As other reviewers have noted, this is not a chronological overview of Roman imperial history--in fact, a basic background knowledge of Roman history...moreAs other reviewers have noted, this is not a chronological overview of Roman imperial history--in fact, a basic background knowledge of Roman history is prerequisite to approaching this text. It is, however, an excellent concise treatment of some of the most important themes of Roman history and historiogaphy: the Romans' sense of their own imperial mission; the economic structure of the empire; the influence of Christianity; the way "Rome" has been reinvented throughout history to serve the needs of the moment (Kelly looks in particular at Mussolini's Italy and various cinematic Romes). It might not be Roman History 101, but this is an excellent resource for understanding why and not just how and when.(less)
Comparisons with The Robe are inevitable. I didn't like The Spear quite as much; it hasn't aged as well, for one thing--especially where female chara...moreComparisons with The Robe are inevitable. I didn't like The Spear quite as much; it hasn't aged as well, for one thing--especially where female characters are concerned. (view spoiler)[I'm still not quite sure what I think of the scene where the main character, Cassius (later to become Saint Longinus), practically rapes the love interest Naomi. The author attempts to sanitize it by having Naomi admit she loves Cassius, but she was clearly taken advantage of and she just isn't given enough of a voice for me to find it convincing--particularly when she promptly forgets about Cassius after meeting Jesus. I'd have liked to see more of her own inner conflict: if she really did love Cassius, as the author wants us to believe, I think it would be more compelling if this had complicated her devotion to Christ a little more. As it is she comes off as too perfect, too holy, therefore unrelatable. (hide spoiler)] But some of the characters are compellingly drawn, Cassius in particular. I didn't care for him at first, but I warmed to him as he matured through hardship and lost his naive idealism; I wanted to see him find catharsis and redemption. And the story is cleverly plotted (though the omniscient narration clunks a bit).(less)
A thoroughly enjoyable novel. Though Vorkosigan and Barrayaran society are the real foci, I love that the story is filtered through Cordelia's eyes. T...moreA thoroughly enjoyable novel. Though Vorkosigan and Barrayaran society are the real foci, I love that the story is filtered through Cordelia's eyes. The one downside, perhaps, is that Cordelia's own world and people don't seem comparatively as fully realized as the Barrayarans; but I appreciated that the novel wasn't a straightforward, predictable compare-and-contrast between the conservative militarism of the Barrayarans and the egalitarian liberalism of the Betans. The characters aren't so easily defined.
And the romance--exactly the kind of love story I want to read. Both characters are pragmatic, purposeful, duty-conscious adults, aware of their responsibilities and aware their actions have consequences. Their attraction isn't just physical or even coldly intellectual but rather based on the fact they both are seeking something beyond themselves and see it in each other, however imperfectly. ("I believe he calls it honor. I guess I'd call it the grace of God.")
Very much looking forward to discovering the rest of this series.(less)
DNF, for many of the same reasons that Zoey mentions in her review. Put simply, the story promised in the blurb isn't the one I got—which is a shame,...moreDNF, for many of the same reasons that Zoey mentions in her review. Put simply, the story promised in the blurb isn't the one I got—which is a shame, because I really did want to read that story. Also I never got a good sense of time or place: many of the names, for instance, seemed jarringly anachronistic (in the same story we have Deoradhan, Winter, Amy, Haylee, and Lancelot du Lac). The setting seemed to grow out of the needs of the plot, rather than the other way around; for me, the setting should very much determine the story in historical fiction. As it was, the whole thing felt inconsistent, and decidedly not post-Roman British—at least not of the caliber I want (and expect) after reading Rosemary Sutcliff and Katy Moran.
I received a free review copy of this book through First Reads.(less)
Read this for a class and was pleasantly surprised. It's both an unmistakable product of its time (denouncing the secular entanglements of the medieva...moreRead this for a class and was pleasantly surprised. It's both an unmistakable product of its time (denouncing the secular entanglements of the medieval Church--I can't help but feel the Avignon Exile was at the back of his mind) and a surprisingly relevant devotional. A Kempis explores the ideas of Augustine and Plato and produces a simple exegesis that emphasizes faith and grace.(less)
Full review forthcoming pending the release of all the installments. For now--this is a thoughtful, tightly-plotted post-apocalyptic thriller with lik...moreFull review forthcoming pending the release of all the installments. For now--this is a thoughtful, tightly-plotted post-apocalyptic thriller with likable, complex characters. It's apposite without being preachy. Definitely worth your while.(less)
Downloaded because it was free and it had the potential to be interesting (moreso than the novel, anyway--I admit I didn't have any intention to read...moreDownloaded because it was free and it had the potential to be interesting (moreso than the novel, anyway--I admit I didn't have any intention to read the novel, and still don't). Very thin story, and neither setting nor characters are fleshed out enough to take up the slack. Bleak, bitter, pointless.(less)
Competently written, if a bit straightforward and predictable: the plot moves quickly and kept my attention, but there's never really any doubt about...moreCompetently written, if a bit straightforward and predictable: the plot moves quickly and kept my attention, but there's never really any doubt about the villain or the outcome. The main character, Ariantes, is likable, but he has a dispassionate, matter-of-fact voice and comes off as rather distant. But there are some generally moving moments; I particularly liked the way (view spoiler)[Ariantes' friendship with Facilis developed (hide spoiler)]. There were times when I wanted more lingering explanation and reflection; things that seemed fairly important (view spoiler)[(Comittus' druid connections, for example, or Facilis' son's death) (hide spoiler)] were dismissed or lightly brushed over, and the romance progressed very quickly. But this was an enjoyable read; I was glad for a fresh take on Roman Britain. I intend to read more by this author. (less)
Not my cup of tea. The post-apocalyptic setting was too thinly drawn and simplistic to be plausible. The two POV characters are indistinguishable in p...moreNot my cup of tea. The post-apocalyptic setting was too thinly drawn and simplistic to be plausible. The two POV characters are indistinguishable in personality and voice, and neither develops in any way over the course of the story. None of the characters exhibit much complexity: good guys are good guys, bad guys are bad guys (Tristan defines himself in relationship to his father and brother in these terms; he's not "bad" like they are). (view spoiler)[And no explanation is given at all for why Tristan should have turned out "good" while his father and brother are so irredeemably rotten, other than that Tristan was close with his now-absent mother. But that relationship isn't developed enough to serve as sufficient explanation. (hide spoiler)]
And I had problems with several aspects of the story itself. (view spoiler)[For instance: Tristan's escape from the resort hinges on the willingness of his bodyguards to allow a stranger to wander around in his rooms unattended? (hide spoiler)] Given the brutality of the regime, too many people seem far too willing to accept bribes (or sell themselves far too low). Our characters are never faced with any real challenges; they're bumped and bruised, (view spoiler)[but manage to break out of three different guarded facilities over the course of the story, kill a professional bounty hunter/assassin, and in general accomplish everything they set out to accomplish with minimal difficulty. (hide spoiler)] I was unsatisfied with the explanation for why and how the Tri-Realms devolved into an oppressive totalitarian regime--and how that regime is maintained. Certainly none of the authorities we see seem very competent.
There were too many deus ex machinas to count.
This was a freebie, and I had no real expectations, so I can't say I was disappointed. But I don't feel inclined to continue on to the rest of the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Three short stories told with Sutcliff's characteristic achingly beautiful prose and keen sense of emotion. Enjoyed each story, but I think "A Crown o...moreThree short stories told with Sutcliff's characteristic achingly beautiful prose and keen sense of emotion. Enjoyed each story, but I think "A Crown of Wild Olive" was my favorite.(less)
Surprisingly good. The writing is solid, if not spectacular; the characters are likable; the plot is fast-paced and exciting, if rather predictable in...moreSurprisingly good. The writing is solid, if not spectacular; the characters are likable; the plot is fast-paced and exciting, if rather predictable in places for those who know the source material--more on that below. Fine attention is paid to historical detail--though The Tribune, like many other modern novels on ancient Rome, portrays its Roman characters with comfortably modern religious sensibilities. (Ursula Le Guin's Lavinia continues to be the best fictional treatment of Roman religious thought I've read.)
(view spoiler)[For the most part I was impressed by the author's weaving of the Biblical narrative into the story. The Tribune generally avoids preachiness, and the author clearly did his research into both Jewish and early Christian tradition. Certain characters are readily identifiable--Paulus, Marah (Magdalene), Yeshua--and all fit into the plot quite plausibly. I was a bit more surprised by the realization that the main character, Tribune Lucius Aurelius Valens, is supposed to be the gospel writer Luke. Since a number of Roman soldiers figure prominently in the Biblical narrative, I'm a bit curious as to why the author didn't just build his main Roman character around one of these, rather than changing Luke's background so drastically. From what I understand, though, this is the first book in a series; perhaps this question will be addressed more satisfactorily later. (hide spoiler)]
All-in-all, an enjoyable read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
2.5 stars. An OK book that could have been much better if the author had slowed the pace and developed the characters more. Some of them are likable c...more2.5 stars. An OK book that could have been much better if the author had slowed the pace and developed the characters more. Some of them are likable characters, but we never get to know them very well. We're told their emotions, rather than shown: a reconciliation that should have been particularly moving, towards the end of the book, is bland and emotionless, as are the deaths of two major characters. Much of the action, too, is told rather than shown; important events are skimmed over so quickly that you might miss them if you blink. I was disappointed by the ending, which was predictable and cheap.
A bit more on the characters... I found Amberglas teeth-grindingly annoying, not endearing; Vandaris' habit of spewing silly insults (especially at Eltiron) got on my nerves after about the twentieth time; Eltiron and Crystalorn acted much too young for their respective ages (19 and 17 respectively) and Eltiron was much too wishy-washy and wimpy for my liking. Jermain and Carachel are definitely the highlights in this otherwise mundane fantasy plot, but even they suffer from the shallowness of the narrative. I'd have liked to see more inner conflict from Jermain, particularly--he gets betrayed by two close friends, tragically loses a third, but none of this ever really registers.
A powerful story about one of the often-neglected areas of WWII, Stalin's brutalization of the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The atrocities commit...moreA powerful story about one of the often-neglected areas of WWII, Stalin's brutalization of the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The atrocities committed under Stalin are too often lost in the shadow of the Holocaust (in US survey history courses, at least--we still have a tendency to try to justify the fact we were allied with him), so I'm glad for this book and the reminder it serves. It's written in first person, in a simple, declarative style; for the most part it works, but not always. The narrator, Lina, often sounds too young even for a 15/16-year-old; a lot of her figures of speech are childish and clumsy. Towards the end of the book the author resorts to telling, not showing, and a lot of the plot points feel rushed and skimped as a result. (view spoiler)[For example: what happened to Kretzky? Are we supposed to assume he deserted? Where exactly did he go, if so? (hide spoiler)] The end itself came all at once; I could have done with a bit more resolution. But all-in-all this was a strong debut effort, full of likable and well-rounded characters, faithful to the grimness of its setting without being hopeless.(less)
Read for a class. Definitely not my preferred time period, but it's immensely readable. Not only is Silbey's analysis keen and straightforward but he...moreRead for a class. Definitely not my preferred time period, but it's immensely readable. Not only is Silbey's analysis keen and straightforward but he does an excellent job navigating the confusing, often-contradictory political landscape of the 1840s. He clearly delineates Whig and Democrat party lines, then just as clearly shows how the various political players adhered to or strayed from those lines, as the political landscape changed from the old two-party system to new sectional parties. Silbey’s discussion of Texas itself is disappointingly brief; the intriguing implications of the Texan Republic’s overtures to Great Britain are largely neglected, and Silbey spends little time considering Texan attitudes towards annexation. But this is a streamlined, coherent explanation of how sectional disputes in the 1840s could set the stage for serious national conflict in the 1860s.(less)