As the final part of the Night Angel trilogy this did not disappoint. In the wake of the Godking's death, a new queen has usurped the throne. It's up...moreAs the final part of the Night Angel trilogy this did not disappoint. In the wake of the Godking's death, a new queen has usurped the throne. It's up to Kylar to do something about it. In the meantime other armies are ranged against Cenaria and a renegade priest plans to bring back the goddess Khali and hoards of magical undead warriors. Kylar learns - too late - the bitter cost of his own immortality.
Everyone he loves is in mortal danger unless he can assassinate the goddess herself. Failure will doom all the countries of the south and success will rob him of the one thing he loves best in all the world.
No more spoilers. All I can say is this is a satisfying ending with enough loose ends tied up to keep me happy and a couple of minor dangling threads that make me wonder if Weeks hasn't quite finished with the immortal Night Angel yet. If there was more, I'd certainly read it. (less)
I read this in draft and now my shiny copy of the book has arrived, complete with acknowledgements which includes me. (Thanks, Nicky.) So I might be a...moreI read this in draft and now my shiny copy of the book has arrived, complete with acknowledgements which includes me. (Thanks, Nicky.) So I might be a tiny bit biased about this one. I might say it’s good just because...
But actually I’ll say it’s good because, quite simply, it is. It’s a book marketed for 9s – 12s which surprises me because I would put it more at YA level, but it’s possible I’m out of touch. It’s a time travel-by-magic book and the third of three about two misfit British schoolkids, Dan and Ursula, who travel through the veil and find themselves at important points in British history, having acquired a certain amount of personal magic and warrior prowess along the way (and a magical flair for languages). Never the same magic in any of the three books as the magic works differently in each timespan. They’ve already fought in the days of the Romano-British with the warrior King Macsen and at Camlann with King Arthur, but in that last battle Ursula, trained over the course of the previous books into a strapping six foot female warrior, was dreadfully injured. In Arthur’s time the wound would have been fatal, so Dan, grown to know battle-madness, and the feel of a sword in his hand, forces the bard Taliesin to open the veil and he carries Ursula through, looking for twenty-first century magic, in the shape of paramedics and antibiotics.
And that’s where this book opens. Warrior berserker Dan, mage Taliesin, the war dog Braveheart and the almost lifeless warrior-mage Ursula step out of the mist just an hour after difficult child Dan and lumpy, awkward schoolgirl Ursula disappeared. The coach is waiting; their classmates of probably a year or two ago are still looking for them.
Taliesin and Braveheart make a hasty getaway and Dan and Ursula are found covered in battle-gore. The well-meaning twenty-first century nanny-state kicks in. Ursula gets her medical treatment and Dan gets a quick trip to the local slammer, since he must be the villain, right?
After accusations, through which Dan sits dumb – because they’ll never believe the truth – Ursula eventually recovers enough to say they were attacked by unknown assailants and Dan’s off the hook. Things look to be settling down because they’re allowed back to school to do GCSEs. No one seems to realise that Dan has grown six inches and Ursula has lost pounds of weight and gained enough muscle to join an Olympic team. They shrug it off with ‘My haven’t you grown’ and ‘You’ve lost weight in hospital.’ Ursula’s mum takes her out to buy her a new pink skirt.
But if Dan finds school difficult, Ursula finds it almost impossible. Addicted to magic, she can’t bear it back at home. She needs to open the veil and go through once more. Taliesin reappears with the means to raise the veil and once she knows that, Ursula is set on it. After nearly killing a schoolgirl in the library by defending herself too strongly in a brawl, Ursula runs away, persuades Dan to lift the veil and without waiting for him charges into it in a blind panic, finding and falling into the magic she has been so desperate for. Falling into it so deeply that she’s lost in it.
But they haven’t returned to Macsen’s Romano-British time or even to King Arthur’s ill-fated reign, this time they are in the Britain of Alfred the Great and the Danes, separated and lost. Ursula is in thrall to the magic and to a blind child who seems to be able to control her better than she can control herself, and Dan finds himself swearing allegiance to Alfred, his loyalty tested in a terrifying trial by water. Yet all the time he’s trying to find Ursula – the love of his life, though he’s barely admitted that to himself.
Dan finds old enemies may have at last become friends and there’s help from the Bishop Asser when he discovers that the form his magic takes in this century is even more frightening than before and one step beyond being a berserker in battle. In the end Ursula must face the most difficult choice of her life, and then the two must find a way home if they can.
It’s gripping; a fast-paced bloody, smelly, gritty book, full of fights, battles and magic wrapped around a realistic historical background. Highly recommended, but don’t just read this, read the two books that went before it as well: ‘Warriors of Alavna’ and ‘Warriors of Camlann’. You won’t be disappointed. (less)
It's taken me a while to get to read Nicky Browne's 2011 book from Bloomsbury, Wolf Blood. I held off while I was revising my magic pirate book becaus...moreIt's taken me a while to get to read Nicky Browne's 2011 book from Bloomsbury, Wolf Blood. I held off while I was revising my magic pirate book because I knew she had a wolf shapechanger in her story and I didn't want to be unconsciously influenced when writing my wolf shapechanger. With the current popularity of werewolf books in urban fantasy it's hugely refreshing to find a werewolf that's very different from all the hunky, hairy beasties as seen in the Kitty books and even Patricia Briggs' excellent Mercy Thompson books (which I love BTW.) And Browne's book is hardly urban.
Set in first century Britain as the Roman legions are advancing, It's beautifully and engagingly drawn with a tight focus on the two main characters, Trista, a British warrior seeress, and Morcant, half-British, half-Roman and as the story begins, a soldier in Rome's army. But that's about to change because Morcant, although he may not know it or like it, is a wolf shapechanger. The point of view, told in first person, shifts between Trista and Morcant though Trista tells at least two thirds of the tale.
It opens with Trista, a trained warrior woman, currently a slave of a rival tribe where she disguises her combat skills and bides her time until she can escape. Free at last Trista stumbles through the dangerously cold winter night and, exhausted, comes across two Roman soldiers, one of whom is Morcant. Trista can see the wolf, but Morcant is unaware of what he is until things come to a head. With the wolf inside him free and getting stronger, Morcant can't return to his legion so the two go on the run together, uneasy companions at first, fearing both Roman and British.
There's plenty of action and a fair amount of bloody carnage as Trista and Morcant battle their way through dangerous situations to reach Caratacus, leader of the British, and take a stand against the Romans. The plotting is tight and exciting, but it's the characters and developing relationship between Trista and Morcant that's at the heart of this story. Trista has been damaged by her dark visions, the loss of her husband in battle and her subsequent captivity and ill-treatment. Morcant, although legally a citizen of Rome, is neither accepted by his father's people nor his mother's. As a shapechanger people fear him and as a wolf he's also outside the pack. Trista and Morcant have more in common with each other than with anyone else, though their road isn't smooth.
I think this is supposed to be for the 10 -12 age range, but it reads more like a YA. Though this isn't unusual as N. M. Browne's other excellent historical fantasies, (Warriors of Alavna etc.) similarly read 'older' to me. This is beautiful, literate and very focused writing with a remarkable amount of realistic detail and absolutely believable magic. The description, while never laboured, is so sensual that you can almost taste and smell this book.
I've recently re-read Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth trilogy and N. M. Browne is easily the modern day inheritor of Sutcliff's historical-literary crown. (less)
This is the final book in the Inda quartet. Phew, what a marathon! I reckon at least 250,000, possibly more, words in just this final book alone. We'v...moreThis is the final book in the Inda quartet. Phew, what a marathon! I reckon at least 250,000, possibly more, words in just this final book alone. We've followed Inda since he was a child of ten and here he is, still a young man, having achieved his wildest dream, to be Harskialdna – war leader – to his childhood friend, now King Evred of Iasca-Leror. At the end of King's Shield (book 3) it seemed that Inda's story had run its course. And so it might have ended there with Inda running the academy and second only to Evred, but the Venn, repelled but not defeated, mass for another attack, driven by Erkric, chief dag (mage) of the Venn, who has seized ultimate power by taking over the mind and will of Rajnir, the new king. Erkric has enemies In his own camp, including some of the mages and good-sort naval commander Fulla Durasnir, but it isn't until Erkric overstretches himself with this sea-attack to take over the all-important strait that he becomes vulnerable.
It's the sea attack that brings Inda back into the forefront of conflict. As Elgar the Fox (book 2) he had established a fearsome reputation as a sea-commander who never lost a fight. The countries around the straight will unite to fight the Venn, but only under Elgar's command. It's Inda's return to the sea that finally brings his old friend Fox, now commander of Inda's Fox-Banner fleet, back into the Marlovan fold as the Fox banner Fleet becomes the Marlovan navy.
How Inda and Fox fare against the Venn is long and complex, and presents Inda with a huge moral dilemma, seemingly impossible to solve, at the end of it. Is he going to betray his friends or be foresworn and disobey his king? The final segment of the book wraps up everyone's story arcs, actually telling the happy-ever-afters, which, like life, are filled with ups and downs, but mostly happier than not. (And there's a final wrap up on Sherwood Smith's website in case you wondered what happened when all the dust had settled.)
Inda's story, through four books, is mammoth. Though he remains the commander who never loses a battle, sometimes the win comes from an entirely unexpected element in the whole million-piece jigsaw puzzle that Sherwood Smith has fitted together so elegantly. The characters have way more dimensions than three and even the minor characters are important. Relationships matter and death in battle leaves painful gaping holes in people's lives. Inda is a rare puzzle of a character all by himself, dedicated to his own personal truths, but deeply damaged not only by childhood trauma, but by battle wounds. There is always a price to pay for victory and Inda, who never loses, often pays the biggest price of all, mentally as well as physically.
This is a completely realised world that the author has been nurturing in various timelines since she was a child, and the depth of imagination shows. There's no handwaving, everything is thought out carefully and fits together with not a piece out of place. This is a fantasy tour-de-force. Highly recommended. (less)
The third part of the Inda quartet following on from Inda and The Fox. A mighty book in many ways. Long, yes, all 687 ages of it. Complex in depth and...moreThe third part of the Inda quartet following on from Inda and The Fox. A mighty book in many ways. Long, yes, all 687 ages of it. Complex in depth and far-reaching in scope this is still Inda's story, but the other characters aren't forgotten and we spend a lot of this book seeing Inda through other eyes.. When Inda returns home from the sea to warn his once best friend and now king, Evred, of an impending attack by the Venn he's accompanied by shipmates, the beautiful Tau and his (to her own thinking) plain lover Jeje and Inda's own lover the much older Venn mage, Signi.
Though there is grief when Inda learns his older brother has been murdered in his absence and his father has faded to the status of a cabbage, Inda finally gets his heart's desire. His exile is ended, his trumped up crime of eight or nine years ago is forgotten and his trusted friends are all happy to see him back, especially Evred who almost immediately makes Inda his war-leader. Lest that seem a little overly convenient for Inda's advancement, all the experienced war leaders have already been eliminated in a 'night-of-the-long-knives' coup and counter-coup in the previous book, The Fox. Inda, known for having 'plans' in his academy days, and always being capable of seeing the bigger picture in any military engagement, has shown he can lead a fleet to victory at sea. Now all he has to do is relearn the art of fighting on land.
So Inda comes home in time to put his best friends into the worst jeopardy of their lives, with the Venn invasion force already waiting to land an army of thousands and a long march through the Andahi pass to command the high ground first in the coming battle. Inda's learning curve is as steep and rocky as the sides of the pass, but Evred was right to put his trust in him even though the cost is great.
The human stories are intertwined with the military one: Evred's secret passion for Inda, recognised only by Tau and by Tdor, Inda's future wife; Tdor's anxiety about Inda's lover, Signi, and how her presence will affect their arranged marriage; Inda's ongoing nightmares from previous traumas; Jeje's inferiority complex which causes her to leave before Tau can get tired of her; Tau's sense of loss over Jeje because though he's had many lovers, so few of them have been friends as well. There are new characters: the doomed defenders of Castle Andahi and their children, sent to the mountains for safety, struggling to survive. We see the academy boys from the first book, Inda, now grown to men and fulfilling their promise - or not. Special mention for the beautifully drawn cameo of Noddy Toraca, somewhat goofy and turtle-like as a child, but now strong and steady, already a father, and questioning the sense of war while giving everything when asked. There's a human cost of war, not just in the dead, but the maimed as well. Inda and his chums were children in the first book. The idea of war was an exciting adventure, a war game. Now they are men, and war is no longer a game.
There is much to admire in Sherwood Smith's writing. The worldbuilding is completely believable and within the context of fiction, totally real. The characterisation is excellent. She makes you care about all of them, even the annoying ones. The plot is never predictable, the pace always page-turning. After three mammoth books what can be left in Inda's life to write about? He's already achieved the pinnacle of success. But there is another book, Treason's Shore, and I'm having to stop myself from dashing off to start reading. I have some work to do first... (less)
I'm really loving this series and can't wait to get my hands on the third one. All my earlier reservations about the complicated Marlovan titles and m...moreI'm really loving this series and can't wait to get my hands on the third one. All my earlier reservations about the complicated Marlovan titles and military ranks which change their name if the country is at war etc. have faded with familiarity and no longer jerk me out of the story because I can't remember the difference between a laef and a sierlaef and a randael and a randivar. So this story races ahead for me.
It picks up where Inda left off. Inda is still in exile and building a new life for himself at sea, growing through his teen years. His pirate-fighting marines, hiring out to defend merchant convoys, have just been overwhelmed by a much stronger force and Inda is balanced between life and death. He can join the pirate crew and live, or reject them and be killed. Luckily for Inda there are two Marlovans already forced into the pirate crew and Fox and Barend stop him from doing anything stupid. Though Inda loses some of his marine crew from the first book other favourite characters, such a Tau and Jeje survive and the game is on.
We also get the return of favourite characters from Inda's academy days, his contemporaries are growing to manhood and into the responsibility of their pre-destined lives. Sponge or Evred, the King's younger son; Hadand, Inda's sister destined to marry the thoroughly unlikeable, though oddly vulnerable, heir; Cherry-Stripe and Cama, Inda's classmates, and Whipstick Noth who has taken Inda's place as Shield Arm at home.
It's not long before Inda's in charge of his own pirate fleet, determined to wipe out the real pirates and then go after the Venn who threaten Iasca-Leror. In the meantime things are moving back at home and crimes that the Sierlaef (the heir to the Kingdom) and the Harskialdna (the King's brother and also his war leader) have committed against Inda's family are coming nearer and nearer to the surface.
This is a rolling, wide, reaching story with a wealth of world-detail so intricate and layered that it springs to life in glorious 3-D. It's a big book, 772 pages, but I couldn't put it down and am instantly ordering the third. Oh, go on, despite my vow never to buy more than one book at a time in a series in case they go sour on me, I think there's no risk in ordering the last two of these together.
I've been looking forward to reading this for some time, but putting it off while I finished the revision of the magic pirate book knowing there was s...moreI've been looking forward to reading this for some time, but putting it off while I finished the revision of the magic pirate book knowing there was some pirate stuff in this and not wanting to accidentally acquire ideas.
I was not disappointed.
I expected a lighter faster read, what I got was a richly layered, fully realised world with a child protagonist covering about seven years of Inda's life from 10 – 17. Set in Iasca Leror, a land conquered some years earlier by the warlike Marlovans the story centres around Inda, second son of the prince of Choraed-Elgaer. His life is mapped out. When his elder brother, Tanrid, inherits, Inda will become his Shield Arm – his military champion defending home. Not for Inda the excitement of the military academy, a privilege for firstborn sons only... until politics and impending war intervene.
The book follows Inda throiugh his first and into his second year of academy training where he befriends a boy called Sponge, the King's second son, who has fallen foul of his older brother and his uncle, the Royal Shield Arm. There are feuds, political infighting, intrigue and sabotage. The women are also warriors, though trained separately in defensive strategies. Everyone (at this level of society) is subject to arranged marriages. Despite not seeming to have much of a voice the women are busy with plans of their own, researching to relearn lost magic.
Inda is betrayed and spirited away to sea when he refuses to admit liability for something that was not his fault. He ends up fighting pirates while the Royal Shield Arm finally gets the war he's been craving for years.
I found myself desperately wanting to read the next book in the series as soon as I'd finished this. To be honest I wouldn't like to leave too long a gap before reading the next one mainly because the names and ranks are mind-twisting. A prince is not a prince, he either an Adaluin or a Varlaef or a Sierlaef depending on whether he's the prince of a territory or the King's second or first son. The Royal Shield Arm is the Sierandael or Harskialdna depending on whether they are actually at war. It takes a while to get into this and I did find it confusing at first. Sierlaef and Sierandael were a bit too close for comfort and it threw me a bit. If only I'd turned to the back first and found the glossary, but I was not looking in that direction because i wanted to avoid spoilers!
But that's a small price to pay for such a complex, satisfying book. I'm looking forward to the next one. Come on, Amazon, hurry up! (less)
The story of John Fitzgilbert, who from humble beginnings as a royal servant rose to become Marshall at the court of King Henry I, responsible for the...moreThe story of John Fitzgilbert, who from humble beginnings as a royal servant rose to become Marshall at the court of King Henry I, responsible for the logistics of everything from moving the court from one location to the next to supplying the authorised whores. An ambitious man, John prospers in turbulent times until, with the death of Henry the country is thrown into civil war as Henry’s daughter, Mathilda, battles it out against her cousin Stephen for the crown. It’s a time of great uncertainty, when nobles changed sides regularly depending on which monarch threatened their lands. John’s first marriage to the pious, squeamish and totally unimaginative Aline provides him with a cold bed, and when he is dreadfully injured in the fighting she can barely bring herself to look at him.
Desperate to protect his lands and his sons John must forge an alliance with his turbulent neighbour Patrick of Salisbury, but to do that he has to set Aline aside and take Patrick’s daughter Sybilla, barely out of childhood, to wife. But Sybilla is no Aline. Despite her youth she can both stand up to and stand up for John, even to the point where John offers their four year old son, William, as a hostage to King Stephen, gambling on the child’s buoyant nature and the King’s soft heart that he will be spared when John breaks his word. The tag line for this book is: Sometimes keeping your honour means breaking your word; and throughout John comes across as an honourable man, though often in desperate circumstances.
John is one of Chadwick’s charismatic protagonists and one of my personal favourites, though he is eventually destined to be outdone by his fourth son, William, Earl Marshall, whose story is the subject of ‘The Greatest Knight’ and ‘The Scarlet Lion’. (less)
This follows on from the story of Fulke (LeBrun) Fitzwarin and Hawise as told so well in ‘Shadows and Strongholds’ (number 30 on this list). The hero...moreThis follows on from the story of Fulke (LeBrun) Fitzwarin and Hawise as told so well in ‘Shadows and Strongholds’ (number 30 on this list). The hero if this book is LeBrun’s son, also Fulke who carries forward his family’s ambition to regain title to The White Castle at Whittington in the hotly disputed Welsh Borders, arbitrarily taken from the Fitzwarins and bestowed on a lord with half a foot in the Norman camp and half in the Welsh.
It’s an ambition that’s going to drive him to despair and almost to the point of destruction since Fulke (the younger) quarrels with the young Prince John. John is never going to forgive and forget, so as king he blocks Fulke’s access to Whittington at every turn – ultimately causing Fulke to turn outlaw. Fulke Fitzwarin – the outlaw – is a matter of historical record, but within the broad sweep of history Chadwick has teased out a very human story.
Fulke’s attraction to Maude, the child bride of his much-loved mentor, Lord Theobald Walter, is an itch he dare not scratch until Walter dies, leaving Maude a young, childless widow under the protection of the Archbishop of Canterbury and lusted after by King John, who considers seducing his Baron’s wives a fair sport. Fulke and Maude are united at last, even though all he can offer her is the life of an outlaw’s wife until he eventually makes an uneasy peace with John.
Fulke and the spirited Maude spat like cat and dog but she is the light of his life even though things do not always run smoothly. Their story is fraught with danger, as the Welsh dispute the border. If Fulke regains Whittington can he hold it?
I think I would have liked this better if Chadwick had stopped earlier in Fulke’s story, but she takes us through to the bitter end. Maude is killed in an accident leaving Fulke empty, though eventually he finds companionship with Clarice, his second wife – again a matter of public record. (less)
The story of Fulke (known as Brunin) FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan from the time Brunin is taken into the de Dinan household (Ludlow Castle) as a ten...moreThe story of Fulke (known as Brunin) FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan from the time Brunin is taken into the de Dinan household (Ludlow Castle) as a ten year old squire, at the request of his father who wants the gentle Brunin 'made into a man'. Brunin and Hawise grow up together, firm friends, but their eventual marriage is not in their own hands in a world where marriages are arranged for political, economic and security reasons.
This is set against a background of upheaval. It's England in 1148 and Prince Henry of Anjou is making a determined bid for the throne - and will soon become Henry II. FitzWarin and de Dinan are supporters of the victorious Henry, but that's a no guarantee that when the dust settles they won't have lost what they consider to be theirs, for Henry is a capricious king, given to redistributing his favours (and his strongholds) according to the need of the moment.
Gilbert de Lacy contests the right to Ludlow and as the de Dinan family and Joscelin’s young but growing squire are drawn into battles determined by the course of history. Brunin does, indeed, grow to manhood, every inch a Norman knight, learning eventually to overcome the enmity of his brothers, the fear of his harridan grandmother (who never lets anyone in the family forget that they carry William the Conqueror's bloodline) and the disappointment of his father, earning respect and eventually coming into his inheritance.
But Brunin's betrothal to Hawise (portrayed entirely realistically not as a great romance, but as a great friendship blossoming into love at the behest of both their families) is what brings Ludlow down - because in all his time in the de Dinan household he - and everyone else - had discounted the feelings of Marion - another de Brunin fosterling who is much more unstable than anyone suspects. It's Marion's treachery that loses them Ludlow in fact, to a private battle with de Lacey, and Henry that seals it in law.
This is also a story of the love between Joscelin de Dinan and his wife Sybilla. Joscelin, an ex mercenary and good judge of men holds Shrewsbury as his wife's inheritance. Joscelin is a rarity. A truly good and strong man whose one fear is of letting his wife down. He was given Ludlow (and Sybilla) together and fears that losing one will lose him the other.
A well-written and engaging book that I read because someone left it here. I'm glad I did. I don't read many historicals, but I'm inclined to seek out more Elizabeth Chadwick and there is a continuation of Fulke/Brunin's story in Lords of the White Castle (written four years before this book) which is now on my wants list. (less)