Jennifer South: “Andromache: Stealing Tomorrow”

Andromache: Stealing Tomorrow

“I think you are as brave as any man that I fight next to on the battlefield. Every thread of courage snaps at some point though. For every one of us. There is no shame in running. Only in not stopping and turning to face your fear when you know it’s time.”

Novel
Full Title: Andromache: Stealing Tomorrow: A Novel of the Trojan Empire
Pages: 572
First Published: 2012

Synopsis: She was born into her world a non-entity. It was the late Bronze Age, the time of the Trojan Empire, a time ruled by warlords and warriors. The daughter of a minor king was a throw away item, a bargaining chip at best. In her world, a woman only held as much power as the beauty of her face or her worth on the marriage market and Andromache had neither. She seemed destined to be forgotten.

It was also the final Age of Heroes though and in it a man, or woman, of determination and steel could make their own destiny – if they were brave enough. In the end, Andromache would have to choose. Would she let the world decide who she was? Or would she make a path of her own and become the woman of legend she was meant to be?

“When you marry,” Bithia supplied. “Your husband will take you to live with his family. They will look for weapons to use against you, for ways to control you and through you, your husband. Every thing you say will be measured and weighed and given sharp edges so that it can be turned back on you. You must learn to measure what you say, half the response you would give and then cover the true meaning with rose oil so that it cannot be found.”

Review: So I have been reading about the characters of the Trojan War for over a decade now without attempting to keep any sort of academic distance from them, and as a result I absolutely bring a certain amount of emotional investment to any new Trojan War-related book that I read. I’m sure this affects every review I’ve posted or will post on this blog, but in the case of Stealing Tomorrow I feel like it’s playing an even bigger role than usual. Because … there really isn’t that much to this book. There really isn’t 572 pages worth of conflict here. A large section of this novel consists of little more than Hector and Andromache angsting at each other. And yet, as someone who has been in love with these characters since middle school, I found reading about Hector and Andromache angsting at each other to be the perfect way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon.

Unfortunately, the lack of conflict isn’t the only criticism I have to mention before I can start fangirling; the writing style is another major problem. South does a great job of creating a strong sense of character and I really enjoyed some of the imagery she uses. Other than that, this book reads like the Starcrossed series: awkward phrasing, telling instead of showing, overexplaining every line of dialogue. It’s also desperately in need of a basic proofreading, because I have never before seen so many typos and run-on sentences in a finished book. Sometimes the typos were bad enough that I found myself rereading sentences in an attempt to figure out what they were supposed to say. I also noticed two scenes where a character who was there at the beginning was not there at the end, with no reason or explanation given. And I got tired of Hector being described with the same words every time we saw him; forty-four uses of the phrase “dark eyes” is at least thirty-four uses too many.

But there were indeed things I liked:

· Female friendships are not something you see often in Trojan War novels, so I really enjoyed the strong female friendships Andromache has in this book, both with characters who are already familiar as well as with an original character, Bithia. I actually like Bithia enough that I felt a little sad when I remembered she won’t be in any books I read in the future.

· There’s not much about the Trojan War that I find boring, but my goodness do I find it difficult to feign interest in the Palladium. So I am pretty happy to report that South’s Palladium is splendidly creepy. Can all future Trojan War authors follow her lead and work with this thing to make it a little more interesting, thanks I would love that.

· Also awesomely creepy were Andromache’s lessons with her mother. I loved how we get more details about them as the book goes on, but they’re never explained completely – a great use of the way what we don’t see is often scarier than what we do see. Actually, I really liked getting to know Andromache’s family, as this was my first time reading a book where they were more than an entry in the list of people Achilles kills offscreen. I never even considered the idea that Andromache might come from a dysfunctional family but I think it really works here. Her struggles to realize and then overcome this part of her past were both realistic and compelling.

· I enjoyed the brief appearances of Achilles’ family, though that’s mainly because I am fascinated by the way Andromache’s life so often intertwines with theirs. It was great to see new additions to this tragic and complicated relationship.

· I kind of hate to admit it, but it turns out I love a good romantic scene, and a little angst doesn’t hurt either. I loved seeing a Hector who is deeply affected by the pressure that’s been on him all his life and is determined to act in his own interests for once. Embarrassing truth be told, I’m pretty sure I could have read a hundred more pages of Hector and Andromache talking about their feelings. I even kind of loved the scene where all they were doing was playing a board game. If you don’t come to this book already in love with these characters I have no idea if any of this will be appealing or not, but I once got actually upset when I saw a Hector/Helen fanfic because HOW DARE YOU WHAT ABOUT ANDROMACHE, so in this respect at least I guess I am this book’s perfect audience. (Hector/Andromache OTP!)

· This book starts with Hector and Andromache’s first meeting and ends shortly after their wedding. There’s enough foreshadowing (see Hector’s lines at the top of this entry for a heartwrenching example) that I was surprised that the book ends before the war even starts. I have no idea if South has plans for a sequel or not, but I am secretly hoping she does because the events in this book would lead easily to new and potentially quite interesting reasons for the war, and I would love to see how this version of Andromache makes it through. Stealing Tomorrow’s writing style and lack of conflict are big enough issues that I find it difficult to recommend, but what I can tell you is that I also found it absurdly difficult to put down and I would buy a sequel in a second.

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

Herbs were no longer the herbs I had thought they were and words were no longer the words I had been familiar with when I was in my mother’s dark rooms. It frightened me. For there was power in my mother’s lessons and they woke something in my blood that was hungry, always, for more.

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