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1610: A Sundial In A Grave

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  419 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews

"It's about sex, and cruelty, and forgiveness."

Thus begins a sweeping historical adventure about two dueling swordsmen and the plot to kill a king in the grand tradition of Dorothy Dunnett and Alexander Dumas.

The year is 1610. Continental Europe is briefly at peace after years of war, but Henri IV of France is planning to invade the German principalities. In England, o

Published November 20th 2003 by Gollancz (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 30, 2011 Rachel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-books
The prologue was clever (Russell Crowe & Angelina Jolie starred in the movie!), but right there and then I should have realized what was wrong with this book...

It's the story of a swordsman with a hidden past in France/England in the 1600's who gets mixed up with powerful people all intent on using him. Rochefort sounds (from the prologue and blurb) like the greatest hero ever written.

He wasn't. I didn't even like him. The book is a mix of quick, fast action followed by lots and lots and lot
Alexis Hall
Brought to you by Reading Project 2015.

Sex and swashbuckling in about seven hundred pages.

Cross-dressing dominant swordswoman meets submissive duellist spy.

I rest my case.

(This is, however, fantasy so expect one entirely unnecessary rape of the central female character because is that inevitably is what happens to female characters in fantasy novels).
Francoise McKay
Very rarely do I completely pan any book. Author, Mary Gentle left me no choice, however, in this particular case. I didn't feel it was bad enough to get a 1 star rating, however, I am someone who has also spent a considerable amount of time researching the historical figures behind the famous Dumas characters. One of my favourites, is the underutilized Comte de Rochefort.

"The Mémoires de Monsieur le Comte de Rochefort", which the author in her foreword acknowleged, was written by Gatien Courti
May 29, 2009 Madeline rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Madeline by: ??? I think maybe Robert Cecil's Wikipedia page?
December 19, 2014
I can't figure out what's going on with 1610. I thought it was going to pull it all together, but now maybe I don't think that? Regardless, it is already much longer than it needs to be: it is definitely the sort of book you can skim. It's interesting to contrast this with Patricia Finney's Becket and Ames novels (Firedrake's Eye etc), because you do really have to read every sentence in those books if you want to get out all that there is to get out of them (there is lots!), al
Jul 19, 2009 Alan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The cover of this book promised a historical novel in the vein of "The Three Musketeers" or the two epic sagas of the under appreciated Dorothy Dunnett. However this is not a historical novel -- it is actually a work of "alternative history" mixed with fantasy.
Nothing wrong with that, I guess, if you are the type of reader who can accept preposterous plot devices. To enjoy this book allegedly set in the England of James I, you have to believe that two characters have the ability, through some ki
Stef Rozitis
Even though I did not like a lot of things about this book I am glad I persisted and read it all. I found the first 300 pages particularly difficult to keep reading and even once I realised I could get into aspects of the story, some parts were too drawn out. 600 is a lot of pages!!!

The story is a historical (possibly alternative history) look at some assassinations of kings (successful and otherwise) and on the surface level is a swashbuckling adventure. Then it also has a lot of introspective
L.  (Oxygenating My Wombspace)
While it does tend to get "out there", what with the predicting the future and everything-- Oh, and the samurai! How could I forget the samurai. Can't have a book about 17th century France/England without a samurai in it, now can we. What was I saying? Got distracted by the samurai. Anyway, in spite of all that, the story had a steady pace and action, enough to keep me reading, and made me care enough about the two main characters to worry about what would happen to them in the end.
Jan 01, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, historical, glbt
A wonderful rip-roaring historical fantasy set in France, England and Japan. I thought this was a marvellous novel and far more light-hearted than Mary Gentle's usual fare. The relationship between Dariole and Rochefort is funny and poignant and particularly wonderfully written at the beginning (I won't give away the early twist!)
I'm having a difficult time rating this book. When it's good, it's breathtakingly good, but it has some issues with pacing and I personally disliked one plot point. I would rate the parts of the book dealing with the relationship between Dariole and Rochefort with 5 stars, but overall the book is more like a 3.5.
Similar to the best of Dumas

Quite entertaining story. Reminded me of Dumas. Just a bit more of humour, less of tragedy, and a little bit more of sex!
All in all, a good, solid book.
Interesting characters, good plot, a couple of surprises here and there and...not for kids.
Apr 27, 2012 Christina marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
Ah, no. Nope. No more, thanks.
Maybe this will sound prudish, but I prefer my duels with no fondling. And if there MUST be fondling, couldn't it at least be consensual?
Quelle histoire, non mais quelle histoire !
Alors que je commençais à peine ce roman, un camarade twitter m'expliquait que, si Cendres est une tragédie, ce roman est une comédie. Je n'y croyais qu'à moitié. J'aurais dû pourtant ! Parce qu'effectivement, cette histoire est une authentique comedia del'Arte, comme on n'en fait (hélas à mon goût) que trop rarement. Mais reprenons du début.
Ce roman raconte une aventure de Rochefort (oui, LE Rochefort des trois mousquetaires, mais bien avant qu'il ne s
Suzie Hunt
I can't really understand what this novel was trying to do. It's exaggerated pantomime at times, but undercuts the humour and 'fun' kinky-swashbuckling stuff with some realistic violence (including an unnecessary and graphic rape scene) which results in an atonal mess. There's the seed of a good book here, but it's in desperate need of an editor.
Jan 07, 2012 Alytha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished 1610: A Sundial in a Grave by Mary Gentle.
(mild spoilers in the review)
Plot in a nutshell:
After having failed to avert the assassination of the French King Henri IV, the French spy/assassin/duellist Valentin Rochefort has to urgently leave France. He finally finds himself in the company of his nemesis, a young duellist who calls himself Dariole, and who refuses to leave him, and a mysterious Nipponese stranger, in London. Although they only try to lay low and find out what's going on at
Feb 08, 2009 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, historical
1610: A SUNDIAL IN A GRAVE is a book I knew nothing about when I sat down to read it. To be fair, I didn't enjoy it at first. There are scenes of explicit sex which don't really fit within the historical-adventure template and I almost gave up. But I perservered, and after a few more plot twists, I actually started enjoying it. This was around the 'beach' set piece, where the author hits her stride. Apparently this was the scene around which the rest of the novel was based and it shows.

From then
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 Althea Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Gentle is definitely one of my favorite authors. In "1610," she continues with some of the themes that run through much of her work – historical settings, swordswomen, and hermetic magic.

Rochefort is loyal man to the Duc Sully, a member of the court of France. But when Marie de Medici embroils the unwilling Rochefort in her conspiracy to kill her husband the King – and that assassination attempt is unexpectedly successful – Rochefort must flee the country, also half-unwillingly bringing alo
Milena Benini
Dec 08, 2012 Milena Benini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, historicals
This is a beautiful book. Not in any direct aesthetic sense, of course: it is, in fact, dirty (in more than one respect), and very far away from the usual, carefully prettified and sterile versions of history presented in historical novels. Yet, it still manages to leave an overall impression of beauty.

This is, also, a book of edges (as befits the story of two duelists): it balances between history and fiction (after all, most of us are more familiar with the fictional three musketeers than with
Jota Houses
A ver, es mas 1,5 estrellas que 1, porque aunque el libro es pesado como pocos, esta trufado de buenas ideas que en otras manos habrían dado para mucho. El libro tiene un planteamiento interesante con la pretensión de ser la historia real sobre la que se novelo un trasunto de los tres mosqueteros que ha dado lugar a numerosas películas. El protagonista no es otro que Rochefort, el malo de la novela de Dumas y la historia comienza con interés cuando se ve implicado en el asesinato de Enrique IV y ...more
Sep 10, 2013 Dark-Draco rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-reading
I was severely disappointed by this novel - I wanted to be blown away as I was when reading 'Ash' and maybe I raised my expectation why too high. The story itself seemed to have promise - a swashbuckling hero being manipulated by a shadowy conspiracy that can predict the future, all to avoid a meteor strike centuries away. But the pace of the book was slow and I put it down several times to start something new. And my God, the main character thinks a lot - all the time, constantly philosophizing ...more
Jan 22, 2015 cool_veins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i heart mary gentle! it took me a while until i was totally betrothed to the characters and this little pocket universe but i doubt they'll be disappearing from my long wistful sighs about the things that are wonderful and yet impossible to actualize in my current physical state that i have moments for in my day to day, such as when im on the bus, or when my math teacher is being particularly dull and repetitive

AKA i wish this book didn't end, and i'll read more of her. apparently she's in the s
Oct 25, 2012 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, firstly, its not history, not even Faction, although it contains a core of factual data; but I can't see anyone using this as a Text Book. It's a novel, you know, entertainment, escapism even. Ok, so it's very far-fetched, unlikely, improbable, initially confusing until you see the character development and then!!! You just have to know how this is going to turn out. I mean, you begin to care about the characters.
For me this was a Charity Shop pickup to be read on a journey and left. But
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]1610 is a good book, all right, a fascinating and somewhat kinky look at the year of the title and the possibilities of changing history. But of course any fictional scenario involving deterministic prediction of the future has to actually find a way of averting said deterministic prediction to make the plot interesting; I have never seen that done convincingly and this is no exception. I felt I recognised too many elements from both Ash and t ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Kerry marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2005
I've decided to give up on this. I'm 150 pages in and not really interested enough to keep going. I'm interested enough to ask someone who does finish it what happens, but not to do all the work reading it for myself. There was a brief comment on a mailing list I've just joined saying that there was a feeling the author was trying to shock the reader and I feel some agreement with that. There's a lot of coarse language and terms in here and while I'm fine with such things in my reading, I felt t ...more
Apr 20, 2010 Fence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, historical
According to the mathematic calculations of the Hermetic astrologer Robert Fludd, 1610 is the pivotal year in deciding the world’s future. It is the year that the King of England must die. And as his assassin he picks Valentin Rochefort, spy and duellist of no-little fame in France. He is also responsible for the death of King Henri IV of France.
That however was an accident of sorts, and now Rochefort is on the run. Already burdened with Dariole, a young arrogant duellist, Fludd’s interference i
Dec 14, 2015 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The year is 1610 and the reader is quickly introduced to the main character, Valentin Rouchefort, duelist and spy for France's powerful financial minister. Rouchefort is drawn into the assassination of Henri the IV of France by Henri's 2nd wife. The story had promise, but! During Rouchefort's escape from Paris the reader is submitted to an endless droning about the incidence of erections and then Rouchefort proceeds to rape his male traveling companion. Enough is enough, I closed the book and re ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In short, a pair of feuding Parisian duellists get caught up in an English mathematician's plan to change a predestined future. But there is much more to it than that. For once the back of book blurb is accurate. It is about Sex, and cruelty, and forgiveness. Rich characterisations, a complex plot and a good eye for period detail make this one very very good. Rated MA15+ for violence, sex scenes, adult themes and coarse language. 4.5/5
Ami Lovelace
I finally just gave up on this book--- which is a RARITY for me. I hardly ever not finish a book, though it may take a while. This one... well, it just didn't hook me. I may go back in a few years and try it again-- the premise of the story was an interesting idea, but getting into it has been a challenge.
Jason Bean
Aug 25, 2011 Jason Bean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strangely erotic but very entertaining. Taking characters and themes from 'The Three Musketeers' and adding elements of eroticism, conspiracy, fetishes, mathematics and Samurai honor (yes, you read all that right) Mary Gentle has crafted a unique historical adventure. A must for swashbuckling fans and those looking for something quirky and different.
Dec 08, 2007 Deirdre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still not sure about this one. Although billed as Fantasy I'm not sure that it is, it does use prediction as a method of trying to change the future but I'm sure people of the time believed that it was possible. The characters were interesting and well rounded but some scenes were a bit off for me.
I enjoyed this historical fiction filled with adventure and intrigue set in 17th century France and England. At first, it seemed slow to me, but once Rochefort and Dariole meet Saburo and head to England, the pace definitely picked up.
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This author also writes under the pseudonym of Roxanne Morgan

Excerpted from Wikipedia:
Mary Gentle's first published novel was Hawk in Silver (1977), a young-adult fantasy. She came to prominence with the Orthe duology, which consists of Golden Witchbreed (1983) and Ancient Light (1987).

The novels Rats and Gargoyles (1990), The Architecture of Desire (1991), and Left to His Own Devices (1994), toge
More about Mary Gentle...

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