It is hard to know how to rate this. I think it is tighter and smoother than the previous game novels, The Stolen Throne and The Calling, but for me iIt is hard to know how to rate this. I think it is tighter and smoother than the previous game novels, The Stolen Throne and The Calling, but for me it felt like there was less heart. Loghain and Maric had more sparkle and more tension than any character combination here. However, it is still a readable and entertaining tale, if you are a fan of the setting. Cole is an interesting character and his story is heartbreaking. There is some development of lore that a DA geek would appreciate, such as exploration of the Tranquil. The general fantasy reader would probably find it dull. I'm also not sure that it sets up the mage-templar war any more convincingly than did Dragon Age 2. It all feels a little mechanical and forced, and like I still have no idea who the Libertarians, Aequitarians or Seekers are, or why I should care about any of them....more
This was more of a project than a book. It's massive and detailed, not for a general reader (see Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome for that). It's alsThis was more of a project than a book. It's massive and detailed, not for a general reader (see Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome for that). It's also hard to know how to rate, but I am giving it 5 stars for usefulness, clarity and for accomplishing the author's stated goals. With its broad focus, this would be an excellent book for someone looking for thesis topics or a research area. The early Middle Ages really cries out for more study and excavation.
Wickham wants to provide a synthesis of documentary and archaeological evidence across the disciplines of social, economic, legal and military history, for the post-Roman world. He states that this seems to be lacking for the early Middle Ages compared to the periods before and after it. His geographic scope is from Syria and Palestine in the East to Spain and Ireland in the West, from Egypt as a southern pole to Denmark and very brief mentions of Norway. The time frame is 400-800 A.D. The book has a heavy emphasis on material culture, economics and social hierarchies, less on cultural or military history. The book gives detailed description, which will be too detailed for many readers, and more subtle is any kind of argument or narrative, though Wickham does make one of those, mainly that this period needs to be looked at in terms of local detail rather than broad brushes, which have too often led to oversimplification, catastrophe narrative (the whole "Dark Ages" bugbear) and teleological approaches (what's important is what's important to Us).
Most interesting to me were the chapters on peasant organization, especially in Wales and the Germanic regions and in Egypt, and somewhat the chapter on exchange systems. Anything you find interesting here, though, will suffer from being treated only briefly. The book has most usefully served me as a bibliography of works to read next, to go more in depth on topics that Wickham just brushed. I've got quite a list. That in itself is not a criticism, though, because it's what the book set out to provide- a frame, some basic structure for further work. That's a goal I think Wickham accomplishes very well. ...more
I wanted to read something about what it's like to look through the scope of a sniper rifle in wartime, and this book delivers a straightforward, someI wanted to read something about what it's like to look through the scope of a sniper rifle in wartime, and this book delivers a straightforward, sometimes blunt, easily readable account of just that. It's the story of Jack Coughlin and Casey Kuhlman's experiences on the March to Baghdad. I had not read anything on the Iraq War, and after reading this book feel that was an oversight. All Americans were involved in this, we all put these guys on the ground, and to hear about their experiences only through a media lens (from "the Jackals," as Coughlin calls them) is a disservice to them.
I did not feel the book was overly rah-rah or sentimentalist, but since others have criticized it as a "hooyah" book, that perhaps comes from perspective. I'm fairly ambivalent about the Iraq War myself, but I respect the craft of the men and women who practice the art of war. They don't decide where they go or who the enemy is. It's important for all of us to understand the humanity on both sides of the rifle. Coughlin's personal reflections are not overdone, but they do add an important and touching element to the story. I think the criticism of his account as cocky miss the point. He acknowledges a certain amount of cockiness, but what do people expect? Are soldiers supposed to walk around with drooped shoulders for our benefit? He also gives much credit to his fellow soldiers.
Reading about the experience of the snipers finding and eliminating targets is definitely disturbing. It should be. I didn't get any sense that the author was glorifying it. He was explaining the thought processes. That attempt, the vulnerability that it requires for him to talk about his mindset, should be respected.
All in all, I enjoyed this and intend to read more from this author and others like him....more
This book has an easy, sometimes poetic style, while packing in lots of fascinating little facts about the Roman interaction with four cultures on itsThis book has an easy, sometimes poetic style, while packing in lots of fascinating little facts about the Roman interaction with four cultures on its frontiers. A good choice for the popular reader. There is a balance of empathy both for the Romans and for the "barbarians." I enjoyed the book immensely and my interest never flagged. I was especially intrigued by the chapters on Sarmatia and Dacia as these were less familiar to me. I'm now determined to visit Romania asap. It was especially on those chapters that I wished Williams' book was more detailed, or at least that he had included a bibliography. But these are small criticisms.
After an introduction, each chapter takes the point of view of a Roman observer of one part of the empire's frontier: The Poet gives Ovid's view of the Sarmatian steppe from his exile; The Lawyer accompanies Varus Quintilius to his famous military disaster in Germania; The Soldiers portrays Britain's conquest by Vespasian and Agricola and the beginning of its loss under Domitian; and The Artists depicts the Dacian Wars, using the chiselers of Trajan's Column as a lens. The final chapter is a brief essay on how Rome the colonizer became the colonized in the 5th century, giving shape to the medieval world. The thesis of the book is that the overly negative views of Rome's clash with the "barbarians" that were taken over from Roman chroniclers into modern historians' way of thinking do not tell the whole story. Rome's interaction with the peoples on its frontiers was more fruitful and varied. ...more
I wanted to like this book. It is the first novel from a returning Iraq War veteran, and offers some exciting passages on close-quarters combat in a RI wanted to like this book. It is the first novel from a returning Iraq War veteran, and offers some exciting passages on close-quarters combat in a Roman frontier legion. However the storytelling pace lags in other places significantly. A lot should be cut out. Parts of it are very exposition-heavy, and third person omniscient perspective leads to viewpoint jumps which hurt the flow. The best parts are where the young protagonist, Artorius, is in a skirmish. He's not very likable as a person, but the battle descriptions are vivid and gripping. At 3.99, the Nook version is a steal, though there are numerous line break errors.
The biggest gripe I have with the book is that it takes massive liberties with the historical narrative. It is one thing for a character in a story to be "rah rah" about the glories of Rome, but the book entirely takes that perspective and it's quite tiresome by the end. The Germanic antagonist, Arminius, is almost never shown doing anything useful. He's either moping, watching as his men run wild, or himself running from battle, then moping some more. The accounts of both large battles- Teutoburger Wald and Germanicus' campaign in Germania Magnus- run counter to current research and feed the pro-Roman bias.* The presentation is that Arminius won his famous battle entirely by deceit and Varus' stupidity. Arminius' pregnant wife Thusnelda is shown as being no more than wistful at her capture by the Romans in A.D. 16, because at least she and her child will have a better life in Rome. Please! All the other Germans and Celts in Rome's service are presented as happy barbarians living the good life under Rome's protection. None of them felt real, whereas the Roman soldiers Mace portrays do feel real. You can tell that he likes them and admires their way of life.
All in all, if you like the Romans and military fiction, you would probably get some good reading from it. Those who want to get a sense of what daily life was like for a Roman legionary also could find interesting reading here. I'm afraid I was rather disappointed by the end, but still got some good perspective on Roman tactics and enjoyed some of the moment-by-moment presentation of what a battle is like on the ground, which I can only imagine comes in part from the author's personal experience.
* For instance, we now know that Varus' troops were not taking an unusual route to their winter camp, but were probably on one of two established north-south roads, and that the battle did not take place in the Teutoburger Wald but closer to Kalkriese. Mace's account portrays Varus' actions as those of a complete incompetent. Varus was not the sharpest tack, but he wasn't that dumb, and Arminius' achievement was greater than just leading a stupid man to his predictable doom. Germanicus' campaigns, on the other hand, are largely regarded as impetuous and unproductive, and undertaken against Tiberius' wishes. Even though it's true that the Germanic warriors suffered heavy losses, Mace's account of the Battle of Weser River has the entire Cherusci tribe being all but eliminated in the aftermath (with Arminius slipping pitifully out the back door). Not only is that not what happened, Germanicus' army was pummeled on its return to winter camp by sea storms. All in all the campaign was no glorious win, let alone "glorious justice." Tacitus claims 10,000 Roman losses to Arminius' 10,000-20,000. The following year, Arminius challenged the Germanic chieftain Maroboodus, Rome's ally, and fought him to standstill- so Arminius must still have had significant forces under his command. At the very least the real picture is more mixed than in Mace's presentation....more
This novel describes events that occur between the Elder Scrolls games Oblivion and Skyrim. I came to TES with Oblivion, so I'm probably the best demoThis novel describes events that occur between the Elder Scrolls games Oblivion and Skyrim. I came to TES with Oblivion, so I'm probably the best demographic to appreciate the story- familiar with the world but not too emotionally invested. I enjoyed the book. It is an easy read, the language is clear and straightforward as I like it, and towards the middle the action picks up to a tight pace. There are satisfying lore bits such as glimpses of the Khajiit and Argonian homelands. I liked many of the characters and began to care about what happens to them.
My main criticism is that it's not a complete story. At a quick 228 Nook pages, there was no reason to split this story into two separate novels. The end is abrupt and cryptic. Nevertheless I enjoyed it enough that I am definitely going to read the sequel, Lord of Souls.
Some spoilers follow: (view spoiler)[ The story begins in Black Marsh, where a menacing floating city is seen approaching the town of Lilmoth. Two young people, a Breton alchemist named Annaig and her Argonian friend Mere-Glim, decide to investigate. Annaig has created a potion that allows them to fly. As they ascend to Umbriel, bug-like creatures descend and begin an invasion.
Umbriel as a setting reminded me of the fantasmagorical world of Gormenghast. It is a world half formed from the real lives and races of Tamriel, half from the stuff of dreams and nightmares in Oblivion. The mystery of where it came from and what designs it has on Tamriel unfolds as Annaig and Mere-Glim are forced to blend into Umbriel's strange society.
Annaig has a small Dwemer device that allows her to establish communication to the young imperial crown prince, Attrebus Mede. She calls him to come aid Black Marsh, and the story follows the prince's mishaps across Cyrodiil, Elsweyr, and into the planes of Oblivion and the ruined Morrowind (Umbriel's next destination after Lilmoth). Attrebus is dogged by enemies, whose trail is being followed by a Penitus Oculatus agent, Colin.
It's a bit of a growing up story for Attrebus, and there are hints of love interest between him and Annaig, which wandered into soap opera territory. Fortunately these were brief. Colin's characterization suffered from its brevity, however. I never got a sense of who he was, though through him you visit the market district of the Imperial City which gave nostalgia points for TES IV Oblivion. More interesting is the Dunmer wizard-assassin Sul, who comes to Attrebus' aid. His story gives contextual information and emotional backdrop to the Morrowind disaster.
We learn that Umbriel is held aloft and powered by the recycled souls of living beings, so its objective in Black Marsh was simply to feed itself. The real goal of its creator is to find the ill-fated sword Umbra. The sword had been the focus of a power struggle inside Oblivion and was cast through a portal back into the mortal realm. As The Infernal City comes to an abrupt close, we learn that the sword is believed to have ended up on the island of Solstheim off Skyrim. I assume that that is where the story is headed next, as a tie-in to TES V. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I realize I often give 5 stars, but I rarely review unless I feel that a book is worth reading. This book on violence in the Middle Ages makes importaI realize I often give 5 stars, but I rarely review unless I feel that a book is worth reading. This book on violence in the Middle Ages makes important statements and I can find no fault with it. It cites a lot of primary sources as well as contrasting older historians with the most up to date. The only caution I'd offer is that it is topical, not chronological or geographic, so it jumps around a lot. Readers who don't have a solid background in medieval history could feel lost or like all the names and tales of horror blend together. It is, however, not dense. The armchair medievalist would find a lot of worth here. It also doesn't dwell on lurid detail unless necessary to illustrate a point.
The book's main approach is to look at violence as it was applied systematically: In jurisprudence and for political or military objectives. The thesis is summed up by a quote by George Orwell at the beginning: "But unfortunately the truth about atrocities is far worse than that they are lied about and made into propaganda. The truth is that they happen. The fact often adduced as a reason for skepticism - that the same horror stories come up in war after war- merely makes it rather more likely that these stories are true. Evidently they are widespread fantasies, and war provides an opportunity of putting them into practice... These things really happened, that is the thing to keep one's eye on." The book sees atrocity as a recurring human theme, and not simply a phenomenon of a more violent past. McGlynn argues in a closing essay that accounts of modern atrocity show striking parallels to those described in medieval chronicles.
First McGlynn looks at the use of violence in justice and punishment for purposes of deterrence or moral cleansing. There is then a chapter on the laws of chivalry and how arbitrarily they were applied or not applied. This sets the stage for describing the use of extreme violence as a military tactic, with chapters on prisoner massacres, sieges, and ravaging campaigns. The time periods and geography covered range from early medieval Vikings, to the Near East during the Crusades, to the Hundred Years' War. Heaviest emphasis is on England and France during the High Middle Ages.
A frequent theme is whether or not to trust the sources. McGlynn favors believing that the medieval chronicles contain at least grains of truth, especially if they are fairly close to the events, and that errors may be due to the difficulty in any era of accurately depicting the chaos of war. His argument in the closing essay that reports of modern atrocity echo the medieval accounts with sometimes eerie precision is persuasive emotionally, if not the most solid footing for a historian....more
This book is a must-read for Germanists and those interested in field archaeology. A fascinating story of on-the-ground German history for anyone who'This book is a must-read for Germanists and those interested in field archaeology. A fascinating story of on-the-ground German history for anyone who's lived or traveled in Germany. It is not for someone looking for a quick summary of the Varus battle. Perhaps the account is not as cogent as it would be if written by a professional author, but I am glad that the author told it in his own words. There are plenty of books written by people who've only read about Varus and Arminius. Clunn spent years walking the ground they trod and unearthing the objects they left behind. His notes are a treasure trove of their own.
The book tells the story of a British military physician's role in the discovery of one of the most important battleground sites in European history, and interwoven in his recollections, a retelling of the destruction of the Army of the Rhine by one they trusted, the German-born cavalry officer Arminius. This is the battle that set the Roman-barbarian divide at the Rhine. Without it, there would have been no Germany as we know it. There would be no England as we know it. The failure of Rome to pacify the Germanic tribes would have a profound effect on European medieval history and consequently on the modern west.
Following the traces left by 19th century historian Theodor Mommsen and stories of locals about Roman silver and gold, Tony Clunn set out with a Fisher metal detector and an eye for how an army would move over terrain. Historians had long believed that the battle had taken place in the Teutoburger forest. The finds that Clunn uncovered started a decade-long excavation that revealed that the battlefield was actually further north, near Kalkriese. Clunn believes that the earlier researchers had mistranslated the Latin saltus as forest rather than as the Teutoburger Pass.
The book jumps back and forth from descriptions of Clunn's painstaking excavation and meandering of German bureacracy, and a fictionalized account of the battle and the events leading up to it. This can be confusing and the journal notes of Clunn's work could be dull to the non-archaeologist. The author also takes rabbit trails into other archaeological sites in the Minden- Kalkriese area, such as a port on the Weser and a sacred grove Arminius might have used as a camp. However, after a slow start the book picks up to what I found an exciting pace. It is one of the best and most detailed accounts of the Varus battle I've come across, plausible and gripping.
The author's imagination is obviously fired by this story and by the sense of history in the stone, mountains and forest of Germany. Someone with no background in the history or German geography may have a hard time following, but I found Clunn's enthusiasm contagious. He's a hero of mine....more
A modern fable set in Scandinavia that ends up teaching the basics of a history of philosophy. Maybe it's a bit overrated, but still a very good exampA modern fable set in Scandinavia that ends up teaching the basics of a history of philosophy. Maybe it's a bit overrated, but still a very good example of a didactic novel and it kept me on the edge of my chair. I was let down a bit by the ending. However, the book is more about the story of history than about Sophie and her family....more
Read via browser in the Questia library. This book is sadly overpriced, but well worth the effort to get it if you can. Written by two eminent scholarRead via browser in the Questia library. This book is sadly overpriced, but well worth the effort to get it if you can. Written by two eminent scholars in the field of military history, it's a primer on warfare from Megiddo to the fall of Constantinople. There are survey chapters on the "way of war" of different cultures, in between chapters on key battles. Emphasis is on how technology, tactics and political strategy developed over time, and what impact this had on outcomes of battles.
Each chapter begins with an overview of the strategic situation, introduces the key players, describes the battle's progression, then gives bullet points on strategic and tactical "take aways," and finally a bibliography for further reading.
It's a basic overview, but at 718 pages, there is a lot of meat here, and written in an engaging way that is not just a dry description of troop numbers and tactics. I spent over a year working my way through this book since I was reading it during spare moments on a browser, but I thoroughly enjoyed the effort. As the bibliography at the end of each chapter suggests, the book is meant to give a basis for further study from other, more detailed analyses.
Topics covered: The ancient art of war, Megiddo, Kadesh, Sargon II's Urartu campaign, the Greek way of war (Marathon, Leuctra, Chaeronea), the Chinese way of war (Chengpu, Guiling, Jingxing), the campaigns of Alexander (Granicus, Issus, Gaugamela, Hydaspes), the campaigns of Hannibal (Trebia, Trasimene, Cannae, Zama), Cynoscephalae, Caesar's campaigns (Alesia, Dyrrachium, Pharsalus), Teutoburger Forest, Adrianople, the Korean way of war (Salsu River), Battle of Hastings, the Mongols (Sajo River), the Japanese way of war (Ichinotani, Kyushu), the Swiss way of war (Morgarten, Laupen, Sempach), the siege of Constantinople, and legacy of the ancients....more