This is the second title in The Gisborne Saga by Prue Batten and as effusive as I was in my praise of book 1, I did feel some trepidation as I started reading book 2…hoping that the author would be able to continue the excellence. I am happy to report that she has…. Ysabel Moncrief/De Courcey/Gisborne is one of the most fascinating characters I have read in fiction. Impetuous, intelligent, and constantly at war with her conscience, Ysabel strides through this tale of turmoil, doubt and fear as she seeks answers and safety for her and her son. The story has a bit of everything but most of all it has drama,from the plight of Sir Guy Gisborne, a plot to kill King Richard and the ever growing tension and hatred between Guy and his cousin, the Templar, Sir Robert Halsham. As with most good tales this one has it’s share of plot twists and surprises not the least of which happens at the end…I will say no more about that. Another reason for 5 stars are the author’s incredibly rich characters…they imbue the story with their loyalty, their realness, their believable existence.
In a word, run don’t walk to your internet bookshop of choice and read this marvelous series of tales. Book three Book of Kings is in the works…I am looking forward to that.
King of Ithaca is the first book in this series about the Greek warrior and hero Odysseus. The story begins with Laertes still the King but there is a revolt brewing that threatens to remove Laertes and his line as the royal family. Odysseus is consulting the oracle on Mt. Parnassus about his future. It is this journey where he meets the other main protagonist of the book, Eperitus, an exiled prince looking to find glory under a new lord. The Odysseus in this story is not portrayed in the Homeric mode but is rather more human than mythic. His crafty like nature is not some spur of the moment inspiration, instead Odysseus wrestles with each problem to find solutions. There is doubt and anguish involved in the process. This very human quality is found in all of the characters involved including the three main women in the story, Helen, Penelope and the most formidable of them, Clytaemnestra.
In juxtaposition to the human equation we find a taste of the Olympians mainly in the portrayal of Athena. She has promised to lend her aid to Odysseus in his quest to reclaim the throne of Ithaca but you know Olympians, they can be a bit fickle at times and Odysseus knows this.
There are many scenes of action, battles with human foes and one with a monster in the mythic tradition, and a sort of humorous scene of the hero Ajax entering the hall of Tyndareus in Sparta. He reminded me somewhat of Angus Donald’s Little John but on steroids. There are also a few well placed quirks in the story line that make one pause for a second to negotiate an unexpected turn in the road. It is a very enjoyable account of my favorite Greek hero, Odysseus and look forward to continuing his story in the sequel. This book rates a strong 4 stars.
Given the fact that I have read many of Simon Turney’s books I would have thought by now that it would be nigh unto impossible for him to surprise me. I am used to the plot twists that he infuses into his novels, indeed I sort of expect them. However, in Ironroot, the second of three books set in a pseudo Roman world, he managed to do just that.
The protagonist Varro, a Captain in the Imperial Army, is wounded during a skirmish and is subsequently told that he is dying because the weapon used on him was laced with Ironroot, a poison with no antidote. When it becomes apparent that he was specifically targeted, a conspiracy to cover up a senior officer’s treasonous activities unfolds. Thus begins a race against time as he and an enterprising member of an engineers cohort seek out the truth and possible revenge. What follows is an exciting tale of action, loyalty and a steadfast belief that they were chosen for this mission by a local tribal deity.
Now the author could have gone in many different ways with this including a formulaic one but this is where all the surprises in the plot come to the fore. The climatic scenes are wonderfully portrayed demonstrating Mr. Turney’s vivid imagination and abundant sense of irony. I would love to be more specific but that would be unfair to the author and to prospective readers…after all, they deserve to be as surprised in their reading of this novel as I was.
Once more into the fray as Edgar continues his struggle to reclaim his throne from William the Bastard(or Conqueror depending on your point of view). What is most intriguing to me at least in this series is the historical fact that we know that William wins in the end, yet the author provides us with the hope, forlorn though it may be, that maybe Edgar can be successful. He is certainly determined enough as there are numerous occasions for him to just throw in the towel and submit to William or to just head elsewhere such as Constantinople.
In this volume, the author has Edgar confronting not only his failures but also the internal process of what kind of King would he be. Edgar grows much in this part of the story as he grapples with the lessons he learns about kingship and the power derived from that position and also the limits to that power.
One of the aspects of writing that I feel the author does well is character introduction and development as there is a host of great characters that fill up these pages. Edgar has a core of followers that include outlaws, nobles, reluctant thugs, Counts and Kings. He also has a host of enemies, so many in fact that I liken Edgar to some half dead warrior surrounded by a flock of carrion crows and vultures just waiting for the chance to finish him off. That he survives to continue the quest is a testament to his character and to his friends. He is certainly the most likable tragic figure I’ve come across in a long time. I highly recommend this series and hope that Martin Lake doesn’t wait too long to give us book 4. I rate this at 4.8…well done Martin.