's time. Now we know that Stonehenge is far older than previously thought.)


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The Three Theban Plays: Antigone/Oedipus the King/Oedipus at Colonus review

Posted : 3 years, 10 months ago on 28 September 2013 12:38 (A review of The Three Theban Plays: Antigone/Oedipus the King/Oedipus at Colonus)

When it comes to tragic irony, few ancient or modern playwrights come close to Sophocles and these are the three works that showcase his dark genius at its best. This particular edition is translated by the ever-dependable Robert Fagles, and contains the following plays, in the order they were first produced:

1 - ANTIGONE: Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus and heir to her family's persistent dark cloud of misfortune. She wants to bury her equally-unlucky brother but her loyalty to her doomed brethren may cost her. (Of course it will! It's Sophocles!)

2 - OEDIPUS THE KING: Oedipus is the best king for miles around and everyone knows it, including him.* Unfortunately an ominous stain is creeping into his idyllic kingdom; a plague is raging and it seems the gods are upset about something or other. The only person who seems to know what's up is a blind prophet and he's got some bad news for poor Oeddy.

3 - OEDIPUS AT COLONUS: The action in this place takes place between the events of Oedipus the King and Antigone. This the most philosophical of the trilogy, dealing with ideas of fate, guilt, and redemption. (I thought it was a bit boring.)

* Uh oh! Hubris!


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The Last of the Wine review

Posted : 3 years, 10 months ago on 28 September 2013 12:09 (A review of The Last of the Wine)

As historical novels go, it doesn't get too much better than this adroit little tale. Personally, I find Renault's dry language a bit off-putting at times, but I know that others will find her style much more agreeable. It depends on personal taste. I find it slightly stuffy, others will see it as rich and evocative.
Anyway, this book takes place during a particularly fascinating era in Ancient Greek history, the time of the Peloponnesian War. The city of Athens had reached its highest point and after the war it would never again be what it was. The characters in this book do not know that however, and that's what makes the story so bittersweet and compelling.
Bonus appearances from Socrates and his associates provide extra flavor for those who like a bit of philosophy in their fiction. Others will be annoyed by the pontificatory tangents. Once again, it's a matter of taste.
Also, since this is a Renault book, you should know that the romantic love of two young men is a central plot point. I personally find it refreshingly unconventional. (It certainly was refreshingly unconventional in 1956 when this novel was first published! Mary Renault deserves approbation for being a trailblazer in LGBT fiction, but if you have problems with the subject you can skip it. You will be missing out on top-notch historical fiction though.)


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Funeral Games review

Posted : 3 years, 11 months ago on 14 September 2013 01:10 (A review of Funeral Games)

This book, the final volume in Mary Renault's Alexander the Great trilogy, covers the events right after Alexander's death. Without Alexander's powerful personality to provide unity and focus, his astonishing empire is quickly deteriorating into a mess of intrigue and entropy.
Funeral Games kind of suffers from the same problem. Without a strongly-rendered main character to provide focus and cohesion it just doesn't have the same enthralling quality as the first 2 books. As a novel with an ensemble cast, it isn't bad, and you get a decent picture of the historical happenings that the fictional story is built on... but it just seems a bit superfluous.
(This just squeaks by with an 8 out of 10, because it's still well above average quality for an historical novel. Definitely the weakest in the trilogy, though.)


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The Persian Boy review

Posted : 3 years, 11 months ago on 14 September 2013 12:36 (A review of The Persian Boy)

It's not very often that you come across an historical novel that portrays events from the vantage point of a eunuch. It's not the easiest perspective for an author to immerse themselves in, but Renault pulls it off with convincing surety.
The narrator of The Persian Boy is Bagoas (based on a real historical person), who was a favorite of Persian king Darius III and went on to become the erômenos or beloved of Alexander the Great. Not much is known about him beyond that but Renault makes him into a very real character, with his own passions and motivations.

The perspective on Alexander the Great is also very interesting. Not everyone may agree with Renault's interpretation, but never-the-less, this is quite possibly the most nuanced and thorough fictional rendering of a very mysterious and complex man.

The complicated emotional triangle between Alexander, Bagoas, and Hephaestion is adroitly imagined. There is some definite homosexuality, some sensuous scenes of such, but nothing particularly explicit.
It's not all psychological drama though, there's plenty of action and colorful battle scenes to keep the reader turning pages. As historical novels go, this one is well above average.


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Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae review

Posted : 3 years, 11 months ago on 13 September 2013 09:50 (A review of Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae)

A fictionalization of the famous Spartan stand at Thermopylae, this novel does not pull any punches. It's gory, gritty, brutal, and very compelling. Steven Pressfield gives ancient events a feeling of immediacy; he has military experience and he puts this to fine use in giving the reader an authentic feel for army life among the Spartans.


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The Bull from the Sea review

Posted : 3 years, 11 months ago on 13 September 2013 09:32 (A review of The Bull from the Sea)

The sequel to The King Must Die, The Bull From the Sea begins shortly after Theseus's triumphant return from Crete. His father's unfortunate suicide means he's now king of Athens, with all the accompanying perks and pains. This book lacks the momentum of it's predecessor; much of the drama is generated by Theseus's romantic gains and follies, ominous but convenient prophecies, and family troubles. It was a passable read overall.

Also: Renault jarred me a bit at the end by having one of her dying characters utter the immortal last words of Socrates: not "I drank what?", but that mundane bit about owing someone a rooster. It ruined what would have been a nice dramatic scene for me because I immediately recognized the cribbed phrase. Bad Renault! No cookie for you.


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The King Must Die: A Novel review

Posted : 3 years, 11 months ago on 13 September 2013 09:05 (A review of The King Must Die: A Novel)

My opinion of this book was highly unfavorable until the main character ended up as a bull dancer on the isle of Crete. That was when the author really hit her stride. Or perhaps I just became interested enough to overlook the overly-affected dialogue and constant emphasis on Theseus's maleness. There are plenty of female writers out there who can write convincing male characters without having them metaphorically cupping their junk on every other page. (I'm sorry, but that's the impression I got from the first part of the book.) The move to the action of the Bull Court shifts the emphasis from "My main character got them man-parts" to "Holy Zeus! How's he going to get out of this!" Thank the gods for that, because this book went directly from an F grade to a solid B and I decided I'd be willing to try other books by Renault. After all, she seems capable of some truly stellar moments of poetic description. Worth a look for those who enjoy re-imagined mythology, lush depictions of ancient Greece, and lots of machismo.


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D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths review

Posted : 3 years, 11 months ago on 10 September 2013 11:33 (A review of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths)

This is a wonderful introduction to the colorful world of Greek Myth. Even though it was published back in 1962, it's lost none of its charm. The D'Aulaire's know how to tell a story and their whimsical illustrations are the perfect augmentations. I especially love the subtle details in the drawings: Ares, God of War, has the crankiest face one could imagine, while his spikey-haired henchman, Eris,lurks beyond him. And who can't but feel a pang of sympathy for poor Arachne, domed to be a sad little face on a spidery black dust-bunny of a body?


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Posted: 5 years, 4 months ago at Mar 27 18:56
thanks very much for your kind support on my list!
Posted: 5 years, 5 months ago at Mar 13 9:55
hey, thanks for the vote. I see you're fond of urban exploration, pretty awesome I must say.
Posted: 5 years, 6 months ago at Feb 16 18:14
Hello & thank you for the vote & comment on my I love his voice list! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

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