A Sundial in a Grave: 1610
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A Sundial in a Grave: 1610

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  305 ratings  ·  40 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, only

Kindle Edition, 692 pages
Published (first published 2003)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
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.
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.
May 09, 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?
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...more
Althea Ann
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...more
Milena Benini
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
Oct 16, 2012 Kerry marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2005, fantasy
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
Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/32752.html[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
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...more
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...more
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
Jason Bean
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.
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.
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.
Ginnie Leiner
Okay, this one was a bit strange but intriguing. I ordered it off ebay because it was recommended if you like Pillars of the Earth or World Without End, both of which I loved! It had an intriguing premise, that certain events preclude certain others that seem unrelated. Also an intriguing cast.
Elizabeth Moffat
I picked up this book from my local library intrigued by the blurb on the back. Unfortunately blurb is all it was, the story had the potential to be very interesting but bored me before I was halfway through it, managed 250 pages before giving up.
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.
This book was the worst historical fiction book I've read. The characters were ridiculously terrible including their dialogue. The story didn't make sense often, and it was extremely long and painful to read.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I've read at least two books based on the premise of predicting the future through math, one by Isaac Asimov and one by Michael Flynn. This one just didn't grab me enough for me to want to keep reading.
Officially giving up on this after 3 months. I just don't care. I liked Ash: A Secret History, but not only does this one not grab me, it's gotten terrible reviews. Why waste precious book time?
Steve Rippington
First up, this isn't a novel for the easily offended. It took me two attempts to get through but I'm glad I put in the effort to get past the first 50 pages. Surprisingly kinky and intelligent.
It would have been a four-star book if it had been about half the length. It seemed there were so many good places to stop, but it just kept going.
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Writes erotica under the pseudonym 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), together with s...more
More about Mary Gentle...
Grunts Ash: A Secret History (Book of Ash, #1-4) Golden Witchbreed A Secret History (Book of Ash,  #1) Rats and Gargoyles

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