Category Archives: alternate history

Teaser Tuesday – 6th November, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Second Star – Book 1 of the Star Svendotter series by Dana Stabenow

42% The worst thing about Charlie was that I couldn’t slug someone that much shorter than I was and look myself in the mirror the next morning. I began to feel that it might be something I could overcome, given time.
Reaching for a cutting board, she took another, closer look at me, and paused with the knife poised over a green pepper. “You look exhausted, Star. What’s really worrying you?”

BLURB: Earth’s first space colony is overrun by spacepirates, politicians and saboteurs. One person dedicates her life to keeping her beloved colony safe: Esther “Star” Svensdotter. She’s dealt with all kinds of human troublemakers, but the rules change when the colony receives its first contact from aliens.

I’ve read and enjoyed Stabenow’s successful best-selling Kate Shugak series – see my review of Less Than Treason. I’d had this space opera adventure on my Kindle for a while and decided to give it a whirl. So far I’m really enjoying Stabenow’s alternative take on our history, if those pesky aliens hanging out in the Beetlejuice sector really had roused themselves to get in touch…

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Friday Faceoff – Clouds in my coffee… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is CLOUDS. I’ve selected Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read…

 

This edition was produced by Random House in August 2004. They do have my sympathy – trying to get a sense of this remarkable book on the cover must have been an almighty problem. They have gone for the prosaic, opting to provide six cloudscapes, presumably to represent the six viewpoints that feature within the narrative. The trouble is that the overall effect ends up looking like a book about the weather. That impression isn’t relieved by the red textbox featuring the title, which simply looks like a weather warning when the cover is in thumbnail.

 

Published in February 2005 by Sceptre, this cover is far more effective. The vibrant blue is both beautiful against the deep crimson cover and gives a sense of the extraordinary nature of the story. I love the treatment of the title font, too.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Duomo in 2012, once again falls back on the idea of the cloudscape, this time adding a ship to presumably denote the voyage of one of the protagonists. While I think it is a really cool idea, it is completely spoilt by chopping the lovely image in half and presenting the title and author in the most boring textbox on the planet. The two sad efforts at clouds plonked in there by someone who must have winced at all that white, aren’t sufficient to ease the visual tedium.

 

This edition, produced by Sceptre in 2014, is far more satisfactory. This time we have clouds, along with paper and ink, denoting one of the themes in the book – the fragility of historical records. I think this cover has caught the sense of the book really effectively and is my favourite.

 

This edition, published in January 2004 by Hodder & Stoughton, is just beautiful. I love the vibrancy – once again, it’s a surprise to see just how changes in colour can impact the overall design. My niggle is that the title simply doesn’t sufficiently stand out – and because of that, this week it is a tie. I cannot decide between this offering and the previous one. What do you think? Do you agree with me?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Menageriebookreview

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I like this author – see my review of Pride which also has something to say about the modern world within her escapist fantasy story. So when I saw the third book in this series featured on Netgalley, I requested it and when I was approved and realised that this wasn’t one I could crash into – I got hold of the previous two books in the series.

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town. But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

And there you have it. Creatures which are not fully human are rounded up, stripped of any rights, caged and put on display for the public. Other than the direct, uncomfortable example of what we often do to the animals we share this planet with – what I kept thinking about was those who are trafficked and sold into slavery. The justification for this treatment is an event called the Reaping, where thousands of children were slaughtered by their parents under some mysterious compulsion that has never been fully explained – except that it is believed to be by a creature with non-human powers.

This dystopian, alternative history is well established and I thoroughly believed in Delilah, an apparently ordinary twenty-five-year-old bank teller who reluctantly goes along to one of these carnivals with her friends and fiancé. The ensuing incident sees her stripped of any of her human rights and put in a cage right along the other specimens on display. I really enjoyed following her journey – it was engrossing and horrifying. Though it did jar with me when we were occasionally yanked out of her first-person viewpoint, finding ourselves in the point of view of one of the supporting characters. It didn’t happen sufficiently often with the same characters for it feel anything other than a bit random.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Delilah makes a convincing protagonist and I enjoyed how many of the imprisoned exhibits looked after each other. The pace is well judged, as you’d expect from a writer of her experience and I gobbled this one up in two sittings. Recommended for fans of character-led, darker fantasy and no romance.
9/10

#Sunday Post – 29th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been the first full week of the school holidays – and we travelled back to Brighton to pick up Frances on Tuesday from her last day at school. She was thrilled with the prospect of the summer break and to celebrate we stopped off at the local Haskins for a round of hand-made pizzas, which were very yummy. On Wednesday, Frances joined in my Pilates and Fitstep lessons during the morning in the sweltering village hall and in the afternoon, we met up with my sister and had a long, leisurely lunch – it was too hot to do anything else. On Thursday, we needed to shop for a few bits and pieces, when I discovered the delights of iced coffee and Frances sampled a hot chocolate scone, thinking she was getting a cookie…

On Friday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time formatting Running Out of Space in preparation for a paperback version – the rest of the time, we were busy closing down and unplugging the computers and router when several thunderstorms swept through. During the evening, we went beach to see if we could see the lunar eclipse but though we waited, hoping the cloud cover would thin, it didn’t. However, we were treated to an amazing display of blood-red lightning, presumably reflecting from the colour of the moon. It was supposed to be my friend’s birthday party on Saturday evening, but poor Sally was crippled with a bad back, so I helped her ring around the guests to postpone it until she feels better, while Frances walked to the beach with Tim. Today we are travelling to visit my mother and father who haven’t seen Frances since last year.

This week I have read:

White Silence – Book 1 of the Elizabeth Cage series by Jodi Taylor
Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.
What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control.
This paranormal thriller has plenty of the energy and twists I’ve come to expect from Taylor’s writing in her very successful The Chronicles of St Mary’s series, though Elizabeth definitely isn’t the adrenaline-junkie that Max is… A highly entertaining roller-coaster read.

 

Like a Boss – Book 2 of thendswept series by Adam Rukunas
After buying her favourite rum distillery and settling down, she thought she’d heard the last of her arch nemesis, Evanrute Saarien. But Saarien, fresh out of prison for his misdeeds in Windswept, has just fabricated a new religion, positioning himself as its holy leader. He’s telling his congregation to go on strike, to fight the system. And unfortunately, they’re listening to him.
This sequel to the successful Windswept isn’t perhaps as sharp or well realised as the first book, but I was happy to go along with the adventure, given I’m very fond of Padma and love the world.

 

The Tea Master and the Detective – The Xuya Universe novella by Aliette de Bodard
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.
This is space-based whodunit nods to the Sherlock Holmes series, while adding important ingredients that can only exist in the far future. An intriguing, entertaining read.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
I loved this one. The writing is lyrical, the worldbuilding exceptional and the story full of unexpected twists. And that cover – ooo… Many thanks to my lovely mother for sending this one to me.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 22nd July 2018

Review of Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas

Teaser Tuesday featuring Like a Boss – Book 2 of the Windswept series by Adam Rakunas

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Immortal Creators by Jill Bowers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Redemption’s Blade : After the War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday Face-off – Here we are trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why… featuring The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann

Review of The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Follow the Vikings https://inesemjphotography.com/2018/07/28/follow-the-vikings/ This talented photographer has perfectly captured the flavour of this amazing Follow the Vikings Roadshow when it came to Waterford in Ireland

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/untitled-146/ I loved this one…

Jupiter’s New Moons https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/07/25/jupiters-new-moons/ I love the fact that we are constantly discovering new facts about our solar system – and this is one of those exciting facts.

Then and Now at RWA National Conferences http://writerunboxed.com/2018/07/25/all-the-things-at-rwa-national-in-denver/ Barbara O’Neal has written with affection and verve about her experiences with the Romance Writers’ Association. I loved this article…

10 of the best poems by English Romantic Poets https://interestingliterature.com/2018/07/25/10-of-the-best-poems-by-english-romantic-poets/ I may not wholly agree with all these choices – but that’s okay. There are a number here I love…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is steampunk. I’ve selected The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann, a cracking whodunit set in an alternate Victorian London…

 

This edition was produced by Snow Books in 2008 and is my favourite. I love all the detail and the bright colours. It’s beautiful, full of lovely little touches, like the London cityscape, the little steampunk flourishes and that fabulous airship, which is the template for nearly all the other versions of this book’s covers. While I’ll accept that it probably doesn’t stand out when in thumbnail, I’ll forgive that – who wouldn’t want to expand this cover into glorious full size to capture the full effect?

 

Published in April 2010 by Tor Books, this is another attractive, well-designed offering. The airship is now grungier and less shiny, though every bit as eye-catching. I love the border and the attention to detail, again. I just wish there was less chatter across the cover.

 

This edition, published by Titan Books in July 2015, is certainly bright. The airship is still there and this cover provides lots of detail, but in silhouette. I think the overall effect is successful and eye-catching and I’d probably love it more if I hadn’t already given my heart to the Snow Books effort.

 

This edition, produced by Piper in 2011, takes the original design and makes it their own. It is far more stripped back and I think it is extremely effective – I love the background colour and clever use of the clouds to provide a suitably dramatic backdrop for that magnificent airship. The border is also nicely handled and in thumbnail, this one really pops. This is my second favourite, mostly because I just love that colour…

 

This French cover, published in June 2011, takes a completely different approach. This is the foggy London where Jack the Ripper lurks along with other desperate villains and only the likes of Newbury and Hobbes can get justice done… We see the two protagonists featured on the cover. I do like this effort, though not as much as the others. What about you – which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fawkes by Nadine Brandes #Brainfluffbookreview #Fawkesbookreview

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This offering came to my attention due to the excellent cover and really intriguing premise. As I knew a bit about the historical facts surrounding this turbulent time, I was interested to see how Brandes tackled it and integrated the magical elements.

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

This is part of the chatty blurb, but you’ll gather there are two major magical factions. Both believe absolutely that their viewpoint is right and that if they don’t prevail, disaster will overtake the country. This point of view also sums up the attitudes of the religious differences prevailing at the time, which was the underlying cause of the Gunpowder Plot and is a nifty way of generating added interest in the religious divide that fractured the country for generations, but that our modern secular society finds difficult to understand. However, I did find it a bit of a problem. While I knew all about the differing beliefs of the Catholics and Protestants of the time, I wasn’t clear exactly how the colour system of magic operated. As James, the main protagonist, isn’t a magic-user, he doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of how it works and while I realised that white magic is the dealbreaker, I wasn’t sure what happened with the likes of teal and crimson, for instance. I was able to let this go for the sake of the story, but I did feel it was a weakness.

James’ determination to search out his absent father and persuade him to craft him a mask which would allow him to access his magical ability, snagged my sympathy – especially as that father happened to be Guido Fawkes. And once James tracks down his father, as we already know, his problems are only beginning. Elements from the actual plot are woven into this tense historical thriller, which I really enjoyed. But the character who really stole the show for me was Emma.

Personally, I would have preferred to have had the story told from her viewpoint as I think she was a stronger, feistier character who pinged off the page and whose story arc is more interesting than James. The problem with James is that he is only ever on the edge of the plot and spent much of the story grappling with the plague. I felt that Brandes got a tad overwhelmed with the sheer richness and complexity of the elements in her story and consequently, there was a stronger, more coherent version struggling to surface.

Nonetheless, Brandes is clearly a skilful, capable writer with an interesting tale that has had me pondering many of the elements since I finished reading it. Recommended for readers interested in fantasy with a historical twist. While I obtained an arc of Fawkes from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

#Sunday Post – 15th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This has been a busy week. On Tuesday, I completed my Poetry Workshop short course, which was a real success despite the sweltering conditions. It was such a treat being able to teach specifically for the poets and as ever, I was blessed with a class full of enthusiastic, engaged writers eager to have a go. On Wednesday I resumed my Pilates and Fitstep class and realised just how very unfit I have become on Thursday when I staggered out of bed aching in places I didn’t know I had muscles. On Thursday evening, I attended West Sussex Writers for an excellent talk and workshop on the craft of short story writing given by Juliet West and Claire Fuller. It was so nice to to catch up with other club members as I haven’t been able to attend for a few months.

On Friday, I took my sister with me when visiting my daughter and newest granddaughter. What a difference a week makes… Baby Eliza, now nearly a fortnight old, is clearly thriving as she was trying to focus on us. It was lovely finally to have a few unhurried cuddles and get to know her. This weekend we are having the grandchildren, so I did the school run and brought them home. After the long, hot journey, we went to the beach as the sun was setting, walked along the damp sand and cooled down, ready for bed. On Saturday we went shopping, after all, pocket money needs to be spent…

And this Sunday is a very special day. It’s the day the film premiere of Hoodwinked Three: This Time It’s Personal, which Tim wrote and starred in as a time-travelling Robin Hood and we spent a chunk of last year writing, editing and filming as part of his studies. I am really looking forward to meeting up with the delightful youngsters that made up the cast, again and watching the film on a large screen.

This week I have read:

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.
This near-future novella is riveting examination of a bright, ambitious woman trapped in a dead-end existence and battling for a way out. I found it an engrossing, memorable read.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The colour magic and spread of the stone plague adds an intriguing twist to this turbulent time in history. I really liked the fact that Brandes includes a number of facts that surrounded The Gunpowder Plot.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th July 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth and Air – a novella prequel to the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Dying for Space Giveaway ENDS TODAY

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far…

Friday Face-off – There’s more of gravy than grave about you… featuring The Ghost Brigades – Book 2 of The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi

Review of Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

A quote for readers… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/a-quote-for-readers/ I really loved this – it sums up my feelings about certain books so accurately.

Blood Moon 2018: Total Lunar Eclipse on July 27 https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/07/13/blood-moon-2018-total-lunar-eclipse-july-27/ I was really excited to read about this one – we come within the band that gets to see the second half of it

The 2018 Blogoversy: Nine Favorite Writing Tips of All Time https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/07/11/2018-blogoversary-nine-favorite-writing-tips/ Sara writes a series of indepth articles on the craft of writing, so there are worth reading

Speculative Fiction Showcase: Kristell Ink Sci-fi anthology launch in Waterstones… http://indiespecfic.blogspot.com/2018/06/kristell-ink-sci-fi-anthology-launch-in.html?spref=tw I was startled to see yours truly in a mirror arriving at the Waterstones launch at Oxford – and delighted to read Jessica’s account of the evening.

When the Book Isn’t Better https://marvelatwords.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/when-the-book-isnt-better/ Wendleberry lists the books that she found disappointing after seeing the film – do you agree with her choices?

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

Teaser Tuesday – 10th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

30% I burst through the door and out onto the green lawn that sloped down to the banks of the Thames in time to see Father throw a very muddy and bloody Percy into the putrid waters.
I stumbled to his side as Percy emerged with a gasp. “Fawkes, you—”
“Scrub yourself clean, Percy.” Father squatted by the bank. “Before you oust us all. You’ve been a fool this night.”

BLURB: Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

I am enjoying this alternate history. The fantasy twist hinges on two different magical factions battling for supremacy in Stuart England during the turbulent times leading up to the Gunpowder Plot.

#Friday Faceoff – I was asleep when the dinosaurs roamed the earth… featuring #West of Eden #Brainfluffbookblog #Fridayface-off

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which we prefer. Lynn and Lynn’s Book Blog nurtures it at present. This week the theme is a cover featuring dinosaur, so I’ve selected West of Eden by Harry Harrison.

 

This cover produced by iBooks in June 2004 isn’t my favourite. I rather like the font, but the image looks like a still taken from Jurassic Park, rather than a specifically designed piece of artwork for a book. There is also far too much chat along the bottom of the book.

 

This edition was produced by Spectre in June 1985 and at least shows evidence of a cover having been designed with more thought. Though I really dislike those great blocks of brown that squeeze the image into a narrow strip so it’s difficult to make out exactly what is going on – which is a shame, because it looks quite interesting…

 

Published in July 1984 by Bantam, this is the first cover that I really like. We get a clear idea of what is going on. And I very much like the way the sun is gleaming through the title font, which is rather funky.

 

This edition, published by Panther Books Limited in July 1985, is my favourite. We get a clear idea that the dinosaurs featured are intelligent with some civilisation – part of the premise of this intriguing fantasy series. I love the warm colouring of the sky which gives us a sense of difference in this alternate history.

 

This Italian edition, produced by Nord in February 1989, provides another interaction between the fearsome lizards and the humans cowering in the forefront of the cover. You get a sense the dinosaur is talking to them, or is he about to eat them? I don’t like the chatter scattered across the artwork – or the border as I can’t see the point and it is particularly unappealing and drab. Which is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook The King’s Name – Book 2 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

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I read the first book, The King’s Peace, in this superb series the Christmas before last – and it has taken far too long to track down this second book in this wonderful retelling of the Arthurian legend.

“The peace of the nation of Tir Tanagiri had been bitterly won. But after years of fighting against rival kingdoms and Jarnish invaders, the warrior Sulien ap Gwien and her lord, King Urdo, had finally won it, through great strength of arms – and greater strength of vision. For Sulien was inspired by Urdo’s dream of a kingdom ruled by justice, whose subjects all were equal under a single code of law. But where many see a hopeful new future for the land, others believe they sense the seeds of a new tyranny.”

Soon the land faces the terrible blight of civil war, and Sulien ap Gwien must take up arms again. But where once her enemies were barbarian invaders and unrepentent usurpers, now they are former comrades and loved ones. And as the conflict tears her country and her family apart, and life-long friends go to meet their destinies, Sulien must fight harder and harder to hold on to Urdo’s shining dream. Sulien is now older, though still a mighty warrior and now a Lord who has a settlement to protect and administer. Her son is now grown. This should be a time when the hardwon Peace carved out from years of bitter fighting and enforcement against the lawless banditry that had prevailed should be enjoyed. But Urdo has implacable enemies – and some of them are far closer than they should be…

Once again I was pulled into this tale of Sulien, the woman warrior, who has devoted her life to protecting the weak against the strong. Walton’s prodigious talent is once more evident as this tale of betrayal and scheming slides inexorably once more into warfare. Sulien, writing her memoirs years later, is devastated. I love her character as her sense of hurt rings off the page when Urdo’s attempts to broker a council to reach an agreement between the different factions fail and the country is braced once more for war. I was absolutely gripped even though I had a fairly good idea what happens. Walton’s version of the court of Camelot is layered with Sulien’s forthright views on the nobility along with conjecture and gossip. If you have ever read any of the Arthurian legends and become fascinated with that particular time, then this is a joy. I particularly like her take on Urdo’s wife, Elenn.

I finished this book with a lump in my throat as once again, Walton magnificently succeeds in creating a wonderful, magical time that has passed into our folklore and legends. And this retelling is right up there with the best of them.
10/10