Thursday, August 18, 2011

REVIEW: Eromenos by Melanie J. McDonald

Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.

Clocking in at just under 200 pages, I was quite surprised by this heartfelt telling of the story of Antinous, boy lover of Emperor Hadrian.  Having not read anything on Hadrian or Antinous before, I was quite curious going into this and was rewarded with an honest and beautifully written account of Antinous' time in Hadrian's court.

What I loved about this book is the focus on the relationship between Antinous and Hadrian.  You see everything through the boy's eyes as he earnestly tells what it was like to go to a far off place like Bithynia (which is northern Turkey) and be thrust into the opulent court of the Romans.  He is fortunate to be favored by Hadrian but also unfortunate in the sense that as the favorite he "belongs" to the Emperor-which means he can love no one else and once he is no longer the favorite its back to obscurity.  Although it was initially hard for me to get used to the idea that an aging Emperor would pick a twelve year old boy to lavish his affections on, as Antinous grows older it is clear that there is genuine love between the two.  I really liked that McDonald didn't focus on the public persona of Hadrian but let us see what he may have been like when he wasn't in the public eye.  Also different in this story is unlike most love stories, Antinous knows that there will be an end to the relationship once he reaches manhood so there is a touch of melancholy to the story.  I loved the ending and I think the cover to the book a perfect representation of the story.

Really enjoyed this one-I just wish it would have been longer but even with the short length it is definitely worth the read.  Two things I want to mention: 1) This book was a finalist for the 2011 Next Generation Indie Awards and 2) It is put out by Seriously Good Books which is a small press devoted entirely to historical fiction which I think is awesome!  I look forward to more titles from them and more books from this author.

 I received this book from the author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

For more reviews, giveaways, interviews and guest posts with author Melanie McDonald click here to see the stops on the rest of the tour.


  1. Great review, Holly! I am so glad you enjoyed Eromenos and I appreciate you participating in the tour!

  2. Great review- I really enjoyed this one as well.

  3. I'm so glad you liked this one -- I loved it, too. So well done -- heartbreaking and moving -- uunnghf. I'm really looking forward to McDonald's next book.

  4. Great review - I really do want to pick this one up. Thanks for the heads up about this publisher - will have to keep an eye out!