Joanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose plays in France near the end of Robespierre's bloody part of the French revolution. I've read The Spymaster's Lady,...moreJoanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose plays in France near the end of Robespierre's bloody part of the French revolution. I've read The Spymaster's Lady, an earlier volume of this series, earlier and while I had some major qualms about (in my eyes unbelievable and unnecessary) family relationships there, the historical background and distanced prose was very well done. The Forbidden Rose has all (and more) of what I loved in The Spymaster's Lady and none of its shortcomings. The narration is third person with more emotional distance to the characters than is "en vogue" in romance novels these days. However, this serves well to showcast not only the nicely done historical background, but also the hilarity found in the lives of the characters. With a closer emotional contact to the characters, the delicious dry humor would be entirely lost, because involved people are seldom aware of the hilarity of an event until after it is well over.
To give a first taste of this, I'd like to add a quote from Joanne Bourne's The Forbidden Rose: "He came to challenge Victor to a duel. [...] (So) I hid his swords in the kitchen, behind the brooms."
While this book is not one of my all-time favorites, it's definitely one to keep and I most certainly will read Joanna Bourne's The Black Hawk to learn what becomes of Hawker. :-)(less)
The book plays in the Japan of 1865 - 1868, depicting the turbulence the forced opening to the West, the overthrow of the shogunate and the institutionalization of the empire had on both, high and low class people. And the plot is so rich - ranging from intrigue thriller over crime and warfare to romance - that any summary I came up with is as inadequate of its content as the back text. Basically, it is one of the few books that really draws you to the place and people where it plays. If you can get a hold on it: grab it, hold tight, and read it! (less)
I Just finished Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects, ranging from the 2 million years old stone chopping tool to a contemporary cre...moreI Just finished Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects, ranging from the 2 million years old stone chopping tool to a contemporary credit card and a solar lamp (with charger). This is easily the most entertaining - and enlightening - book on global history out there (global in the true sense of the word; though Greenland and Antarctica are under-represented)! I highly recommend investing your time in it. :-)(less)
Sakura-Gari (three volumes in total) is different. The story plays in Tokyo during the Taisho era (1912-1926) and a lot of research and detail has been given for a believable setting not only of the locations, but also of characters being believable in their time, of their surroundings, interactions, living conditions and events. In end notes of the two volumes already published, Watase-san admits that she put years of research into this story project. She hasn't delved into the BL (or the yaoi) genre before, and believe me, it shows -- in a positive way. The story is drawn in beautiful, detailed, sometimes almost painful art without the idealizations of characters and especially behavior found in most manga with a BL component. I truly enjoyed reading the first two volumes and am eagerly waiting for the final one.
However, if you consider getting Sakura-Gari, be warned: this is not a love story. It is considerably darker than Watase's previous works (though this might be a subjective feeling, because this plot grabbed me a lot more than the others), containing violence (sexual and otherwise). It is clearly geared for a mature audience and the BL component is part of a very precise historical setting that is much more than a mere backdrop of the main characters getting into each others pants.(less)
Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady was an entertaining read with a capable, at times almost too capable heroine against the nicely complex told ba...more Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady was an entertaining read with a capable, at times almost too capable heroine against the nicely complex told background of the espionage between Britain and France during the bloody part of the French revolution. In this game of spies, virtually nobody is who s/he seems to be. However, the involved family relations revealed toward the end were a bit much and - at least in my eyes - not necessary for a believable (and nicely romantic) conclusion of the tale. In fact, they robbed the book some of its initial appeal to me. Especially the rediscovered grandfather irked me.(less)
While I've read - and enjoyed - my share of historical novels, I usually stayed away from ancient Roman and Greek times (having suffered too much thro...moreWhile I've read - and enjoyed - my share of historical novels, I usually stayed away from ancient Roman and Greek times (having suffered too much through history classes as dry as they were unimaginative). I don't recall what made me pick up Fire in the East and give it a try, but I am glad that I did.
Harry Sidebottom paints a vivid picture of the situation at the Eastern border of the Roman Empire in 256 AD, with recognizable characters who - while not forcing you into their heads - still manage to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering not so much about what (since the portrayed events at the siege of Dura are known) but about how and to whom it happens.
The book is completed with drawn maps in the beginning and an end note explaining where artistic license has been taken (and how). Considering the extensive archaeological field work done at Dura, I would have loved to see a few photographs included in this last part to see how the created mental image adds up with what's known from the past, but since this is a novel and not a history book, it is understandable that the focus was kept more firmly on the tale.
It was an enjoyable read that already made me start on the sequel. :)(less)
King of Kings is as interesting as the first installment of the series, but also clearly a "middle book". Other than in the first book, Fire in the Ea...moreKing of Kings is as interesting as the first installment of the series, but also clearly a "middle book". Other than in the first book, Fire in the East, there is no continuous arch of events (at least not at first), but a series of episodes that highlight how the lead character, Ballista, loses imperial favor due to intrigue. While the events weren't as spectacular or spell-binding as the siege of Arete featuring prominently in Fire in the East, I kept reading mostly because by now I am interested in the fate of the characters and the developments in the empire. This curiosity kept me reading through the middle part and on towards a dramatic - and sadly cliffhanger - finish that reminded me strongly of why I truly like [Fire in the East], making me buy book 3 Lion of the Sun directly after finishing this one. I hope that the increased speed and thrill found at the end of this book will continue in it.(less)
This was a tricky book to rate. First, there's the story itself - which is a straight 5 stars in my books: complex, interconnected, not always predict...moreThis was a tricky book to rate. First, there's the story itself - which is a straight 5 stars in my books: complex, interconnected, not always predictable. There are a couple of common tropes, but not so many as that they would hurt the story experience. The characterization would be... 3-4 stars, I think. Not too easy, not too comfortable, not too stereotypical (mostly). Sadly, it's the story telling itself that makes it difficult to truly judge the quality of the characterization. Normally, I love distanced, observant third-person telling that pays attention to surroundings and settings and events. However, here the 3rd person perspective - even if given with a focus of one or other main character - borders on omnivision. New events that are critical to the plot instead of being noted and considered by the characters are just declared; they "fall from the sky" like a game card, often enough taking me out of the plot flow and - annoyingly - out of the character perspective. Get me right: it's a story that hooks you. I certainly will read any sequel that involves the yet unborn kid in the end, and that's the reason I'm that annoyed with the "pop up details"; they take so much sensation out of the story. A plot like this really deserves better than that!(less)