Steve Bein's "Daughter of the Sword" is an excellent read. A book that defies easy description because it combines a present day cop story with variou...moreSteve Bein's "Daughter of the Sword" is an excellent read. A book that defies easy description because it combines a present day cop story with various historical vignettes that revolve around the ill fortunes of the bearers of a legendary magical sword nicknamed the “Beautiful Singer” made by the renowned samurai swordsmith Inazuma. The sword hungers for death and is said to be cursed. Not all who wield it end up dead, but most end up appeasing the sword's hunger in foul ways.
Mariko Oshiro is a female detective in Japan. Her new boss wants her out. So instead of investigating real crimes, she is sent to investigate the attempted theft of Yasuo Yamada’s samurai sword. Professor Yamada is no ordinary scholar but a very accomplished swordsman. Soon he is teaching Oshiro how to fight with his samuarai sword, which was also made by Inazuma. His sword, however, is not evil.
It seems that Fuchida Shuzo, a diabolical criminal has not been content with his position in the Yakusa serving the Kamaguchi. He now wields Beautiful Singer and is hunting for the Inazuma sword owned by Yamada. He wants to sell it to a collector in return for a shipment of drugs.
But before we can even get further into Oshiro’s meeting with Yamada, Bein’s novel travels back in time to tell the story of a honorable samurai, who happens to capture the Beautiful Singer, and shortly thereafter in a bloodthirsty rage kills a loved one with nary a thought.
The novel then skips back and forth between the present era, Oshiro’s lessons with Yamuda and Shuzo’s pursuit of the sword and the past, most of which detail stories of the previous bearers of Beautiful Singer and the ills that befall them when they fall under its spell. But there are also stories about Yamada’s honorable past.
The historical vignettes of an earlier Japan are as well conceived, plotted and told as the present day murder mystery and the fateful collision between Oshiro and Shuzo.
Bein‘s novel is a great read mixing a smattering of magic (the sword's power) and mystery, a cop story, murder, samurai and world war historical fiction – all set in Japan – that seems to be very real.
Although not easy to describe, it is easy to catagorize. It is a winner. (less)
Eric Rider is an Army Cop, a member of their Criminal Investigative Service during the early days of the Vietnam War. He is sent to Cheo Reo, a remote...moreEric Rider is an Army Cop, a member of their Criminal Investigative Service during the early days of the Vietnam War. He is sent to Cheo Reo, a remote base in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, on a secret mission to find who is growing opium in the highlands and using the proceeds to fund Viet Cong activities. Its partly a spy mission, partly combat duty and partly a cop mission, but its a superb novel of the early days of the war.
Rider goes on spy missions with the local CIA agent, while also helping a local doctor who is ministering to the Montagnard tribes people. He also aids Colonel Bennett in his camp. The remote outpost has little military value to the North Vietnamese, but hidden in the jungle it seems like many locals from the AIDE group, the South Vietnam Army, the Viet Kong, the North Vietnamese are all doing business. Corruption is rife.
Rider must manuever among these groups and survive the machinations of the drug overlord, who is closer at hand than one would imagine.
Its a great superb war novel and spy novel because it explores another side of the conflict that is not covered in other fiction about this period. How much of it is really fiction and how much is fact is hard to say, but Jurjevic's journey into his past is all good.(less)
Jean Auel's first few books in this series were marked by a very imaginative exploration of our prehistoric anscestors and an extrapolation of how peo...moreJean Auel's first few books in this series were marked by a very imaginative exploration of our prehistoric anscestors and an extrapolation of how people could develop tools, use fire, hunt, use medicine, and domesticate animals. The series started with the startling good Clan of the Cave Bear, which introduced us to Ayla, the heroine of the series, an homo sapiens who lived with the Neanderthals and explored her interaction with them, and eventual leavetaking.
The next book in the series, the Valley of the Horses was a classic adventure tale as Ayla living alone had to learn to use her instincts for hunting and knowledge learned from Isa and Broud in the Clan of the Cave Bears to survive the hazards of life in this world.
Eventually Ayla met and mated with Jondalar and traveled to his home with the Zelandoni, a group of homo sapiens who made their home in Europe. The Shelters of Stone, the prior book in this series, if recollection serves me, was about Ayla and Jondalar's re-union with the Zelandoni and integration into their society. At the time, Ayla was approached by the First of the Zelandonia to become one -- that is the spiritual and healers of the Zelandoni.
This novel is basically about two things, Ayla's becoming an accepted Zelandoni and a specific revelation about human reproduction. In addition, Auel depicts the Zelandoni as finding the painted caves full drawn by even more prehistoric places as specially spiritual to the Zelandoni. Its an interesting concept, but overdone in my opinion.
But then the novel is overdone a lot. Ayla is from a different group of people and the Zelandoni language may be the third language she has learned, but how many times does Auel have to say that some people from a group of Zelandoni heard her foreign accent. Also, as we know from prior books, Ayla is supposedly blessed with acute senses so Auel always has her as the best at hunting, finding cures, etc. In short she is a kind of super human. Another issue is the innumerable trips to the Painted Caves. I understand that is the title of the novel, but to my mind it just too long and boring. I skimmed a lot here.
I did not have the same sense of wonder and discovery as in the more adventurous earlier books in the series. Frankly, the book was overlong, lacked drama, and contained a lot of descriptions of all the men who wanted to mate with Ayla -- I lost track of how many loved her, how many times people were shocked at her wolf and horses.
Its clear that Auel loves her character, and I loved her earlier stories in this series, but this last novel is just not up to that standard.
**spoiler alert** An engrossing spy and mystery novel set in World War II Britain combines the investigation of Ted Stratton a 35ish detective who is...more**spoiler alert** An engrossing spy and mystery novel set in World War II Britain combines the investigation of Ted Stratton a 35ish detective who is investigating the presume suicide of Mabel Morgan, a beautiful silent screen star, with the domestic spy investigation by Diane Calthrop and Forbes-James, with MI5 of the Right Club, a pro fascist British group with designs to keep America out of the war.
The two plots alternate by chapter, with Stratton investigating the Morgan death on his own time because of elements of the case that trouble him and Calthrop infiltrating the Right Club in her chapters. Stratton's home life is explored and his young nephew Johnny soon becomes an element of his investigation. Meanwhile, Calthrop's affair with a double agent becomes a hinderance to her life.
At about 250 pages in the two plots come together as do the investigations.
If this book is Steampunk, then I want to read more of them. Maurice Newbury is a Crown Agent, an investigator of both crimes and the occult for the c...moreIf this book is Steampunk, then I want to read more of them. Maurice Newbury is a Crown Agent, an investigator of both crimes and the occult for the crown in this delightfully vigorous mystery set in a reworked victorian England full of both elements of science fiction and horror.
Revenants (zombie like human creatures, who are victims of a plague from India) are roaming London killing people, but other people are dying by some mysterious means, found strangled. There are odd sightings of a glowing policeman near the victims. Newbury is investigating one of the strangled victims, when he is sent to investigate the downing of an airship in which 50 passengers are killed. With his trusty assistant Veronica Hobbes, they find that the airship has no pilot. This leads them to investigate the airships makers Chapman and Villiers. It appears that the airship was being piloted by a robot, or automan. Newbury's investigation of the cause of the airship crash and the murders of the people in England is interesting and I think Mann's depiction of Victorian England is spot on with both the style of that era and also with his changes including Queen Victoria who is only alive by the means of an artificial machine to the Fixer, a secret doctor who is fixes Crown Agents who are mangled on the Crown business. Newbury is a complicated character -- both a man of scholarship and of action who fights off some revenants in one scene and has a brawl on top of a moving train in another action filled part of the novel. He has an addiction to laudenum.
Hobbes is no insipid character, a fighter who is not afraid of physical action and has secrets of her own including a sister who has visions, who is locked away in an asylum. Only on the last few pages do we learn about her other job as well.
This novel was a pleasure and I will look forward to more books by Mann involving these two characters.(less)
Ken-eshi is a masterless samurai called a Ronin in ancient feudal Japan. He possesses a legendary sword and is looking for a Lord to serve, but mostly...moreKen-eshi is a masterless samurai called a Ronin in ancient feudal Japan. He possesses a legendary sword and is looking for a Lord to serve, but mostly he is hungry as he walks from village to village with his dog. It seems like any other feudal story except Ken-eshi is able to talk to his dog, he was raised by a tenga, and his sword seems to be able to warn him of danger.
Set in a could have been feudal Japan, this medieval Fantasy is a welcome change from the oftentimes feudal English countryside.
The Ronin is forced early on in the story to kill a Samurai constable who thinks the young Ronin is an easy mark and dies for his mistake. This is not the best thing because one of the Samurai's aides Toro hunts for the Ronin throughout the novel.
Meanwhile, the young Ronin rescues a young Maiden being attacked by bandits and is forced to kill an Oni or demon, who is the leader of the bandits.
The Oni has raped the Maiden's lady in waiting and the demon's poison gradually warps the woman. Later the same thing happens to Toro who is attacked by the dieing Oni.
Toro finds the young Ronin and attacks him but the Ronin, defeats him and cuts off his arm. However Toro does not stop hunting the Ronin and starts to gain powers from the Oni. He kills often and starts to blackout and wake up in the homes of murdered victims.
So he becomes one pursuer of the Ronin.
Meanwhile the Ronin falls in love with the maiden, but his love is not to be as the killed Samurai story follows him --s uch that he has to leave the Lord and she ends up married to an older Lord who is unknowingly served by an evil crime lord -- the Green Tiger who is trying to help the Mongols take over Japan, and at the same time destroy the maiden's father and husband's houses. Lastly he is seeking the young Ronin's blade as he has recognized it and desires it.
The novel has a lot of interesting plot lines and I am looking forward to reading the next one.
Dewey Lambdin's Alan Lewrie Naval Adventure series is a great work of writing. Each book follows the exploits of Alan Lewrie, a Naval Officer in the l...moreDewey Lambdin's Alan Lewrie Naval Adventure series is a great work of writing. Each book follows the exploits of Alan Lewrie, a Naval Officer in the late 1700 early 1800's when England ruled the world and Horatio Nelson was a great leader. Similar to the Bolitho novels of Alexander Kent a/k/a Douglas Reeman, but more bawdy these novels caputre the essence of shipboard life and life of an English officer in war and on shore.
In this latest adventure, the novel opens up with Lewrie on trial for his part in freeing some slaves during the prior book. Through the deft work of his counsel, Lewrie is freed but the Admiralty is not interested in hiring him so he spends his days on shore where he is being pursued by two fetching ladies, a Russian and a Greek, one of whom has been waging an underhanded war of words against him. Lewrie, who has the sobriquet of the Ram Cat, and not only for his actions asea, is also involved with the young Tess, a doxy from Madam Baston's house.
Much of the early action in this novel takes place ashore, and if you like the vernacular and the versimiltude of this England, you will like this part of the novel.
It could have been a little less of the novel.
Finally, Lewrie is granted captaincy in a frigate, where he is sent on a secret mission to drop off some Russian nobles, who are supposedly to negotiate a peace with the Tsar as well as check the harbors in the Baltic to see wha ships are there.
Finally, in the end, Lewrie takes his crew and meets up with Nelson and fights in the Battle of Copenhagen.
Lambdin is a master of shipboard life and his language and dialogue of the main characters and all of the others is just spot on.
I would have liked to have spent more time at sea (as I like the Naval part) to predominate, but if you are a fan, you will like this book.(less)
This was an interesting book but I cannot say its good. The ending is weak.
Basically, Ian Graham, a newscaster who recently lost his job, takes on a p...moreThis was an interesting book but I cannot say its good. The ending is weak.
Basically, Ian Graham, a newscaster who recently lost his job, takes on a position of doing investigative journalism and his first report is from Rosyln Chapel, a historic chapel. While in Roslyn, Graham hears a humming sound that no one else hears. While talking to Rob Madison, a guide, he learns some of the history of the chapel and somehow hits his head. When he awakes, he has been sent back in time to the body of his prior self, a warrior/templar in France in the months before the Templar Order is slaughtered by the King of France and the Pope. Graham travels in France between various cities going to churches in a pilgramage to save Templar treasures and find the secret to the song that he alone hears. On his pilgramage he is accompanied by people who look the same as his friends in the future -- so Rob is there as a Templar guide, and Roddy his agent is there as a Stonemason, and various Saints and his Gran, long dead visit him in the various churches providing him with clues to save himself from people seeking the same treasures and to stop him. As a treasure hunt the book seems interesting -- the historical fiction seems spot on, and the tales of the various churches and the inside of same and the secrets in the vaults and all are impressive, but the end of the book seems to me forced as is once Graham gets to where he can get home what can be done with what he discovers.
At one point Hunt talks about the Nicholas Cage movie -- National Treasure or its prequel, and while I know this is literature I think some more action in that vein would have done this novel some good.
Read it for the history and the time travel -- the journey is interesting. One wishes the ending was as.(less)