Book Review: Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I’m a little depressed after finishing this.  I just realized I have to wait at least another year for a new Uhtred book.  Also – I think the tone of these books is getting darker.

In Sword of Kings, Uhtred is called upon for help from Edward’s queen, Eadigfu.  She believes Aethelhem and her step-son Aelfweard are plotting against her and her children.  She sends for Uhtred, seeking his protection against their mutual enemies.  And Uhtred, feeling restless, and also suspicious of a plot against him, against his better judgement and the advice of friends, comes to rescue her.  At which point, of course, things go terribly, horribly wrong.

Edward dies, leaving Mercia and East Anglia to Aethelstan, his true heir, and Wessex to Aelfweard, the recognized heir.  There’s also the matter of the oath Uhtred has sworn to kill Aethelhelm, and others.  (I mean really, is there any oath he hasn’t sworn at this point?)

We say goodbye to a couple old friends.  I was a little upset by the way those character deaths were handled, which seemed almost thoughtless.  It happens off page toward the end, and while Uhtred seems upset by one, he admits that he was relieved about the other, and it bothered me quite a bit.

He’s often painted as a sort of Knight in Shining Chain Mail (he literally saves like 13 orphans in London from misery in this book), and to have that line thrown in so carelessly toward the end felt like a disservice to his character.  I didn’t feel like it reflected who he really was or his past actions.  It’s hard to really say what it was without spoilers, but it wasn’t a good way to end.

Anyway- I did like some of the new characters (Beneditta).  And Finan received a lot of spotlight here, and his friendship with Uhtred is one of my favorite things about the Saxon Stories.  The battle scene at the end was fantastic.

Overall – well worth reading if you are a fellow Uhtred fan.  My hangups with this one were more personal than anything else.  Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the eARC for review.

Sword of Kings releases on November 26, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Rating:  ★★★★1/2

This is my first experience with Ruta Sepetys.  It didn’t disappoint!  The Fountains of Silence takes place under the reign of General Francisco Franco, after the Spanish Civil War and WWII.

We follow the lives of four very different characters.  Daniel is from Texas, the son of a wealthy oil tycoon.  Ana is the daughter of Republican parents that were executed when she was younger.  She lives with her older sister’s family and works at the Castellana Hilton in Madrid.  Rafa is her brother, who was forced to attend a reform school following the death and discovery of his parents, and became friends with Fuga, an aspiring torero (bull fighter).  He wants nothing more than to work the arena at Fuga’s side as his promoter and protector.  Puri is Ana’s cousin, a staunch  Catholic and supporter of Franco.  She works at the orphanage, caring for all the abandoned children.

This is a largely character driven novel and the plot takes quite some time to reveal itself.  I didn’t mind it here, because the chapters were all very quick (2 or 3 pages, sometimes less) and I was urged onward by Daniel’s relationship with Ana, as well as the tension brought on by his passion for photography in a country that was very careful not to let the rest of the world see inside Franco’s regime.  Puri and Rafa also have story line’s with some intrigue and each line pulled me in and kept me engaged at different times in different ways.

The plot, which as I said is slow to be revealed, is incredibly sinister.  The reader gets hints here and there of what is to come, but it’s something so awful the reader just doesn’t want to believe.  To get to the end and learn the truth of things… I was shocked.  It’s a secret that has really only come to light in 2018, if I understood the note at the end correctly.  A full 40 years after the death of Franco, which only heightened the impact of the story Sepetys has told.

The writing was descriptive and painted beautiful pictures without ever feeling like it was spending too much time on the details.  I love when a writer can make me feel the setting with just one sentence, one single image, and Sepetys does it wonderfully.  People standing in line for blood, a torero in a suit of lights in profile, people washing at the fountain, a garden in Madrid at night… I felt transported to another time and place and found the book almost impossible to put down.

The only thing that held this back from being a full five star read – was I wished I understood Puri’s character and story better in the end.  It’s clear in the beginning that she is young and naive, and she undergoes an awakening of sorts throughout the novel, but in the end we see her, and she’s maintained her silence for ten years, and the reader never really gets a chance to understand what she’s thinking in the end.  Thank you to the publisher for sending a review copy.

The Fountains of Silence released on October 1, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

 

Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

As a follow up to yesterday’s discussion post, it only seems fitting that I follow it up with my three DNF reviews.  I’ve decided not to rate these, because although I know why I’m not finishing, I don’t want to say I’d recommend or not recommend them, not knowing how they end.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

I was so excited for this book when I first heard about it.  It seemed like a dystopian novel with some fantastical elements (ESP) and a bunch of dreamers for characters.

What it actually is, is contemporary literature.  This is not my thing.  If I had realized that’s what it was I would have NOPED it right away.  

I made it to page 140 before I decided I didn’t want to continue.  In that time, we read three chapters, so that was strike number one.  Chapter one is 72 pages long.  That’s not a chapter.  It’s a novelette.

In that time I actually did grow to like Leif and Matthew, who I originally thought were the two main characters in the book.  If the book had continued to keep Matthew as the POV character, I actually might have continued.  Unfortunately, it jumped POVs to a character named Chris, who at that point, was one of the least interesting characters.  Chapter three switched POVs again to a character named Elspeth.  Chapter four, the point at which I decided I had no desire to continue, saw yet another shift in POV, to Julia.  Whose presence in the novel at all is questionable, nevermind the utter lack of necessity to give her a POV.  The POV shifts were strike number two.

And the final nail in the coffin was the world building, or lack thereof.  These characters seem to be protesting something, belonging to a wider movement called Occupy.

I have no idea what the hell they were protesting.

Their smaller group within the larger group, whose name I can’t recall (but whose initials are something ridiculous like RFTGFP) believes that people should strive to perceive other people’s feelings.  Leif is really good at it.  He can sense your email password. Chris cannot do it, but believes in it and believes that it’s the most important thing ever.  Or something.

I just didn’t get it.  I mean- yeah I get the larger message, we’d all be better people if we stopped to put ourselves in other people’s shoes once in awhile, but I don’t know why or how the government fits into it.  There’s some talk of Homeland Security, and tapping phones and monitoring computers… but no indication that any of it was done prior to the group hacking someone’s email.  The whole premise is bizarre, and seems overly complicated while also being too simple, and ultimately just not what I wanted.

Just a note on the writing- the author appears to be some kind of literary journalist, so he uses a lot of obscure words and fancy language that feels superficial at best because he didn’t give us a lot of insight into what the characters were actually feeling.  I consistently felt like I was missing some of the context.

Anyway- this is probably going to be a wonderful book for someone, just not me.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.  Links if you want to check it out for yourself: GoodReads and Amazon.

tld_cs

This book has the misfortune of being one more science fiction horror novel in a long list of science fiction horror novels I’ve read this year.  I’ve read at least two other books (and one novella) this year that, simply put, did it better.

This was a buddy read, which is usually sufficient reason for me to push through (no person left behind!), but my two fabulous buddies finished it in a couple of days while I was still hanging out on page 94.  At which point they advised me it did not get better and they’d forgive me for DNFing.

I happily took their advice.

I don’t have any specific complaints except that this felt more like a set up to a bad romance than there was any actual horror being included and I was extremely bored.

The setting was cool.  But I saw almost this exact setting done in The Last Astronaut by David Wellington and Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, both of which were far more atmospheric than The Luminous Dead (not to mention less time consuming).

It’s a shame because I think it could have been good if it had been a novella, or if it had booted the romance and pitted our two MCs against each other as hero and villain.

I am not finishing and I have no regrets.  Links: GoodReads and Amazon.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

This is the one I feel guiltiest about, because I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with it, except that we are just not jiving right now.

I attempted to read the introduction three times before I decided it was way too dry and skipped to the beginning.  In the beginning, we meet two heroes, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, that feel earnest in their desire to be heroes, but also a little like SpongeBob and Patrick in their competence.

SpongeBob and Patrick Gif

I hate saying that- because I know this is a cherished piece of literature in China, but the whole thing just felt a little cartoonish.

The part that I read was technically all backstory for the hero: what happened in the months leading up to his birth.  I might have continued if the introduction were dropped and the back story was reduced to 10-15 pages.  (If we’re looking at the blurb: “Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot” this is as far as I got in the book, the murdered Song patriot.)  If the pacing is this slow, 15% of the book is back story, I just don’t want to continue.

The action scenes weren’t very exciting to me.  I read once, that the difference between a good action scene and a bad one, is that a bad one will only describe what is happening.  Good action scenes will describe how a character feels when they are in the action.  This is a case where the movements are described adequately, but entirely without feeling.

I had a hard time envisioning the setting and the characters.  The villains, from what I read, seemed like they weren’t going to be very fleshed out at any point in time.  Just hooded figures, evil magistrates, maybe a shadowy emperor or something.  It’s a dated method of story telling.  Understandable, since it was originally written in 1957, but also something I don’t want to read right now.

I might come back to this at some point, knowing what I know and skipping the back story because the premise does sound very exciting (Genghis Khan!) but it’s not going to be any time soon and I don’t want to leave the book unreviewed on NetGalley.  I attempted it.  I made it through 70 dense pages or so.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a copy in exchange for review.  A Hero Born can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

Book Review: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

WotW_BC

Rating:  ★★★★

I realize I’ve been talking about this series a lot lately (I’m sorry!) but it’s only because I’m so excited for the next book, Sword of Kings, due out in November.  I had put off reading this one, scared it was finally going to be over, but with another book scheduled for release it felt like it was finally time to put my fears aside.

I read a handful of other reviews on GoodReads when I finished, and multiple times I saw this series accused of being formulaic, and perhaps it is, but I’m not one to mind formulaic when the formula works.  What I love about these books is the characters.  This late in the game I do find myself missing some of the older characters, Alfred, Brida, Ragnar… and Aethelflaed, but aside from being Uhtred’s story, this is really the story about the making of England, and in a story that epic the characters will inevitably change.

Uhtred is in his 60s for this book.  He’s more cautious, superstitious, he’s less impulsive, less confident, anger doesn’t control him the way it used to.  I found myself missing some of his other qualities as a younger man, but his wit is still fully intact and there were several parts of this book that made me laugh out loud.

I found myself tripped up again and again by the names.  Specifically the Aethelhelms, Older and Younger, (or was it the Aethelweards? seriously I can’t remember).  Then there seems to be a whole slew of other Aethel-somethings..  sigh.  I remember Svein of the White Horse and Ubbe Lothbrok, and the Ivars and Haesten and Odda… I can’t remember where the heck the Aethelhelms came in.

Anyway- this book actually felt less formulaic than the previous 10.  I think it had a lot to do with Uhtred’s character development, but also, this is the weakest he has ever been physically.  His victory in this book never feels guaranteed.  There are no last minute, evil genius save-the-day plans (like bee-bombs, although there is a hysterical smiting).  A looming dread blankets the whole book, from beginning to end.

The other elements of a Saxon Story are all there: the fun action scenes, the witty comebacks, the general disdain towards Christianity from Uhtred.  Most of all – the laughs.  It’s what generally what keeps me coming back, so I’ll end this review with a little pagan humor:

“You’ve got dirt on your forehead,” I said, “so has he,” I pointed to the other priest.
“Because it’s Good Friday, lord.  The day our Lord died.”
“Is that why they call it good?”

War of the Wolf can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Sword of Kings Sword of Kings by Bernard Corwnell

Author:  Bernard Cornwell

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 336 Pages

Release Date: November 26, 2019

Blurb: His blood is Saxon.

His heart is Viking.

His battleground is England.

Why I’m Excited for It:  ….

IT’S UHTRED.

Okay so I know that blurb is lacking… but honestly I’m just assuming it’s because Cornwell and Harper Collins don’t need to write them anymore to sell these books.

I’ll confess I haven’t read the last book in The Saxon Stories, War of the Wolf, despite the fact that it’s sitting on my shelf and has been since it released, because I was so scared Uhtred was going to die and I was going to be an emotional wreck.  But with a new book on the horizon it’s finally time to pick up War of the Wolf I think.  (And maybe re-read the rest of the series too.)

Sword of Kings can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

What new books are you looking forward to?

 

Book Review: Inland by Tea Obreht

Inland by Tea Obreht

Rating:  ★★★★★

“We were bound up, you and I…Though it break our hearts, we had as little choice then as we have now.”

This is one of those books that I’ve been dreading writing the review for because nothing I say can really convey what makes it so great.  I like literary fiction, but it’s rare that I will pick up anything that’s straight up literature.  This particular book interested me for two reasons: the historical, western context, and the promise of supernatural elements.

Inland doesn’t disappoint on either front.  The story follows two main characters, Lurie of the Mattie gang, and Nora Lark of a small town called Amargo, in the Arizona territory.  It isn’t until the very end that the reader comes to understand how and why these two stories are being told side by side.  That’s all I’m saying about that because it’s just better that you know nothing going in.

This is a character driven story, with Nora’s part of it happening over (I think) the course of one day, from morning to night.  She often reminisces on things that happened in the past, her relationship with her husband and people in the town, the birth and lives of her children, etc.  These parts can be very slow, but they all contribute to painting the picture of Nora’s life and the people in it.

Life in Arizona isn’t easy and every day has been a struggle.  There are a few supernatural elements to her story as well.  Her niece-by-marriage, Josie, is a medium, conducting seances with the dead, and her son Toby has been seeing a strange beast roaming their land.  Nora believes both things are just figments of wild imaginations.

“And what did you ever learn from me–save to keep to yourself, and look over your shoulder?”

In contrast to Nora, we have Lurie.  He’s a Turkish immigrant that is orphaned as a child and eventually falls in with the Mattie gang.  He gets on the wrong side of the law early in the book and we follow his story as he runs from Marshall Berger and from his past.  Lurie also has a supernatural ability to see and speak to the dead.  If they touch him, he feels their last wants, and they consume him as his own needs.

The contrast in their stories is brilliant.  Between the two of these characters, it’s easy to assume Lurie would be the least likable, and that the reader would come to care deeply for Nora, the struggling, “innocent”, ranch-wife. But Obreht brilliantly turns this assumption on it’s head by making Nora the more unlikeable of the two.  She can sometimes be cruel to those around her, including her husband and children, but most of all her niece, and she holds some clear prejudices against the local native population.  Meanwhile, Lurie proves himself to be a man capable of caring deeply for others, and a man, maybe, searching for redemption.

“The longer I live…the more I have come to understand that extraordinary people are eroded by their worries while the useless are carried ever forward by their delusions.”

Despite it’s slow pacing, the book is so hard to put down.  Different little mysteries are introduced along the way, while other interesting little connections and reveals are being made (not between Nora and Lurie, but within the narrative of each of their separate lives).  Different story elements and characters in the story return at the most unexpected times, keeping the reader surprised throughout.  It’s a dramatic story that feels perfectly mundane, and I’m still in awe of it.

Lurie’s parts are written in second person, though I won’t tell you who he is addressing.  The writing itself is gorgeous.  It isn’t as impactful as say, The Mere Wife, but it’s emotional, and often left me feeling a little wistful.  By the end of it, I was in tears.

This review has probably rambled on for far too long already, and I haven’t remotely done the book justice.  Just know if any part of this story or review appeals to you at all, it’s well worth picking up and reading through to the end, where the reveals and realizations will surprise and haunt you for a long time to come.  Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.

Inland releases on August 13th and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Library Book Haul

How do you bust a reading slump?

Read ALL the books.

So I went to the library and got ALL the books.

Okay not really.  Here’s what’s up next:

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Initial impressions: The writing is excellent.  I only read the first chapter but it was super atmospheric.  It was very easy to picture the setting: people riding bikes and horse drawn carriages in the streets.  A bustling city with soldiers coming and going.  The shadow of war hanging over them all.  The intrigue level is super high.  Nothing is really explained.  It starts out normal enough with a doctor leaving work for the day, and an emergency patient coming through.  And then the magic and witchery starts.  I was expecting more magical realism than straight up magic (which honestly is not really my thing) but I like it so far.  It seems to be hinting at an underground mage society so I’m excited to see where that leads to.  A promising start!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Initial impressions: First of all- GoodReads told me this was 182 pages long.  It’s not.  I’m willing to forgive it in lieu of the fabulous introduction from Stephen King.  When he found this book, he said he was looking for a book about “how boys really are.”  Golding’s influence on King is obvious.  As I read through the first chapters I kept thinking it felt familiar. Finally I realized it was because it feels like King.  The characters feel real, the prose isn’t overly flowery (though more flowery than King’s).  I’m a little confused about how these boys got to this island, but so far that first chapter is the one that resonated with me the most, so I’ll be continuing with this one before the others.

Initial Impressions: This is confusing as hell.

Seriously- why do authors think writing without quotation marks is a good thing?  Not cool man. I had to re-read a paragraph like eight times, move on, and then double back when I realized there weren’t any quotation marks (and honestly I’m still not sure I understood the conversation).  Otherwise, the prose is spot on.  I’ve highlighted a couple quotes I love already, and if it wasn’t for Lord of the Flies, this would have been my second pick to continue reading.  I’m not sure what the judge’s deal is. I know he’s the big bad in this novel though, so I’m excited to see what it’s leading up to.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Initial impressions: I just read a book where a man gets shot in the chest, kills another man dead for taking his shoes, but pulling the wings off a fat little bumblebee bothered me more.  There’s something wrong with me right?  Anyway- I was immediately sucked in by the premise.  A little girl meets a strange man.  There’s something sinister happening with the strange man (Harper Curtis).  That much is obvious from the start.  He seems to hint that he’s acting under orders from some other organization, but that doesn’t make you like him any more.  The writing is great and I’m curious to see where it goes.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Initial impressions: I think I’ve only really read the introduction and the prologue so far, but I’m a little disappointed.  I’m still coming down from the high that was The Mere Wife, so I had high expectations.  My favorite type of writing, my favorite type of book, is one that I like to describe as unapologetic.  The author writes in a way that’s bound to make the reader uncomfortable, exposing all the ugly truths within a person or a society or practice, but so far this isn’t that.  It doesn’t carry the same level of force that The Mere Wife does. Still, I haven’t read much so I’ll remain hopeful.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Initial impressions: I wasn’t really interested in The Queens of Innis Lear when it first released.  The title, the name… it seemed like a pretty generic fantasy to me.  It looked and sounded similar to Four Dead Queens and Three Dark Crowns, which all released at about the same time. But I recently stumbled across the title Lady Hotspur which I added strictly because of the title.  When I checked out the blurb of that, it referenced this.  So I doubled back to TQOIL and read the blurb, and thought what the hell.  I liked King Lear, who not give it a go?  I hope it maintains the humor and wit of King Lear throughout.

So that’s ALL the books.

Have you read any of them?  Are they on your TBR?

Also- please send help.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Rating:  ★★★★★

Friends!  I am SO EXCITED to share this review with you today.  This is the book I feel like I have been waiting for since this terrible reading slump hit back in October. I really just needed something to sweep me away- to make me care, to give me a reason to stay curled up on the couch all day and read. It has been a really long time since I read a 500+ page book in a 24 hour period. It was impossible to put down.

This is the story of Omat, an Inuit two-spirit shaman living around 1000 AD, and what happens when his world collides with the world of gods and vikings. It was part survival story, part romance, and part spiritual journey. Extremely rich in mythology and folklore and heavy on the magical realism.

I’m not sure what pronoun is quite correct to use for Omat- so I’m going to stick with ‘he’ because I believe that would be the preferred pronoun. We start with Omat’s miraculous birth, and within the first 20 pages Brodsky had brought me to tears twice. Omat’s tribe is very, very small, and at the time of his birth, the tribe had just lost most of their hunters to the ice. From page one- the stakes already felt extremely high, and continued to remain so throughout the book.

Omat’s grandfather is the tribe’s angakkuq (shaman), and he recognizes when Omat is born that his powers are already greater than his own, so Omat begins training to take his place. This allowed for a lot of the mythology and the folklore to unfold in what I felt were natural ways. Nothing ever felt like an out of place info-dump, or that it was being explained to me for the sake of knowledge alone.

Aside from the mythology and folklore the history itself felt very rich. The reader is given a lot of insight into tools and hunting practices they might have used, the way igloos are built and how they traveled across the land, various social customs, etc.. Again- it was never something that felt dry or unnecessary, and though I myself am no expert in Inuit history, I would wager that Brodsky’s research was very thorough.

The romance was my absolute favorite part of this book. (Spoilers ahead.) Omat being two-spirited brought an added barrier to their relationship. His attraction to Brandr is obvious to the reader from the first moment they meet, but Omat, struggling with the female part of his identity, does not want Brandr to think he is anything but a man. Brandr on the other hand, is struggling with a lot of his own demons, and feelings of general unworthiness. I loved everything about this pair from the moment they met. I loved the obstacles they had to overcome to get from unlikely allies to friends and eventually lovers. I loved that they both had their own identities to grapple with before they could ever find acceptance in the other person. This romance is epic on the scale of Outlander.

I do want to comment about the content. This is a survival story. And more than that it is a survival story in the Artic where food is scarce and hunger is common. There is a lot of hunting and killing of animals and it’s animals that I think we generally frown upon killing today like seals and whales. It’s always done respectfully but it can be hard to read if you’re sensitive to that. Other content warnings: Rape, a really brutal scene of violence against women and children, slavery, loss of parents, loss of siblings, and partners.

The writing was wonderful and an excellent complement to the setting itself. You could feel the biting wind and the frost in your face, the pangs of hunger from subsisting on meager meals, the feeling of fullness from that first real meal eaten in days. I was reminded a lot of the atmospheric writing in The Bear and the Nightingale, though the books themselves have little in common.

If I had to criticize one thing- it would be the climax of the story. ***END BOOK SPOILERS: I wasn’t entirely sure the tone of that final showdown between the Aesir and the Jotunn really fit the rest of the book. The prior spiritual journeys and memory sharing I would have classified as magical realism, while the final battle felt like pure fantasy. By that time, I was already so invested in the book I was willing to shrug it off.

END SPOILERS.

I loved this book enough that I will probably buy a hard copy to keep forever. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in Inuit and Norse history and mythology.

Throwback Thursday: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I’m sorry  I’m giving you one of my old reviews when I haven’t given you a new one yet this week.  I do have some new ones coming though (and I’m super excited to share them with you!) I just have to finish reading the books first.

Last Throwback Thursday I reviewed Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, and while nothing would please me more than to share the reviews of the other three books I think they start to get spoilery and include information from the first book.  If you’d like to read them, you can check out my GoodReads reviews here: (Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, and Tyrant’s Throne).

This week, I’ve been in a grimdark sort of mood, so it seemed only fitting that I share my review of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns.  I am planning on reading King of Thorns sometime this year so it makes sense.

PoT_ML

Rating:  ★★★★★

So on to the review. I’m giving it 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. This is not going to be a book for everyone. It just isn’t. The protagonist, is a murderous, traitorous, self serving, evil genius. Nothing is sacred to Jorg but vengeance and victory. Vengeance and victory can come at any cost, and Jorg is willing to pay that price. Loyalty and brotherhood are meaningless to him.

I am okay with this. As to what that says for my own mental state, well, let’s not look at that too closely. The thing is, a character like Jorg is just so damn rare. You’ll cringe every time he throws someone off a cliff. Or knifes a brother for looking at him the wrong way. He’s smug. He’s arrogant. He’s a bastard. If you’re like me, you’ll be rooting for him in the end.

Because his father, the real villain of the story, is somehow worse. I think. Minor spoiler: I don’t know if Jorg would ever stab his own son. Maybe he would. Maybe they are equally evil. For now, the father is worse.

The writing was excellent. This is a story about murder and the destruction of kingdoms and a rise to power and Lawrence makes it poetic somehow. Jorg’s inner monologue is fascinating. He’s evil and he knows it, but he still questions it on occasion. Sometimes he questions if he’s evil enough. Sometimes he mourns the loss of his childhood. Sometimes he seems perfectly happy to be rid of his innocence.

The plot is very action driven, with plenty of blood, gore and battle to go around. The action is also extremely well written, never a dull moment. Jorg always has an ace up his sleeve or a pawn to sacrifice.

There are some plot holes that I’m not sure how to fill. I’m hoping they are explained in later series. Namely, why this marauding band of brothers follows around a fourteen year old boy. It has nothing to do with his Princedom (excepting Makin- maybe). Of what I’ve seen of Jorg in this book I just didn’t get it. I understood a little why the one called the Nuban followed Jorg. And maybe it’s as simple as the brothers were sheep who needed a wolf to lead them. I don’t know. Little Rikey’s situation certainly isn’t explainable.

All in all it was great. I am SO excited to read the next in the series and check out some of Lawrence’s other series as well. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes dark fantasy and doesn’t mind a less than respectable protagonist.

The Time of the Wolf by James Wilde

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Rating:  ★★★

This is a historical fiction retelling of Hereward, a hero of medieval England during the time of William the Bastard.

It’s a good story told in a poorly constructed novel. I have so many problems with it and yet I read it through to the end, even though it took two weeks, so I’m giving it three stars.

My first issue is Hereward himself. It’s clear the author adores him as a historical figure, but that’s a lot of the problem. He’s almost never referred to as anything other than “warrior”. We are shown time and again that he is a warrior, but I didn’t need to also be told he was a warrior in every other sentence. I was beat senselessly over the head with this information.  It felt like the author didn’t trust his readers to see that Hereward was a warrior so he felt the need to keep reminding us.  My enjoyment of this novel would have improved ten fold if 90% of the instances of the word warrior had been removed.

There are a lot of scenes that are laughably ludicrous. The first that comes to mind is the scene where Hereward fights naked in the snow. He uses his clothing to tie a man up to a tree or a rock or something. Apparently this task requires literally all of his clothes. Then he slowly, silently kills four or five men lurking around the area. While it’s snowing.

Just… why? It’s so stupid. What did he need to be naked for? Magic in some rope. That would have been more believable. I’m supposed to believe a naked man is a deadly killer and not shivering violently in the snow? There’s another scene where he rises naked out of an icy pool of blood that’s constantly referred to. That was more believable but I felt like it was put in for “awe” value rather than serving any real purpose.

Then there’s Alric. His only real purpose in the novel is to remind you what a bad ass Hereward is and how his soul needs saving. *eye roll*

Then there’s the actual plot of the novel. It sort of starts out as a strong revenge plot, but the revenge portion is artificially resolved 50% in, SPOILER: because Hereward just decides to walk away from it. Umm.. okay.  We still follow what’s going on with the characters Hereward wants revenge on, so it feels like he’ll be back to take it some day.

But then 75% in, the revenge plot resolves itself, without Hereward even being present, and you are forced to wonder why you’re still reading. It was a very odd place to end. So everything that happens to Hereward while the plot resolves itself is basically filler, and then the conclusion comes and you feel like you’re ready to stop reading or pick up the next book, but Hereward has to be roped back into it somehow so it continues. Furthermore his motivations for doing what he does makes literally no sense.

The writing was decent, but Holy Similes Batman! The beginning of the book is absolutely loaded with them. Like every other sentence. I found myself re-reading overly flowery and overly complex sentences just to try and figure out what the author was trying to say.

So the beginning of the book I didn’t love because of Hereward’s hero worship, and the end I didn’t love because of the bad plot structure. But the action was good and I did like some of the characters, Acha, Vadir and Judith were great. Redwald is probably the best characterized. He felt more real than any of them and his motivations make the most sense even if they are a little simple.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will continue the series. I will probably check out a few other books written about this time period before I decide.