I read a lot of fiction, mostly historical-fiction, but also some fantasy/historical-fiction; fiction that takes on the feel of history, events that could have happened, cultures and people that could have existed. Such is Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; a work that has the look and feel of a Roman/Byzantine world, but that also carries a look at contemporary issues such as religion and it’s hold on humanity through the ages. An excellent example of this can be found in a discussion between an architect and the Patriarch concerning the proposed ideas for the dome of a new sanctuary, “Deference becomes you,” said Artibasos, mildly enough. “It might be worth cultivating. It is customary – except perhaps among clerics – to have opinions preceded by knowledge.” I don’t know about you, my peeps and fellow travelers, but that speaks volumes to current affairs in 2018 America, if not the world.
I read a lot of different authors; a lot of different writing styles and strengths, some who move me with their descriptive abilities, others with the depth of their characters, or their grasp of fine dialogue. What I have found in my reading of Mr. Kay is an author who moves me with all of those things, but especially the beauty of his narrative; his “way with words”. I cannot begin to count the number of times I would read a passage, pause, reread, and then pause again to allow the flow of words to both fill me with wonder, and with just a smidgen of jealousy (I too, fancy myself as an author).
Sailing to Sarantium is a complex tale, filled with surprises; with the full range of human emotion, and human experiences – emotions and experiences that can be carried over to modern times – a time of wonder, but also a time of uncertainty. I can hardly wait to read the sequel. 5 Stars – BTW the chariot race chapter is worth the price of admission. 🙂
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the entire Roma Nova series, I eagerly opened up the new installment, Carina. This installment takes place between the first two books of the series and finds Carina tasked to apprehend an alleged traitor in Quebec and return her to Roma Nova. A straightforward task for a member of the elite Praetorian officer corps. However, things turn out to be a bit more complicated and she is plunged into a web of deception and intrigue. The author has given the reader another gem of a tale with her usual fast paced style, believable scenarios and the real sensation that Roma Nova could exist in the modern world. When I started reading Carina, it was with the thought that I would take my time with this novella, as I was also reading a couple of other books that had review deadlines looming. Hah! I was so engrossed and taken in by Alison’s skillful creative abilities, that I finished Carina in two sittings. So, dear readers, help yourself to another 5 Star entry to the Roma Novan catalog.
Let me just state from the get-go…I fancy myself as an author given that I have written and published a novel (with more to come) but when I read someone like Guy Gavriel Kay, I ache to have just a little of his talent; just a little more ability to draw word pictures in his manner. Lions is a complex story of love, loyalty, and devotion during a period of great upheaval; a period reminiscent of the Moorish-Christian competition to see whose God is best(sadly, still going on.) If I get anything out of reading this tale it is this, that the genocidal insanity of religious domination in political affairs is quite possibly the saddest concept in human history.
Another aspect of Lions is the almost impossible situations some of the characters find themselves in; especially when it comes to love and loyalty…so many lines are crossed and in such a way that the differences between Jaddite-Asharite-Kindath pale in significance to the individuals involved. The Kindath physician Jehane, the poet/warrior Ammar, the Jaddite warrior Rodrigo and many others, provide the reader with characters so fully developed as to make the story seem historical rather than a fantasy account.
So, my peeps and fellow travelers, prepare for an emotion filled, heart tugging tale from a master at his craft. 5 stars…or maybe two moons…or maybe just the Sun..read the book, you’ll get what I mean. 🙂
A vile almost inhuman character; a combination of Augustus’s intelligence and the brutal madness of Caligula has overthrown the legal government of Roma Nova and replaced it with a distinctly male dominated presence. Forced to flee for their lives, many of the Roma Novans; including the indomitable Aurelia and the young Imperatrix, Silvia, begin the long, slow process of reclaiming their homeland. Throughout this alternative history series I have been fascinated by the author’s ability to conjure up a world that is recognizable and totally believable, and she has done so once again. Not only are the political, and logistical nuances covered in a thorough, convincing manner, the portrayal of the internal conflicts and emotions of the characters had this humble scribe stopping occasionally to catch his breath. It is safe to say that Retalio is an excellent addition to this remarkable history of Roma Nova. The villain, Caius Tellus, as well as ranking high on my favorite fictional bad guys list, bears a certain resemblance to the current occupant of the White House, at least to me. An unintentional resemblance, I’m sure, but prescient nonetheless. A page turning delight (with the above mentioned pauses for breath taking), a heart racing tale of intrigue and courage. 5 stars
I think that one day I am going to have to compile my list of favorite, fictional, evil people. When I do that Alison Morton’s Caius Tellus will certainly be on that list. Insurrectio is a taut drama centering on Tellus’ political ambitions…ambitions that could undo centuries of a stable form of government and supplant it with Tellus as a tyrant. Caught in the crosshairs of his ambition is Aurelia Mitela and hoo-boy does he ever hold a grudge. The story is full of the drama and tension that the author has made a trademark of the Roma Nova series and in spots steps them up even more. So, if you’re looking for a political thriller this is sure to please. Strong characters, a plot with lots of twists and turns, love, betrayal, pain and loss make this a 5 star winner.
When I am offered the chance to read and review a book it is usually of a different historical-fiction genre than this particular work. I read mostly ancient Greek, Roman, etc and also a fair smattering of medieval works dealing with The Crusades or post-Roman Britain. All of those categories are stories that do not take place anywhere near the U.S. where I live, so when given an opportunity to latch onto a work of historical-fiction pertaining to the history of my country, I gleefully grab on, even if, as in this case, it is an alternate history. The year is 1839, the American Revolution had ended in the defeat of the rebels and the landscape is vastly different. Britain, the victors now claim the entire eastern seaboard out to the Mississippi. From the Mississippi to the Rockies is French; from the Rockies to the Pacific is Spanish. This story involves three young friends, Claire, Phileas and Sam who grew up together in New France and who undertake a dangerous journey to track down some vicious killers. The culture they grow up in includes many facets of the unexplainable, paranormal world and one of the friends harbors a terrible family curse and survives a brutal murder attempt on his life by a group of fanatics bent on ridding the world of any who have the same affliction.
The world the author creates is imaginative and is one that it is a believable consequence of Britain defeating the colonial rebellion. It is also imaginative in it’s use of the paranormal. Claire’s ability to influence people plays an important part in the adventure the three friends embark on. The characters, both the good guys and the bad guys, are wonderfully portrayed, the descriptions of the cultures, the landscape, the towns and countryside are delivered in a way that puts the reader in the midst of them. There is plenty of drama, plot twists, and action. I found it to be a refreshing look at a time in history that might have been and I look forward to more from the author. 4 stars and a hearty Hoover Book Reviews recommendation.
About the author:
Born and raised in Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan has a BS in Anthropology and an MFA in Creative Writing. She lives, writes and paints in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends.
AshleyRose has moved 35 times. She’s been the oldest, the youngest, the middle and the only child. She has worked as a taxidermist’s assistant, a milkmaid, and a story time lady. She’s a power-lifter, a left-handed artist, and a right-handed knitter. Her library is organized by color.
I can pinpoint when my fascination with ancient Rome began to the viewing of two movies, Ben Hur and Spartacus (yes dear readers, I am that old.) Nowadays I get my Roman fix through the medium of historical fiction, and there is a lot of that to choose from. However, the idea that there could still be a remnant of that ancient favorite still extant and thriving is the basis for this wonderful series by Alison Morton, Roma Nova. A modern nation still bound by many of the old traditions and thriving in the 20th century is what she has not only crafted but done so in such a way as to make you think it was possible. The fourth book, Aurelia, is a prequel to the first three and centers on the matriarch of the Mitella family and like her namesake, the mother of Gaius Julius Caesar, she is a formidable character. In the first three books, she is an older woman but still full of wisdom and strength; in the fourth she is a young woman coming into her own as she finds herself thrust into an international plot to undermine the economic stability of the nation and a plot to undermine the matriarchal society that Roma Nova has become. All of that plus the threat to her life and of that of her family makes for an intense drama built upon the imaginative characters the author has created. The action and drama is relentless; the climatic conclusion is heart-stopping stuff – in other words; I enjoyed the first three books tremendously; the fourth even more so. Kudos to the author and a well deserved 5 stars.
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