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1610: A Sundial In A Grave (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Hardcover]

Mary Gentle
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Nov 2003 GOLLANCZ S.F.

Four hundred years ago, Hermetic magic is about to transform into science: 1610 is the year when everything could change.

Robert Fludd, English physician and astrologer, wields the heritage of Doctor John Dee and Giordano Bruno to foretell the future. But Fludd doesn't like the centuries that he is predicting. So someone will have to change the future . . .

Valentin Rochefort, duellist, down-at-heels aristocrat and spy for the Duc de Sully, France's powerful finance minister, has troubles of his own, thank you very much - not the least of which is Dariole, a young man of his acquaintance who is (in Rochefort's opinion) lust walking on legs - and as irresponsible as an alley-cat. The last thing Rochefort needs is a mad English astrologer in his life.

Continental Europe is briefly at peace, but Henri IV of France is planning to invade the German principalities. In England, only 5 years earlier, conspirators nearly succeeded in blowing up King James and his Parliament. The seeds of the English Civil War and the Thirty Years War are visibly being sown . . .

For a man of no conscience, Rochefort is about to find himself caught between loyalty, love, and blackmail, between kings, queens, politicians and Rosicrucians - and the woman he has, unknowingly, crossed land and sea to meet.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (20 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575072504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575072503
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,799,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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More About the Author

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Product Description

Book Description

Spys and assassins, mathematical magicians, swordsmen and kings and one indomitable, incorrigible woman share the stage in a stunning epic alternate history.

About the Author

Mary Gentle published her first novel at the age of 17, and has since established herself as one of Britain's most original and accomplished imaginative writers.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That's one hefty book you got there! 26 May 2004
Mary Gentle is widely known for what I like to call "historical fantasy." 1610: A Sundial in a Grave barely meets the definition of fantasy or science fiction, with the only fantastic element being the fact that mathematical precognition is a reality. She's also known as a meticulous researcher, and she shows that again in this book. 1610 is a wonderful book that just starts a little too slow.
1610 is a year of change. Edward Fludd has perfected the mathematics of telling the future. However, he doesn't like what he sees, so he determines to change it. This is the year where that change becomes possible. Valentin Rochefort, a duellist and down on his luck aristocrat, as well as servant to the French spymaster Sully, is having his own problems. He is supposed to set up the assassination of his monarch, Henry IV, but it's designed to be a fake. Too bad for him that it happens to succeed. Disgraced and forced to run, he encounters his nemesis, Dariole, who revels in humiliating him, especially by being 16 years old and able to beat him at swordplay. Dariole ends up running with him, and they both find themselves trapped in Fludd's web. Fludd intends to use Rochefort in an assassination of his own, one that will change the future the way he wants it to be. With the addition of a shipwrecked Japanese samurai, agendas clash, different honor systems conflict, and secrets are revealed. The story goes all over the world, from France to England to Portugal and then to Japan before returning for an intriguing finish. There's even time for a little romance as well.
1610 is written as if it were a computer-generated reconstructed translation of a fire-damaged manuscript written by Rochefort.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you thought ASH was a one-off, think again. 31 Dec 2003
Set variously in england at the time of James 1st and in france and japan this book is another exercise in cultural immersion. Gentle yet again leaves us breathless with her grasp of historical detail and attitudes. This book is less involved with the fanatastic than ASH but the characterisation is more finely drawn. In particular the relationship between the two central players is the driving force of the book.
It also has to be mentioned that the book also pulls of a major shock that simply leaves you gasping and relieved.
Gentle is fast becoming one of my favourite novelists.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Information! 2 July 2005
By John P
Mary Gentle is a fine writer with this abiding fault: she cannot pass a fact without engaging it in conversation. As a result, her vivid prose and insightful characterisations are permanently hampered by a clogging mass of detail and digression. "1610" is not as bloated as the monstrously overlong "Ash", nor as self-defeatingly esoteric as the White Crow novels, but it's much weightier than its subject matter warrants. An author this prone to self-indulgence needs the services of a good editor, but in this case the editor seems to have glazed over quite early on, if the various continuity slips are anything to go by.
The writing is strong and sensuous throughout, but is let down by a central lack of substance. "Ash" managed to convince me that quantum mechanics can rewrite the past, but I didn't for a moment believe "1610"s premise that mathematical calculations can reveal the future. The story is therefore stranded at a supposedly pivotal but in fact hugely unexciting moment in history, requiring the characters to spend ages wandering around Somerset and take a completely unnecessary voyage to Japan in order to sustain the plot for 700 pages.
It all redeems itself magnificently over the last 100 pages, and the conclusion is genuinely moving; but if I hadn't taken the book on holiday, I doubt I'd have got that far. Beautifully crafted, but much too long, "1610" is a triumph of writing over storytelling, and that's a Pyrrhic victory at best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More historical than fantasy 28 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoy fantasy with a historical twist (or is it history with a fantasy twist) and discovered this novel via a review of The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle.

For me a test of a good historical novel (or historical/fantasy) is that it makes me want to go and read around the story and this novel certainly did that. I'll be Googling the main events and characters later to see how Mary Gentle has woven her story around real events.

Other people have provided the synopsis, so I won't repeat that, but I'd agree with the fact that it is a little hard to get into. I read the first few pages at the gallop, as I usually do, then realised I had no idea what was going on and reread more carefully. Don't expect to be able to speed read this - there is a lot of complexity which you will miss if you do.

I don't often give 5 stars, but I'm going to on this occasion as it was one of those rare stories that I don't want to finish, but want to know what happens. I am already recommending it to anyone who stands still long enough and I'm sure I'll read it again.

I hadn't read anything by Mary Gentle since Golden Witchbreed more years ago than I care to remember, but I'm off to chase down her back catalogue.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy for grown ups 17 Mar 2007
If you are sick of all those Tolkien wannabes and their third rate Middle Earth clones (as I am), then this is the book for you. Complex, challenging, and above all original, this is one of those books that restores your faith in fantasy. I strongly recommend this to anyone who is feeling a bit jaded with the modern fantasy scene.
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