Learning about the past was never my strong point. Years of labour in history classes did nothing to inspire me. Perhaps it was my strong dislike for...moreLearning about the past was never my strong point. Years of labour in history classes did nothing to inspire me. Perhaps it was my strong dislike for repetitive topics covered for years on end, or the manner teachers conveyed the subject matter; regardless, I was never a fan of history, and I never thought I could be. When I came across Lindsey Davis’s novels, they immediately grabbed my attention and sparked something in me that I believed I would never feel involving anything historical: interest.
The Silver Pigs is an anachronistic, yet believable tale of an “informer”—a detective in the ancient Roman era—living in the Aventine sector during the time of Vespasian Augustus’ reign (70 C.E.). The book is the first of the Marcus Didius Falco series created by Lindsey Davis, a popular author of historical whodunnits.
Unlike the well-known detectives portrayed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Carolyn Keene, Davis’s protagonist, Falco, is nothing short of a poor, crude, and rather sarcastic Roman citizen with an eye for beautiful women. Falco is dashing even with a rough edge to him, and he certainly knows how to please his “prey”.
Although a sub-par informer, Falco becomes entangled with the dark secrets of the Camillus family after encountering the graceful and evanescent Sosia Camillina (who becomes his new “client”). From Sosia, he discovers that rich senators are concealing the smuggling of “silver pigs”—ingots of pure silver worth millions in the market—from Britain. Possessing these ingots is conspiratorial, since they can be used in an attempt to dethrone the current emperor. After the discovery of the “pigs”, a series of events unfold, leading to the untimely death of one of Falco’s loved ones. Instead of quitting as advised by his closest friend, Falco pushes onwards and into Britain, in search of the truth behind these silver pigs, as well as a dish far more delectable: revenge.
The different characters interact believably and animatedly with each other in Falco’s narration. Falco’s mind is not a blank slate—though he describes his surroundings and records his observations of other characters, he is still capable of conveying his own opinions regarding each matter. Davis’ forte is that she depicts a man who can be a romantic at times and a hardened soldier at others. The readers do not forget that Falco has survived a war and has lost a loved one; the scars he attained on a cold winter in Britain and the loss of his brother are repeated themes in the book.
A second strong point Pigs contains is the creation of various female characters that have entered Falco’s life. There are “Aglaia” (the women subjects of his poetry); his loving but highly suspicious mother; Lenia, the curvaceous and doting washing woman; and beautiful Sosia with her young naïveté. One cannot forget Helena Justina, the 23-year-old divorcee, with a mind to match Falco’s own, a sharp tongue, and a sense of justice so high it impresses even Falco, who finds deceit a common trait in women. The interactions between Falco and Helena are some of the most meaningful displays of dialogue, as both characters go from a hateful relationship to at least a tolerable one.
With a mix of the history behind the time period and politics playing out in the background, readers will find that the characters of Pigs are part of a much bigger plot in the Roman Empire. However, they will discover that even Falco, the poor informer of the Aventine sector, has ways of affecting political results.
Overall, The Silver Pigs is a highly recommended read; the writing style is an entertaining combination of antiquity and modernity, infusing Ancient Rome with contemporary allusions, evident throughout Falco’s narration. If you pick it up, you might even be willing enough to read the next book of the series, Shadows in Bronze!(less)
As usual, Davis does it again in her almost modern conversational writing with a tale set during the early AD period. She leaves no Roman detail untur...moreAs usual, Davis does it again in her almost modern conversational writing with a tale set during the early AD period. She leaves no Roman detail unturned in her historical whodunnit, and she's written such amazing characters!
Dark and dangerous as they were, Anne Rice's coven of vampires makes me think of a family of cute, cuddly kittens. No lie. Of course, they're anything...moreDark and dangerous as they were, Anne Rice's coven of vampires makes me think of a family of cute, cuddly kittens. No lie. Of course, they're anything but cute and cuddly--especially not cuddly, maybe cute, in Armand's case. However, they were a family, and families somehow seem to act in the same manner, immortal or not.
I actually liked this book! I had been hoping to procure a copy of The Vampire Lestat before getting my hands on The Queen of the Damned, but I realize how much I actually like the tale of all the other vampires that was not Lestat. The brat prince will always be one of my personal favorites (I mean, how can I hate him after his wickedness in Interview?), but after the book, Armand and Marius were the vampires I most wanted to read about. It was a little frustrating, only getting those small glimpses of what took place in Armand's mind. That's okay, because Marius was such an enjoyable vampire to read!
The history of the vampires was fantastically vivid, and truly did span ages. What other way to display the history of their creation than to a gaggle of vampires across eras and civilizations, from Uruk to Egypt to Rome to the present age (and thensome). I was only sorry nothing about Troy was mentioned, though I suppose if anything was ever written about Khayman, there would be a story about Troy.
The Queen of the Damned was slow to start, with around 200 pages of introductions to characters; characters that the reader has met, and others that the reader should meet. Still, the snippets about Marius and Armand were decent. Khayman was also interesting, in any case. I can honestly say I was glad to have continued. It gained its momentum by the second part, when the pot was finally stirred, and the chaos brought all the vampires together.
But now I'm wondering how Marius will fare later on...(less)
The dynamic relationship between Helena Justina and one M. Didius Falco never seems to fail me everytime, and after reading through each book, I alway...moreThe dynamic relationship between Helena Justina and one M. Didius Falco never seems to fail me everytime, and after reading through each book, I always turn to mush whenever these two show some vulnerability. You'd think after four books, the whole romantic side of the novels would lose all novelty. But somehow Davis always adds something new to the table. Of course, the book itself is not heavily a romantic story (though Falco certainly does things out of a romantic interest), so I'll stop gushing about the lovey-dovey couple and talk about the rest of The Iron Hand of Mars!
Once again, Davis shows her mastery of Ancient Rome with this book. She's certainly done her research with the people, the politics, and the lifestyles of Vespasian's era (not that I know terribly too much of ancient Rome, mind... but enough to be entertained by it!). Not only that, she's also done research on the foreign state of Rome, breaching the adventure not only to include slivers of the Roman Empire, but of Germania Libera, "free Germany." With the first-person POV (provided in vivid poetic detail by Falco himself), we see the distinct differences between the two cultures. Then again, I'm likely to side with the civilized Roman myself (but that's out of bias for the cad!).
New characters were introduced, as was bound to happen with the change of scenery. While I missed the comforting and familiar character of Petronius Longus, Davis made sure not to let me pine too long. In place of the practical best friend with good taste in wine, the reader got three rather entertaining characters: the barber-slash-supposed-assassin whose repertoire includes shaving famous politicians, the centurion trying to escape the trauma of having belonged to a shamed region, and the newly-appointed and overly curious young tribune (who also happens to be the favorite brother of a most esteemed senator's daughter). Put them with an irritable, cranky informer, and there's bound to be just as much adventure as a Roman legion walking straight into a trap---though I suppose with Falco in tow, they were bound to walk into one anyway.
I was a little disinterested with all of the new politics and historical information that Davis threw in for most of the beginning. Yes, I understand that learning the history behind certain battles was important in order to grasp the rest of the book, but I have to admit that I glossed through a bunch of it. Keeping all of the names straight in my head was a task in itself (I swear, it took me a while to figure out who Quintellius was as opposed to Quintus).
Still, it was great when the action began. Trust the last 100 pages to be the best bits! I was chuckling a few times already in the beginning, but I was downright laughing by the end. The scenes either amused me to no end, or my mind was translating the description into preposterous images (the bit about the auroch was gold).
Having watched the movie first with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, I had already expected the tragic ending. Reading the book actually made things...moreHaving watched the movie first with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, I had already expected the tragic ending. Reading the book actually made things even sadder than they were! I think my heart fell apart once the play was performed at the end, and then the final words were even more depressing and more inevitable than in the film. Had it been a happier ending, the book itself might not have worked so well, but alas, I still can't help feeling really sad over it.(less)
The idea of Jack the Ripper in itself makes for a fascinating read. And while Patricia Cornwell keeps her theory interesting with her hefty research i...moreThe idea of Jack the Ripper in itself makes for a fascinating read. And while Patricia Cornwell keeps her theory interesting with her hefty research inside the character of Walter Sickert (her supposed culprit of the Jack the Ripper murders), I feel somewhat taken aback by the repetitious "because of the lack of any substantial evidence thereof..." Sure, there are going to be setbacks to a century-old crime, one clearly cannot procure a sample of DNA from a supposed killer who's already been cremated in the mid-1900s. But we needn't be reminded every step of the way.
Most of the conjectures hang in the human psyche as well as the links between Sickert's character and the Ripper. You see patterns emerging between the two characters, and with the amount of proper motive and anger in Sickert, it's hardly surprising that he would be Jack the Ripper.
It was a decent non-fiction historical piece in any case!(less)
Hrmm...I can't say I like this true-crime pioneer work that Capote has written, but I also can't deny that In Cold Blood was powerfully written. The f...moreHrmm...I can't say I like this true-crime pioneer work that Capote has written, but I also can't deny that In Cold Blood was powerfully written. The fact that it began by switching between the perspectives of the family and those of the killers managed to ensure that the reader got a taste of both sides of the stories.
In Cold Blood definitely had a different outlook of Capote's writing style, the only other work I'd read from him was Breakfast at Tiffany's along with the short stories included in the book. Still, in the purposes of each piece, the style he used for In Cold Blood worked, and overall, it was evident that Capote researched the case of the Clutter murders to extremes.
The book did drag every so often, so I can't honestly say that I was riveted for long periods of time just reading about the case surrounding this sad affair. Most of what truly interested me was further at the end, post-capture and pre-capital punishment. The killers' psychologies were discussed in a mere number of pages, but that was what I took in for the most part.
It was a very interesting--albeit depressing--read. Not one I'm likely to continue in quick succession, ha.(less)
When I think about aerial warfare, my thoughts bring about images of fighter jets whizzing the skies in sleek formation. So when dragons and the term...moreWhen I think about aerial warfare, my thoughts bring about images of fighter jets whizzing the skies in sleek formation. So when dragons and the term "aerial warfare" are combined, I imagine titanic, fire-breathing, poison-spewing, scaled airships taking to the heavens and swerving in and out, fighting a war they were built and bred for.
And that's what this book was mostly about. Except, of course, that the fighting style Novik writes of doesn't seem to be only inspired by war waged in the air, it also has that feel of war at sea. It was interesting to note, in any case, how many of the captains went down with his "ship"--in the case of His Majesty's Dragon, his beast.
I would have liked to say that I enjoyed reading it, but I felt that I'd only gone so far because it would have been a waste not to finish the story. It wasn't that it was badly written or horribly narrated; I just wasn't very taken with the story. Mostly, I had problems with the main character himself. I can understand his need to be defensive, as Laurence stood out as the awkward navy man-turned-aviator, but even with his newfound love for his dragon Temeraire, he seems overly uptight and unwilling to look---and I mean really look---at other perspectives. More than once I caught myself rolling my eyes and muttering: "For goodness' sake...this man needs to get laid." I could not like Laurence, and Temeraire almost seems too spoiled and pretentious of a creature (though there is no doubt some degree wherein the dragon is entitled to flaunt what he's got).
In the story's defense, I actually began to like the last 60 or 70 pages of the book, which gave some sort of character development for the better. The dragons and the other secondary aviators at least brought color to Laurence's otherwise dull world, and the relationship between dragon and rider has put forth a fascinating concept. And then, of course, there was the description of the war itself, which was undoubtedly Novik's strong point in the novel. I could vividly imagine the skies littered with dragons, the French and English battling it out on giants. Now that was fantastic.
It's only unfortunate that most of the book's most exciting points only started just as soon as the full story began.(less)
I like period pieces, especially historical fiction with a sort of twist. Which is probably why, when I started reading Lindsey Davis, I immediately l...moreI like period pieces, especially historical fiction with a sort of twist. Which is probably why, when I started reading Lindsey Davis, I immediately lapped Silver Pigs up and never regretted it. Of course, Medicus isn't by Davis, but the setting is still in ancient Rome, the mystery still abounds, and the story is just as compelling.
What really interested me in the book was the fact that Ruso's profession was much different to Falco's. Where Falco was a dashing debonair with almost no self-control, Ruso was the complete opposite, the perfect example of a man who still manages to hold onto a moral compass, even when things end up in the shitter. Excuse my English. It was also refreshing to see the plot unravel not so much in a detective's standpoint, but from someone with a keen eye for observation and a healthy curiosity. Ruso, after all, is a medicus, a surgeon. He is in no way even authorized to conduct proper investigations or to question and arrest suspects. Yet he does what he does through a compelling reason.
Other than that, while I didn't find Ruso's character too charming, he did have highlights. He is chivalrous, I give him that. And while he is certainly a workaholic with financial troubles up to his elbows, somehow he still manages to let his knees buckle due to a pair of beautiful ocean-colored eyes. I'd compare him to Falco again, but I think that would be overkill.
There were, however, some caveats, hence the rating. The business with Tilla was unresolved, though I understand it helps keep some mystery about her for the next book (alas, it's another series!). The snippets of how she went about things were slightly confusing, and I wished there had been more delving of the Britannia that Tilla saw. Frankly, I skimmed some of her passages because it was a little dry; most of it assumed that we knew much of the troubles with the locals just by a few words. What I would have liked was a sort of insight as to the why.
Hopefully the next story will reveal a bit more of Tilla's people. I'd certainly read it for that!(less)
I don't even know where to start, the journey was so enviable that I almost wished I could have been Reardon or Walker just so I could travel alongsid...moreI don't even know where to start, the journey was so enviable that I almost wished I could have been Reardon or Walker just so I could travel alongside them. Of course, what I wouldn't give to have been Lady Katherine of Schofield!
There's nothing like hearing the travels of four people of good standing in two different voices; while Kate and Cecy have some similarities, the way they tell their own accounts are so different in style that it's refreshing. Still, I do seem to appreciate Kate's voice more than Cecy's; mostly because she appears to be the more passionate and romantic. Of course, Cecy's own passions are shown rather differently, because in the end, she's probably more of who I should have identified more with--not because of the sorcery, mind. But there's no contest when Lady Schofield and a goat can make you laugh out loud.
I enjoyed certain bits of The Grand Tour much more than I did with Sorcery and Cecelia, especially the exchanges between Thomas and James, and then Thomas and Kate. Yes, clearly I am biased towards Lord Schofield. The plot itself went a bit more slowly than in Sorcery and Cecelia, but I didn't really mind so much because of the frequent change in scenery. Once they hit Venice and then Rome, it was even harder to put down, I could imagine the sights so vividly, and by then I was already wishing to go back!(less)
I didn't quite know what to expect from this author, since his His Dark Materials has a bit of popularity, but I'd never read that series either. This...moreI didn't quite know what to expect from this author, since his His Dark Materials has a bit of popularity, but I'd never read that series either. This was an adorable mystery set in the Victorian era, and I like Sally Lockhart's practicality and shyness. And the fact that she can do numbers on an age where women are expected to learn just the basic 'womanly' subjects, much more kudos to her!
The jumping around between characters I wasn't too fond of, though. A few times was okay, but I felt there was too little focus on Sally doing any actual solving (I mean, come on. Opium as a means to solve all your problems? No pun intended).(less)