It is based on a true murder in Edwardian England.
The detective work aimed at solving the murder itself, and the switchi...moreI liked this as a quick read.
It is based on a true murder in Edwardian England.
The detective work aimed at solving the murder itself, and the switching of suspicions amongst the suspects is not the most satisfying aspect of this book. What I liked about it was the way that the class divides, and the inequality of the sexes, in those times are brought to life. These conflicts make the police work difficult and cause a lot of animosity, which turns to violence at times.
The research is good, and it is obvious, from the author's comments at the end of the book, that Minette Walters has her own opinions on what actually happened.
Worth picking up to fill an hour or two of your life with some pleasant and interesting reading.(less)
I just love good historical fiction! It brings history to life for me in a way that those boring history lessons at school never did. My favourite wri...moreI just love good historical fiction! It brings history to life for me in a way that those boring history lessons at school never did. My favourite writers in this genre are Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwell, although there are many others who light up all of my lights.
There are many books about the Battle of Agincourt, but this has to rate as one of the best. That is unless you want the non-fiction, factual version of events. But who is to say what is factual? There is even much disagreement amongst the scholars of the period.
The story, as told by Cornwell, follows the life of an archer, Nick Hook. He is outlawed early in the narration for hitting a priest. The priest deserved much more than a punch in the stomach for what he did, but Hook would've been caught and hung had he meted out the correct justice.
Nick is a brilliant archer, and soon finds himself in France, in Soissons, where he witnesses some horrendous betrayal and violence, but those events lead to one positive outcome: he meets the lady who is eventually to become his wife.
I can't say much more without giving away the whole story, and I don't want to spoil it for you.
There is a lot of graphic violence in this book, but it is, I believe, the reality of that age.
(view spoiler)[One totally unbelievable episode in the book comes towards the end. Sir Martin eventually manages to corner Hook's wife, Melisande, and attempts to rape her. Whilst pinned down by her assailant, she manages to reach into her personal sack with one hand, load her crossbow, jam it between her body and his (wouldn't it be too big?), and pull the trigger. Ridiculous! If she'd stabbed him in the neck with a crossbow bolt, or a small dagger, I could've swallowed that, but this version of events was just impossible! (hide spoiler)]
The narrative was generally fast flowing, but there were occasions when there was just too much detail, and that slowed the whole story down and irritated me somewhat.
I also felt that the book could really have benefited from the inclusion of a glossary of definitions of armoury, clothing, weaponry and other terms of the age. I don't wish to interrupt my enjoyment of the story by breaking off to consult my dictionary or encyclopaedia.
This small criticism aside, this is a really great read, and I would recommend it to all fans of historical fiction and Bernard Cornwell.
Note: You may well ask, "Why Azincourt rather that Agincourt?" The answer is that this is, and was, the correct spelling of the name of the nearby village which gave its name to the famous battle.(less)
The graphic descriptions in this book, some of them very violent and gory, others depicting the smells and sights of the ninth century, are wonderful....moreThe graphic descriptions in this book, some of them very violent and gory, others depicting the smells and sights of the ninth century, are wonderful. They do what historical fiction should do: bring the history of the age to life.
Cornwell bends recorded historical recorded fact, which is something by which I am never fully convinced, to suit his good story.
Uhthred is the leading character. We witness his development over ten years from the age of ten. He becomes heir to a minor lordship in the north east of England, on the mainland coast opposite Lindisfarne, when his brother is captured and beheaded by the marauding Vikings.
Uhtred is captured and adopted by the very Viking leader who killed his brother. He comes to enjoy the Danish ways and finds them much more exciting than the Saxon and Christian ways. This leads to difficult personal choices as he gorws up. His loyalties are severely tested all the way through, and he is never completely sure of where he should be. This becomes even more difficult after he is summoned by King Alfred the Great.
I cannot tell you much more with out spoiling it for you.
Some of the characters, including Uhtred, develop very strongly, whilst others remain shallow and weak. I fear for the development of King Alfred's character in particular. As one of the main characters in the entire series, he should have more depth and colour by the end of the first book. He has his own weaknesses and flaws, but these should be part of a rich character development. I actually came to believe that Cornwell disliked the King that he researched, and his prejudice comes shining through. I may be wrong, but my hope is that the weaker characters will build in the second book, which I intend to read very soon.(less)
It took me a long time to read this book, because it is a long book. It is way, way, way, way, WAY too long!
The story is great, but there were many t...moreIt took me a long time to read this book, because it is a long book. It is way, way, way, way, WAY too long!
The story is great, but there were many times when I found myself wanting to shout a the words in front of my eyes, for page after page, "Just get on with it!" There was a long period during which reading this book reminded me of my marathon running days. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience, but it was sometimes a labour of love: between the 21 and 25 mile points. I suppose that equates to about pages 600-720.
Also, I knew what was going to happen. Most of the storylines are predictable. And the underlying love story is pretty dire.
Having said all of that, this is a great work of historical fiction. My benchmark is always to ask myself if the characters and dialogue and actions bring the history to life for me. In this case, they certainly did that job extraordinarily well.Clearly, a huge amount of research has gone into this book, and the detail comes shining through.
But, as I said at the top of my review, it is far too long. Donna Gillespie would have made a much better job of it if she had condensed the story to, at most, half of its final length. The strength and power of her story-telling would have been much more compelling, and it would have gripped my attention until I had finished.
If you are interested in this period of European history, and want some colourful, graphic descriptions, and you have stamina, pick up this book and read it.
In my opinion Gladiatrix and Roma Victrix are much better reads than The Light Bearer. These two books are just about right in length, and the are fast-paced and dynamic. There are a lot of shocks and surprises in both stories, and Russell Whitfield's writing certainly stirs the emotions. I am still grieving for some of his characters now!
I agonised over my rating for The Light Bearer. If ever a book deserved exactly 3.5 stars, in my opinion, this was the one. Do I like it (3 stars), or do I really like it (four stars)? In the end, I decided that the quality of the writing, the detailed descriptions, and the excellent research could persuade me to round my rating up to four stars.(less)
This is the story of a Spartan priestess called Lysandra, who, as the only survivor of a shipwreck is captured by the Romans, en...moreAction-packed and hot!
This is the story of a Spartan priestess called Lysandra, who, as the only survivor of a shipwreck is captured by the Romans, enslaved, and trained as a gladiatrix. However, her previous training in combat techniques, physical fitness and power, mind and spirit, put her way ahead of many of her rivals.
Lysandra is a strong and insular woman, but anyone who is lucky enough to become her friend can be sure to count on her loyalty. The opposite, of course, can be expected by her enemies.
As you would expect, there is a lot of violence and passion littered throughout the book. It is very well researched, and ties in with what is known of the history of the region. I was impressed by the description of the combat, whether in training or in the arena, because it is so aptly short and punchy which really grips my attention as a reader. There is no flannel to distract me from the action.
The characters are all brilliantly developed, and they interact so well too. It is easy to feel the heat and the emotions that the author has so enthusiastically penned for our delight. It is not just the interactions between individual characters which stirred me, there are also fierce interactions between the races too.
I would warn prospective readers against getting too attached to any particular characters. Just when you feel as if one of them has been you life-long friend, you are likely to find them lying, hacked to death, in a pool of blood on the floor!
The only slight negative comment that I have about Gladiatrix is that there were a lot of small errors which should have been picked up by the proof reader(s). However, although this usually irritates the hell out of me, the story-telling swept me along at such a pace that I became much more forgiving than usual.
Finally, it is impossible for me to conclude this review without mentioning that, about a third of the way through, you will read one of the most sexually arousing lesbian scenes that you could ever come across. Whatever your gender or sexuality, I would challenge you to read this passage without becoming so turned on that you will have to stop and pause for breath. I won’t tell you which page to turn to, as you will easily recognise the piece when you get to it.
Gldiatrix is the way that historical fiction should be; for me, anyway.(less)
This is great writing. It is what historical fiction is all about and is why this is my favourite genre. I really wish that I could write like this.
Co...moreThis is great writing. It is what historical fiction is all about and is why this is my favourite genre. I really wish that I could write like this.
Conn Iggulden excels at bringing the characters and the events to life. It is fast and furious. It is captivating. It is heavily atmospheric. Well done Mr Iggulden; again!
As Ghengis recalls his armies from Chin and other distant outposts so that his united Mongol forces can wage more terror towards the south and west, huge rivalries brew up and approach boiling point. These rivalries are at their hottest amongst his own family members, and become particularly intense as the Great Khan announces his successor.
Having read the previous two books in the series, and you really must before you open this one, you will be expecting a high dosage of gruesome brutality. You will not be disappointed. In fact, I can confidently predict that your expectations will be exceeded. However, all of that brutality is in context and is absolutely necessary.
This book will stir your emotions. Iggulden builds the characters up to such an extent that you will feel that you know all of them very well. You will have your favourites, and there will be those whom you will hate. You will feel that many of your new-found friends and acquaintances, and those characters from the previous episodes, are treated unfairly, and you will be awaiting the awful revenge.
There is one particular character in this series whom you will probably already dislike and distrust if you have read thus far. Will he escape, or will he die a horrible death? You can probably guess which, but I won't spoil it by revealing his identity, and you will almost certainly know who I mean when you have read the book. I'll be surprised if you don't.
I can't say much more without adding spoilers. You'll just have to read it, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. It has been a long wait, for me, since I read Lords of the Bow, but it has been worth the wait.(less)
If I had read this book as a standalone, without its three predecessors, I think that I may have awarded it five stars. It really is a wonderful work...moreIf I had read this book as a standalone, without its three predecessors, I think that I may have awarded it five stars. It really is a wonderful work of historical fiction. However, it is just not up to the standard of the other three in this series.
There is quite a lot of politics in this one, and the rivalries between the secions of the family continue. There is a fair share of savage brutality, and some of it is shocking, but you expect that by now, don't you?
Ogedai is the new Khan, but only just. There is an unsuccessful attempt on his life on the eve of the oath-taking which will confirm his supreme position in the Mongol nation. Some skilful manipulation resolves the splits and rivalries between the most powerful, and makes all of the protagonists relatively happy.
The Khan continues the expansion of the empire, and the building of cities. This may not be the way that Ghengis would have operated, but it works. Sadly, Ogedai is ill. The radical solution is beyond anything that you can imagine, but Iggulden makes it totally believable.
The torrid pace of all of the books in the Conqueror series continues, but I just felt that this was one book too far. Don't let me put you off reading it though. It is still a superb read, and I commend it to you.(less)
This book is one more reason for me to declare my love for historical fiction. The facts behind the female...moreYet another WWII story of love and conflict
This book is one more reason for me to declare my love for historical fiction. The facts behind the female flyers that moved the aircraft to operational airfields were fascinating. However, without the story that Helena P Schrader, I would have struggled to wade my way through the dry descriptions.
The story brings the well researched facts to life. I have to say that the ending, well, the ending before the end of the book, is rather predictable. What would often be entitled “Epilogue,” wraps up all of the loose ends very nicely and made me feel good.
There were a few surprises littered throughout the text. Without spoiling them, I shall reveal one of them. Remember that this story is based in the days when radar was still being developed in secret, so the pilots were flying blind if they flew into cloud, or if the airfields were fog-bound. The surprise, for me, was that the pilots were instructed to bale out and ditch their plane if they were unable to land safely on an airfield. Of course, some of them bravely disobeyed these orders and managed to land against all the odds.
You can read enough about the story in the description of the book and on the cover for me not to need to tell you more. Suffice to say that it is a love story weaved around some serious flying and combat action. There are some annoying characters in the book, but you wouldn’t want to read a book where all of the characters are nice, would you? (less)
This is the final book of the series following Matthew Shardlake’s adventures and it is no coincidence...moreAn excellent conclusion to the Shardlake series
This is the final book of the series following Matthew Shardlake’s adventures and it is no coincidence that it carries the same name as the final book of the New Testament. The intrepid lawyer’s main mission, for, as usual, he has several, is to track down a serial killer who bases his trail of horror on events that are described in biblical version.
I warn you that there are some stomach-churning descriptions within this book. One of the lesser pictures that Sansom conjures up early on is that of early dentures, made from wood and mounted with real, human teeth. Yeuch!
Shardlake is also trying to help a teenage boy who is incarcerated in the infamous “hospital for the mentally ill”: Bedlam. He also has to cope with the declining marriage of his assistant, Barak, and the lady for whom he’d fallen in “Sovereign”, Tamasin.
Once again, this is a dangerous mission for our hunch-backed hero. And, as in previous adventures, there are very few people whom he can trust. Because the villain is following a defined pattern, there is a small element of predictability, but this is skilfully used by the author to raise the level of tension to almost unbearable levels. Knowing roughly what is going to happen, but not how it is going to happen is excruciating!
Whether you are a fan of historical fiction, or a fan of crime mysteries and thrillers, I would recommend that you read your way through this series from beginning to end. Of course, if you are a fan of both genres, you are already on your way to the bookstore or library. (less)
This is the third in the series of Matthew Shardlake adventures and, in my opinion, the best so far. As usual, the lawyer em...moreAction packed and dramatic
This is the third in the series of Matthew Shardlake adventures and, in my opinion, the best so far. As usual, the lawyer embarks on a dual, dangerous mission, and can trust nobody save, perhaps, his faithful assistant, Barak.
At every turn there is murder, mystery and suspense. Shardlake appears to have many more lives that the nine that are generally accredited to a cat. It is amazing that he survives each day.
Most of this story is set in York, and revolves around the disputed right, at least in the north of England, of Henry VIII to occupy the throne. Who are the conspirators and who are the loyalists? Tension is high, and personal safety is fragile. In those times, upsetting the wrong person, even if one were allied to that person, could lead to torture and loss of life.
You can read the background to the story on the cover or in other reviews, so I won’t bother to go into that. What I want to get across is, that although this book is long, it is action packed, and full of twists and turns, right up to the final page. There are some passages which will turn the strongest of stomachs. All in all, it is a great read. (less)
Matthew Shardlake has put the nerve-wracking episode of his investigations at Scarnsea Monastery behind him and is living the relati...moreContinual suspense
Matthew Shardlake has put the nerve-wracking episode of his investigations at Scarnsea Monastery behind him and is living the relatively quiet life of a London lawyer of the Tudor era. Suddenly, his peace is shattered. He is asked to defend a young lady who is accused of murdering her cousin, but refuses to speak to anyone, even Shardlake. A difficult task, and even more stressful because failing to plea when brought to court in those days resulted in a slow and agonising death by “pressing.”
Almost simultaneously, Shardlake is called to the chambers of Lord Cromwell, who commissions him to seek one of the earliest weapons of mass destruction, Greek fire. It is a very dangerous assignment, made even more so because it is so difficult to work out whom he can trust. Wisely, he decides to trust no-one.
There is suspense throughout this book, and more than a few close scrapes. I really enjoyed it. (less)
Having not been overly impressed by Winter in Madrid, I was a little bit worried about picking up another book by the...moreA thrilling Tudor detective tale
Having not been overly impressed by Winter in Madrid, I was a little bit worried about picking up another book by the same author, but this one was a bargain buy, which I couldn’t resist. I am so happy that I did pick it up, as it is exactly the sort of book that I really enjoy. It is historical fiction which has a strong story with strong characters. I believe that the historical dates, personalities and links are all fairly accurate, but it would not bother me in the least if there were a few errors. I am not about to check.
Thomas Cromwell, who is Henry VIII’s Vicar General, orders Matthew Shardlake, a high-ranking and hunch-backed lawyer, to proceed to the monastery of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast, to investigate the death of Robin Singleton, who was the King’s Commissioner. Shardlake is also awarded the King’s Commission, so that he steps straight into the post left vacant the murder victim whose killer he must seek. This makes him very nervous, yet determined to find the truth without coming to any harm. I freely admit that it made me, the reader, very nervous too.
Shardlake can trust nobody except, perhaps, his for trusty assistant.
The way that the story is told, in the first person singular, opens up the deep-rooted feelings that the main character has about the politics and religious antics (is there any difference?) of the time, and leads the reader into inevitable, parallel lines of thinking. That is very clever, and I love to be challenged on several levels by a work of historical fiction.
There are a few minor irritations. For example, without spoiling anything because this occurs very early on, I wondered why Shardlake failed to investigate the origins of the black cock that was found beheaded on the altar of the monastery chapel.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes this genre, and nothing is going to stop me from moving on to the next adventure in this series. (less)