Half Sick of Shadows by Richard Abbott

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First, a confession; my only exposure to the famous ballad, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is the musical adaptation by Loreena McKennitt.  Perhaps I once had to read it for a class in school, but since my reading preference has always been prose, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that I have simply forgotten.  Anyroad, this adaptation takes the Arthurian legend and adds the author’s own personal touch; an adaptation that, while remaining true to the original’s basic story line, is reminiscent of the science fiction episodes I used to watch on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.  The progression of The Lady through the various stages of her existence, and the descriptions of the eras in which she awakes are masterfully told by the author.  The inner turmoil of The Lady, as she struggles with the Mirror to gain access to the people she comes in contact with, drives the tale as the Mirror cautions her time and again about the dangers involved.  The conclusion of the tale, though a heart rending scene, is also one of hope as The Lady finally finds out who she is.  Kudos to the author for a most interesting slant on this well known ballad.  4.7 stars

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

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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.  🙂

 

 

Legionary – Empire of Shades by Gordon Doherty

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The Legionary series, has become one of my favorites over the years, and am happy to report that Empire of Shades carries on the tradition of crafty storytelling that we’ve grown to expect from Mr. Doherty.  The masterful interweaving of the multiple plot lines throughout the tale are sure to keep the reader engaged and turning pages.  Pavo and the rest of his gang are really put to the test in many ways and many times in this many layered thriller.  Pavo reaches a new depth of character as he pursues a promise made to his friend and mentor, Gallus.  He also finds love again and that experience leaves it’s mark.  Set against the backdrop of Theodosius taking the mantle of Emperor of the East and the unsettling shenanigans of Gratian, the Emperor of the West, Mr. Doherty leads us on a brutal adventure during a time of great migrations and a changing world.  4.7 stars

Invasion – Tales of the Empire by SJA Turney

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned after reading so many of Mr. Turney’s works, it is that to expect the unexpected.  In this the fifth volume in Tales of the Empire we find the Empire invading the isle of Alba; it is reminiscent of Rome in Britain but with enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing as this invasion is fraught with much more than just battles between 3 legions and tribal warriors.  As in the previous four volumes in this series, we are introduced to a whole new set of characters and with the action mostly on Alba, a new location.  Once again, the author shines as he creates his characters with a wide range of personalities.  The three tribunes are a good example of that as each one has something different about him to bring to the table.  Of nasty specimens be assured that there are plenty and they are wonderful additions indeed. The reader also gets to enjoy the imaginative descriptive prowess of the author as he paints a vivid picture of the surroundings and the hill forts; especially the fortress of the Queen.  Another winner for Mr. Turney; that’s also to be expected.  🙂

4.4 stars

Insurgency – Tales of the Empire IV by S.J.A.Turney

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The fourth installment of this historical fantasy of a Roman like world finds the Empire flourishing under the guiding hands of the Emperor Kiva and his brother Quintillian who is his principle adviser and military strategist. However, there are others who have designs on this empire and will go to great lengths to see it come under new ownership.  Thus, we the readers are treated to a story replete with intricate plots and machinations as the Empire is threatened from numerous enemies, some of whom were thought to be friends and allies.  The author has done a superb job in fleshing out this insurgency with some remarkable characters and exciting story lines.  The atmosphere is tense, the action is page turning and the world created by the author is recognizable to a student of Roman history yet different enough to make the readers use their imaginations as the action flits back and forth between regions.  To summarize (without spoilers), the dude can spin a yarn and I hope he spins more in this highly entertaining series.  5 stars

The Voyage of Odysseus by Glyn Iliffe

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The War is over.  The Horse came through.  The Skaen Gates have fallen and Priam’s Pride is a smoking ruin.  Time to load up the loot and slaves and head on out for a leisurely cruise back to kith, kin and kingdom ruling.  Ah, but wasn’t there something about a 10 year waiting period before the kith, kin and kingdom stuff?  A tumultuous 10 years and a journey that will test everything in a man; courage, loyalty, faith and friendship.  Odysseus, mastermind of the Greek’s long awaited victory, is no longer a favorite of the gods, try as he may to appease them; no longer the confident King as he is threatened by those he has lead all those years; no longer does his vaunted intellect and cunning prove effective or wise.  This journey back home to Penelope, a wife under siege by those who would replace the rule of Laertes son, Odysseus, is brought to luxuriant life in this, part 5 of The Adventures of Odysseus.  The author brings the reader into the constant drama surrounding Odysseus, Eperitus and the rest of the Ithacans; bringing to life the horrors faced, the circumstances that threaten to unravel everything they hold dear.  I kept thinking, man, how much more can they take?  Well, they’ll have to take more as this book covers the first half of the journey…there’s more to come and that’s, methinks, a good thing.  5 stars

 

The Dead Gods: Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow 2 by Robert Bayliss

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When I read The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien I was both fascinated and somewhat frightened by the creature Ungoliant.  In The Dead Gods, we meet an Ungoliant on steroids.  We met this god of shadows briefly at the end of book 1, The Sun Shard and in book 2 we get to know this powerful and evil being on a more intimate level as well as it’s minions and children.  It is a story filled with interwoven plots as empires prepare for war, ancient beings fight to survive and old civilizations seek to reclaim what was once theirs.  All of that and a battle for the control of the souls of mankind.  Now, all of that is well and good but of no use, entertainmentwise, without some heroic bravery; some action that defies the odds and results in victories…I am happy to report that the author has accomplished that with an amazing set of circumstances and characters.  Oh, and romance too…can’t forget the romance, the longing for and the physical manifestation of it, even if some of that is, well, let’s just say, mentally challenging.  The first two books have set the scene for world and religious conquest…I can’t wait for book 3.  5 stars