For those of you keeping score, this is the fourth book of the series but chronologically it falls before the third book. This one revolves around the Battle of Selby militarily, and the plight and antics of Thankful Russell, Trooper Gray and Cornet Luce Pettit, along with a smattering of homelife for Rosie Babbitt and his good wife Het. As this is the fourth volume, I have had ample time to adjust to and admire the author’s somewhat unique writing style and have come to love the way she uses the local dialects and patois of the characters in the books to the point where I have found myself thinking in Drew Venning’s Norfolk idiom or Hollie’s Puritan voice. Not a bad thing, but can be detrimental when writing work related emails and words like summat or nowt or the term Thee want to creep into the missive. 🙂 The Selby battle is brilliantly portrayed from the perspectives of Hollie and the three “amigos”, Thankful, Gray and Luce. The chaos of a cavalry charge in the confines of town streets, the brutality of pikemen versus longswords and battle bred horses and the twists of fate are high points in the story’s telling. Another salient aspect of the author’s skill is the continuing growth and development of her characters. Poignant and exciting, The Smoke of Her Burning is an excellent addition to this wonderful series. 5 stars
In another first for this humble scribbler of book reviews, I was tasked with reading a book intended for children. While I wasn’t sure at first what to expect (it has been years since I read to my children), my initial concerns were set aside by this well crafted and entertaining book. The story follows a group of children as they set out on a dangerous mission; a mission that will see them battle against overwhelming odds and betrayal. The story is at once an adventure tale and an accelerated coming of age tale as the children must grow up quickly if they are to survive. 4 stars
In the year fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Much is made of that historic voyage, a tremendous achievement no doubt, but with some unexpected consequences both for the crews of the ships and most especially for the inhabitants of the lands they came to. The River of Corn is a story of Hernando De Soto arriving in what is now the Saluda River region of South Carolina in 1540 and his search for gold. The author has the Conquistadors confronting the indigenous peoples of the area (Chicora, Ocute and Chalaque) in typical European fashion; taking what they want with impunity and violence. Besides the antagonistic Spaniards, the story revolves around a black slave, a young Chicora warrior and a wise Chicora queen and their attempts to thwart not only the invaders from across the Great Water but also their enemies the Chalaque. Without giving away too much of the plot, the story tells of their ingenuity in the face of great danger and the unknowable consequences of their contact with Soto and his men. The descriptive power of the author is to be admired as he paints an Edenistic portrait of the land and wildlife that existed in fertile and plenteous abundance before the arrival of the European seekers of riches. Indeed, this is a wonderful tale of what life was like in 16th century southeast America and while it is fiction, it has the ring of possible truth. 5 stars and a hearty Hoover Book Review recommendation.
What I know of this time and place has been gleaned mainly from the two made for television series’ on The Borgias (while I enjoyed both series, I liked the Jeremy Irons version more). So, I was more than curious as to how Kate Quinn would approach the subject matter while trying not to impose any of my preconceived notions on the main characters. Well, as it turns out, I was unduly concerned as the author tells this story from the viewpoints of personages on the periphery of the Borgia clan. Well maybe not periphery for one of the characters, after all, Giulia Farnese occupied Pope Alexander’s (the sixth of that name) bed as his mistress. Once again the author had me immersed in the sights and smells of the era, from the kitchens of Carmelina to the flashing knives of the dwarf bodyguard Leonello. A superbly crafted cast of characters, an attention grabbing storyline with plots and subplots enough to keep the reader guessing. The main story follows the fortune of La Bella, Giulia, from the beginning of Rodrigo Borgia’s ascent to Pope to her dealings with the invading French. The placing of Carmelina and Leonello into the narrative provides a refreshing look at this fascinating time of political and religious upheaval. Another pleasant and page turning work from a very talented scribe. 5 stars
Despite the fact that I am a couple decades(more or less) older than Mr. Turney, I want to be able to write like him when I grow up. Praetorian – The Price of Treason is a fine example of how an author combines research, history and imagination to produce a book that not only rings true but has that quality that draws the reader into the world he is reading about. Rufinus survived everything thrown at him in book 1 but has paid the price both physically and emotionally. One aspect where Mr. Turney shines is character development and he leads the reader through the agonies Rufinus suffers as he struggles to maintain a grip on reality. Another strong point of the author is his ability as a storyteller and in The Price of Treason, he gives us a great plot full of surprises (I thought I had things figured out a couple of times only to be reduced to thinking, “I didn’t see that coming.”). So, if you are looking for a story steeped in the political intrigue of the Roman world of the Emperor Commodus, filled with all sorts of interesting people and a flawed yet heroic protagonist, then run to your nearest bookstore or wifi connection and get this one; a first class page turner. 5 stars
Perhaps it is because I recognize some of the same flaws in my own attempt at producing a novel, that I could not fully enjoy Centurion and Assassin. Now, don’t get me wrong, the story itself is an intriguing one and the main protagonist is certainly an interesting character, but the book has too many editing issues plus sometimes the story gets a bit confusing for me to grade it higher than I have. However, the potential is there, so I look forward to the sequel. 3 stars.