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

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The Flame Before Us by Richard Abbott

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Being what you may call an amateur historian since my teens, oh those many years ago, I am always looking for material, whether non-fiction or fiction, to feed me; to teach me.  This series by Richard Abbot has been an eye opener regarding the area of the Near East, Palestine, The Levant; whatever you want to call it.  So many groups have either settled there or held sway over it through the centuries and in The Flame Before Us they all meet.  Wilios or Troy has finally fallen after a prolonged siege and while it is still up for debate and discussion as to what happened to the invaders after the war; while there were some who returned to their homes across The Aegean Sea, others remained and drifted south to find new lands to call home.  That is the crux of book 3 as these mysterious Sea Peoples come into contact with, in some cases violently, with the Kinahny, the Hittite, the Ibriym, the Mitsriy; in short the whole gamut of Old Testament peoples.  The author has crafted a tale filled with memorable characters and has given us a glimpse into the possibilities of so many disparate groups coming together in a region that has seen nothing but strife even unto today.  From the noble, nose in the air, Egyptians to the settlements of peasants to the nomadic clans, we have a tale of loss, hardship, and hope as cultures collide and times change.  Kudos to the author for a most enjoyable series.  I look forward to more.  5 stars

 

Scenes From a Life by Richard Abbott

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Scenes From A Life is a most apt title for this multi-layered tale of ancient Egypt and Canaan.  Makty-Rasut is a scribe who fashions scenes from the lives of his clients on the walls of their tombs.  The narrative is also setup to give the readers glimpses into the scenes from his life as he attempts to understand the vivid dreams he has.  His journey up and down the Nile and finally to
Canaan leads him to find what he lost in the past(won’t say more about that-no spoilers)… The author, as he did in the first book in the series, In A Milk and Honeyed Land, describes what life was like in 1200 BC in exquisite detail and brings to life the culture of the Nile Valley and of the hill country to the north.  Full of emotional highs and lows the story unfolds a tapestry woven with all the pieces that make up what it is to be human, then and now.  If you’re looking for some well written historical fiction about an era not as well covered as say, ancient Greece or Rome, then I cannot recommend highly enough this series by Richard Abbott.  I will be going on to book three as quick as I can.  5 stars.

About the author:

Richard lives in London, England and writes about the ancient middle east – Egypt, Canaan and Israel. His interest began with a study of how styles of literature and poetry were shared cross-culturally in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages. Having taken those studies as far as he wanted on an academic level, he switched to using the material as background for historical fiction. In a Milk and Honeyed Land and its successors sprang out of the desire to tell the stories of ordinary town and village life of those days, rather than the exploits of kings and conquerors.

He works professionally in IT quality assurance. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.

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In a Milk and Honeyed Land by Richard Abbott

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I was drawn to this novel simply because of the time period and the locale.  I enjoy reading about the early history of the ancient Near East. My first real exposure to that area was as a freshman in college and the mesmerizing and thoroughly entertaining Professor Milton Covensky and the textbook he wrote, The Ancient Near East Tradition.  Of course, that was a historical perspective, in the world of historical-fiction, the series by Sam Barone, The Eskkar Saga provided an interesting take on the Tigris-Euphrates civilizations.  In A Milk and Honeyed Land gives us a sterling portrayal of the Canaanite hill country in 1200 BCE; a time of change in the region.  The influence of Egypt is waning as new forces enter the land.  These forces being the Ibriym(Hebrews) under the leadership of Joshua.

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The story offers a glimpse into the everyday life of the four towns, Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim(in the book they are named Giybon,Kephrath,Meyim and Jarrar’s Town) that have bonded together in a matrilineal society.  In the Old Testament they are known collectively as the Gibeonites.  Much of the story centers around the seers or priests of the towns, in particular the seer of Kephrath, Damariel.  I found this to be a very moving narrative of the people in their daily lives; the struggles, the joys, the times of celebration and the times of sorrow.  Damariel is a wonderful character and it is through his eyes we learn of the ritual religious practices of the people, the high places and standing stones.  The author’s use of dialogue is especially touching and his descriptive narration is spot on.  Mr. Abbott certainly did his homework and his extensive research is evident throughout.  I went into this book not knowing what to expect as both the author and the subject matter were new to me.  What I came away with is a better understanding of what life was like in a time and place that was integral in the rise of much of Western civilization. I also came away with the knowledge that I have another series of tales to follow…Scenes from a Life and The Flame Before Us are now on my to be read pile.

5 stars and a ‘You have to read this ‘ Hooverbkreview recommendation.

About the author:

Richard lives in London, England and writes about the ancient middle east – Egypt, Canaan and Israel. His interest began with a study of how styles of literature and poetry were shared cross-culturally in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages. Having taken those studies as far as he wanted on an academic level, he switched to using the material as background for historical fiction. In a Milk and Honeyed Land and its successors sprang out of the desire to tell the stories of ordinary town and village life of those days, rather than the exploits of kings and conquerors.

He works professionally in IT quality assurance. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.