Troy is a good retelling of the Trojan War from essentially the beginning of Homer's Iliad to just after the fall of Troy. Geras's heroines are Xanthe...moreTroy is a good retelling of the Trojan War from essentially the beginning of Homer's Iliad to just after the fall of Troy. Geras's heroines are Xanthe, nurse to the son of Hector and Andromache, and Marpessa, handmaiden to Helen; she weaves her own characters skillfully into the tapestry of the characters familiar from Greek mythology. We all know how the story ends, but by providing her own characters and making them sympathetic, so that the reader wants to find out what happens to them, Geras instills new interest in the inevitable fall of Troy.
I also liked how Geras handled the gods; Marpessa has God-sight and can always see and speak to them when they're present, but generally, the gods appear in visions to the characters, reveal what they've come to reveal, and disappear again, upon which the character they've spoken to forgets the encounter, though often retaining a feeling of foreboding. I'm picky about my Greek mythology retellings, and I thought Troy worked very well. (less)
I'm not really in a reviewing headspace today, so I'm not going to go on at length, but I really enjoyed this: excellent historical and cultural detai...moreI'm not really in a reviewing headspace today, so I'm not going to go on at length, but I really enjoyed this: excellent historical and cultural details, a heroine I loved, and lovely, sensuous writing. I hope she writes more YA.(less)
Locked Rooms follows almost immediately on from the previous book in the series, The Game. At long last, King is exploring Russell's shadowy past; her...moreLocked Rooms follows almost immediately on from the previous book in the series, The Game. At long last, King is exploring Russell's shadowy past; her parents and brother were killed in a car accident which she survived and which she's always thought she caused by starting a fight with her brother. When Russell decides that she and Holmes should return to England by way of San Francisco, she starts to act oddly and have nightmares of faceless men and locked rooms, and when they arrive in San Francisco, it becomes clear that there is a great deal of mystery surrounding her family's death.
While I liked the exploration of Russell's past and psyche, I wasn't thrilled with the narrative framework King chose. Previous books have been represented as Russell's own writings, which King was mysteriously chosen to present to the world; here, much of the narrative is still Russell's, but King has added several sections of third-person narrative from Holmes's point of view. Though I was interested to see Holmes's POV, I thought that the narrative voice in these sections wasn't very well handled -- it jumped from person to person, sometimes in the space of a page, and lost believability thereby. Along with the narrative framework, the solution to the mystery proved less than compelling, but Russell's psychological journey was interesting enough to leave me with a generally positive impression of the book. (less)
Justice Hall begins with a bang, when Russell opens the door and finds their friend Ali (whom we met in O Jerusalem) wounded and fainting on the doors...moreJustice Hall begins with a bang, when Russell opens the door and finds their friend Ali (whom we met in O Jerusalem) wounded and fainting on the doorstep; it turns out that Ali and his cousin Mahmoud are really Alistair and Marsh Hughenfort, and that Marsh is in fact the Duke of Beauville. Ali asks for Holmes and Russell to help Marsh, thus drawing them into a web of family loyalties and treacheries dating back to the execution of the ducal heir during WWI. The mystery is intriguing, the pacing taut, and the characterization superb; this remains one of my favorite books in this series. (less)
In late sixteenth century-England, Bess Southerns is a poor widow who has a knack for healing and foretelling. She passes on her knowledge to her daug...moreIn late sixteenth century-England, Bess Southerns is a poor widow who has a knack for healing and foretelling. She passes on her knowledge to her daughter, her granddaughter, and her best friend, who turns to darker magic in pursuit of revenge. Eventually, their whole community is destroyed by the rising witch hysteria which sends many of them to trial and death.
The book is written from Bess's perspective and then her granddaughter Alizon's, and both narrative voices are well done, achieving an old-fashioned, rural tone without being bogged down in dialect. I did feel that the first half, narrated by Bess, was better; Alizon's section, containing the witch hunt and trials, felt rushed. Overall, though, the excellent narrative voice, characterization, and historical background make this a very enjoyable book, though not a cheerful one. (less)
King Hereafter is a towering, beautifully written historical epic about Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, whom Dunnett identifies also as Macbeth, the king of...moreKing Hereafter is a towering, beautifully written historical epic about Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, whom Dunnett identifies also as Macbeth, the king of Scotland made famous by Shakespeare's play. (This identification is not widely accepted by historians, I should note, though Dunnett certainly paints a picture that works well within the confines of her story.) The politics are sufficiently intricate that I was very glad to have a working knowledge of at least the English politics of the period (just pre-Norman Conquest); without that, I would have floundered, and even with it, the book was never easy going.
Though the complexity of Thorfinn's plots and plans made it interesting to see how they would work out, I never became particularly attached with the character (as I eventually became to Lymond, the similarly complex hero of Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles). I did like Thorfinn's wife Groa, his stepson Lulach, and several of the supporting characters, but overall, I was more intellectually than emotionally engaged with King Hereafter. If you've read and enjoyed the Lymond Chronicles, I'd recommend King Hereafter; otherwise, it might be better to start your acquaintance with Dunnett somewhere else. (less)
Here Dumas takes on the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, focusing on Marguerite de Valois, Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV), and the villainous (in Du...moreHere Dumas takes on the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, focusing on Marguerite de Valois, Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV), and the villainous (in Dumas' version) Catherine de' Medici. This is as full of action and intrigue as The Three Musketeers, but I found the characters a little less well-rounded. Though Catherine is wonderfully villainous and Henry of Navarre makes a good solitary hero, the two noblemen who are the romantic leads lack the nobility of Athos or the cleverness of d'Artagnan. I guess I'll just have to pick up the next Musketeers book soon. (less)
Mary Anne is an odd sort of beast, a mix of historical fact and fiction that doesn't quite work. Mary Anne Clarke was the scandalous mistress of Georg...moreMary Anne is an odd sort of beast, a mix of historical fact and fiction that doesn't quite work. Mary Anne Clarke was the scandalous mistress of George III's son the Duke of York; she was also du Maurier's great-great-grandmother. Clearly, Mary Anne led a very interesting life; unfortunately, though du Maurier succeeds in drawing the strength of her character, her style of telling Mary Anne's story is lackluster. It would have been better as straight historical biography or as historical fiction than it is as a blend of both; as it is, there's too much invention (largely of dialogue) for it to seem reliable as history, and not enough emotion or narrative drive for it to work as fiction. (less)