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A Conspiracy Of Violence: 1: Chaloner's First Exploit in Restoration London (Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)
A Conspiracy Of Violence: 1: Chaloner's First Exploit in Restoration London (Exploits of Thomas Chaloner)
by Susanna Gregory
Edition: Hardcover

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb new character from Gregory, 31 Mar. 2006
Pseudonymal Susanna Gregory finally takes the step of having a new character and a new setting. However, it is the familiar gripping plots, eloquent style and descriptive powers, taut narrative and fine characterisation that remain. Her Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles are a fine example of the medieval murder mystery and it is fair to say she ranks alongside Ellis Peters at the top of the genre.
So, Thomas Falconer, a.k.a Tom Heyden, disgraced clerk, recently returned from his career in Holland, desperately seeking a reference from the old Parliamentarian power, Thurloe, and finding himself immediately embroiled in a chase through the streets of Restoration London hunting the killers of a delivery boy, Storey and Snow, hired incompetent thugs of Kelyng, a fanatical royalist and hunter of regicides.
Very quickly, Chaloner finds himself serving three masters. The first is Thurloe, the ex-Parliamentarian, with his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Dalton, who asks Chaloner to discover who murdered John Clarke, a spy he had recommended to Chaloner's second master. This is the Lord Chancellor, Lord Clarendon, who also commissions him and his aide, the military man who fears the entire animal kingdom, Evett in another search for the hidden gold of the Tower of London that was placed there by the regicide Barkstead. This brings him into contact with Wade and Robinson who previously had assisted excavations in the Tower. His third master is to be Dalton, employed as a clerk.
Before long Chaloner is embroiled with the Brotherhood. A collective of the Leybourn brothers, his mendacious ex-master, Downing, Livesay (who was blown up), Ingoldsby, Barkstead (the executed regicide) and Hewson (who was murdered by Kelyng's men at the very beginning. Their plan to prevent the extremes of royalist and parliamentarian and the talk of the original seven men who tried to prevent the Restoration leads Chaloner into a murky plot of political intrigue where the phrases praising the son of God and number seven figure prominently.
Thrown into the mix is his personal life as his relationship with Metje, his Dutch lover, causes issues with his landlord, North, his wife Faith and Temperance, his daughter. To this home brew is added the fanatical Preacher Hill who's fire and brimstone faith is causing no end of vandalism to their local church.
In true Gregory style we are taken on a trail that twists and turns alarmingly at time as we are thrown red herring after red herring, ghostly clue after tantalising glimpse of fact until we are thoroughly confused. Only then is Chaloner allowed to locate the keystone to the mystery and a lot of questions resolved themselves rapidly as we uncover not a dastardly plot to kill a restored King, but a tale of terrible familial revenge and hidden treasure. With our shockingly fiery conclusion, Gregory wraps us to a neat end but opens us up to a series that will rival Bartholomew's fourteenth century Cambridge in plot, characterisation, sleuthing prowess and historical craftsmanship. It is no surprise to find in the author's note that all the characters bar our hero are based on real people and the society and politics described very close to the truth. What this isn't is a repeat of the hugely successful Bartholomew series and we can only eagerly look forward to a new sleuth from the pen of an author at the height of her genre.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2015 2:08 PM GMT


The Princess and the Pirates (SPQR)
The Princess and the Pirates (SPQR)
by John Maddox Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.06

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great addition to the series, 31 Mar. 2006
SPQR IX commences just after Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger's aedile adventures with dodgy tradesmen with our senatorial sleuth setting off for Cyprus under a commission from the Senate to mop up an irritating case of piracy with minimal resources. With a growing air of authority our purple striper boards ship for the Mediterranean island with the grown up and ever faithful Hermes at his side and wife, Julia, making a more sedate journey with Titus Annius Milo a few weeks behind.
Freed from marital constraints, Decius makes the most of this change of scenery by arriving and, in true Julian style, swiftly commandeers three water laden hulks and a motley crew of ex-pirates and legionaries to sail his flotilla. After recruiting the fearsome Ariston to aid him in his chase he also deals with the governor, Silvanus, who eventually ends up murdered by being forced to choke to death on incense. There is also the exiled Gabinius whose imperium is non-existent but personal authority is immense. In addition to these two senior Roman officials, we are introduced to a supporting list of suspects with the poet Alpheus and the four representatives of the powerful equites factions, Marcus Junius Brutus of the Wine Merchants, Mamercus Sulpicius Naso of the Grain Exporters, Decimus Antonius of the Metal Brokers, and Malachi Josepides of the Textile Importers. Prominently in the cast is Sergilius Nobilior, chief of the Banker's Association and his voluptuous and somewhat promiscuous wife, Flavia.
However, the real task for Decius is to hunt down the pirate Spurius and he is given some unwanted assistance by the teenage Cleopatra who happens to be visiting Cyprus. Her political astuteness and immense resources coupled with girlish enthusiasm prove boon and bane to our hero as he finds himself on the receiving end of caulking sabotage, night espionage trips, attempted assassinations and insistent women before Julia and Milo turn up in good time to lend a much needed hand as he finally discovers who is behind the piracy, Silvanus' murder and a vast trading conspiracy.
Decius steps out of his trip to Cyprus with his auctoritas improved. He is no Julius Caesar (in fact he's delighted to make the acquaintance of an Ethiopian prince who's never heard of the great man) but his cogitative sleuthing makes him stand out amongst the senatorial crowd. Genuinely likable, always affable, hard but fair his results speak for themselves.
JMR's creation continues to improve and the SPQR series is vastly superior to the somewhat pulpy Children of Rome novels. Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger ranks right up there with Gordianus the Finder, Marcus Didius Falco and Marcus Valerius Corvinus and JMR should continue to write about him for as long as he can.
Buy it.


Polar Shift (NUMA Files)
Polar Shift (NUMA Files)
by Clive Cussler
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tries to hard..., 31 Mar. 2006
The sixth Kurt Austin novel from the N.U.M.A files isn't a good as the previous primarily because it gets bogged down in character overload. It possesses all the usual Cussler and Kemprecos thriller punch as Kurt slices his way through the mystery (more with an enquiring mind than a ready fist) to save the world from the latest megalomaniacal scheme to gain power and wealth. The problem this time is it never really settles on a one or two characters around whom the plot revolves, choosing to divert equal page time between Kurt, Gamay & Trout, Karla Janos, Karl Schroeder, the various antics of the bad guys in the personages of Tris Margrave, Doyle, Spider Barrett (who is later reformed) and the corporate tyrant, Gant. The science also gets a lot more page time than normal for a Cussler novel.
None of this is bad, per se, but it'll take Austin a couple of novels to settle in if future novels intend to bulk up on content whilst retaining the light-hearted panache that accompanies the adventures.
So, Austin's sixth adventure has us following the flight of the brilliant electro-magnetic scientist, Lazlo Kovacs, as he flees a crumbling Third Reich under the guiding hand of Karl Schneider. Spending the next fifty years becoming rich in the US and having Karl godfather his granddaughter, Karla, we move to present day with the sinking of the Southern Belle in waves greater than 90ft. This, of course, immediately demolishes all current tidal theories and launches Kurt (after escaping being inexplicably attacked by an Orca pod) into a mystery that involves the late Kovacs work on electromagnetism, a couple of brilliant young software geniuses whose wayward youthful desire to be anti-establishment leads them down the dark path of the elitist and corporate overlord, Gant, and the obvious beautiful young lady in the guise of Karla who happens to be a leading authority on woolly mammoths.
So, we find ourselves underwater on the Southern Belle looking at enormous spark plugs, single-handedly saving Trout and Gamay in vast Atlantic whirlpools, avoiding capture in Bond-esque style on a remote ski-run in the Rockies, in shootouts with mercenaries in the Siberian hinterland, discovering lost civilisations that ran a dwarf woolly mammoth rearing farm, poking heads into the lion's den and convincing the US powers-that-be that the world is about to suffer an global cataclysm all before saving the world from an aeroplane with a formula worked out from a nursery rhyme.
As usual, Austin has Joe Zavala along for the ride, Trout & Gamay provide their usual diversionary cameos, and Dirk Pitt makes a brief appearance in the usual Cussler role, lending his antique replica car to Kurt for the obligatory car chase. It's all nonsense, but it's a delightful formula that has earned Cussler legions of fans and money. You get the sense that the formula is trying to expand and has failed to do so in this latest effort. There is a lot of additional verbiage that is not necessary in a Cussler novel and whilst it should be lauded, the Pitt/Austin novels are, perhaps, one mould that shouldn't be broken.


Treason Keep: The Demon Child Trilogy
Treason Keep: The Demon Child Trilogy
by Jennifer Fallon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As powerful as Eddings, 24 Mar. 2006
Jennifer Fallon's second novel is sparkling and engenders the kind of excitement that Eddings did with the Belgariad. Utterly gripping with the kind of plausible characters that you want to follow avidly, with clean plotlines and plausible action, Treason Keep confirms Fallon's status as a realistic quality fantasy author. Here is none of the disappointment generated by the usual publishing overhype you get on so much second rate fantasy efforts these days.
Treason Keep picks up smoothly from Medalon. R'Shiel, the Demon Child, is in the Sanctuary healing from the stabbing by the now child-like First Sister, Joyhinya. Meanwhile, her one true love, Tarja Tenragan is with the Hythrin Warlord, Damin Wolfblade and the Defenders' Lord Jenga at Treason Keep keeping at bay a Karien army, led by Prince Cratyn and urged on by the Overlord God Xaphista.
In this next installment we are introduced to two new main characters, Princess Adrina of Fardonhyan and Mikel, an overzealous young boy from the Karien army. Fallon's creation of the courtes'a trained Adrina is utterly marvellous. Much like Ce'Nedra, her fiery tempered, politically sharp mind and withering sarcasm in the face of her arranged marriage to Prince Cretin (as she calls him) is endlessly amusing and she literally can be rolled by her author into the midst of any situation to devastating effect. So, she is, firstly with her hated marriage and subsequent escape to Treason Keep and eventual relationship with Damin. It's a major subplot that grips the whole novel. So much so that Tarja and R'Shiel are in danger of fading into character obscurity.
The incredibly naive and zealous Mikel, is a boy captured by the Defenders, unwillingly subverted by Dacendaran and fervent adherent to the tenets of Xaphista. His innocence and blinkered approach to reality means he becomes a pawn for miscommunication by both sides but means he is ever-present. You follow his story with some frustration hoping that eventually the scales will fall from his eyes and he will see the truth.
As in Medalon, Fallon keeps the plot straightforward here. Whilst there is a standoff at the Karien-Medalon border, R'Shiel and Tarja concern themselves with getting the conclave at the Citadel to accept a demon-meld character of Joyhinya who can then transfer power to Mahina. This fails, R'Shiel is captured and she learns to reject the whisperings of Xaphista (very much like Garion and Torak) before striding from her captivity like an avenging angel.
So...a well-crafted, utterly gripping second fantasy novel where the quality of writing legitimately declares Fallon to be as good as the likes of Eddings, Feist and co rather than some wishful thinking quotes on the jacket that inevitably disappoint.
If you're a fantasy fan, this is quality. Buy it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2010 3:29 PM BST


The Third Princess (Septimus Severus Quistus)
The Third Princess (Septimus Severus Quistus)
by Philip Boast
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clean, crisp, riveting..., 21 Mar. 2006
Picked this up in the murder mystery section, read the opening minor mystery ‘prologue’ where our laconic and overly socially responsible sleuth solves the crime merely with Holmesian observation of the crime scene and promptly put it down as it felt overly artificial and laboured. Having then read a couple of other novels I decided to give this a final go and finish it and, to my delight, found it matured remarkably quickly into a novel that was gripping, insightful and darkly murderous. By end it had become a powerful novel that promises much for its sleuth should Boast continue to write about him.
This is the first Septimus Severus Quistus mystery. Our hero is a man with a murdered family on his hands, time to mourn and an acutely observant mind. With a mores that Cato would have been proud of and an awareness of the social underclass at the time of Nero’s Imperial Rome he is able to deftly deal with the artistically insane Emperor who is portrayed in a dangerously unhinged manner as he forces Quistus to take the British princess, Claudia, back to Britannia, by having her Christian colleagues mauled by lions in front of him. However, the acutely paranoid Emperor proceeds to send Stigmus after him to fulfil a darker destiny. The novel moves through the Gaulish countryside as Claudia, daughter of the British king Caratacus takes them on a detour to locate her missing daughter, Tara. Throughout we have to deal with the viciously viperish Docilosa, who’s unhinged mind and desperation to claim her jewellery birthright leads Quistus to take her along as a captive until he fathoms out the truth.
A murderous ambush and flight to the Isle of Wight leads us into a Celtic ritual as old as time. The wicker man demands death for the regeneration of the British people and Claudia is going to provide it in the form of Tara.
With his faithful slave, Omba, Quistus finds his fellowship fracturing as personal ambition rives them apart and he is forced to rapidly find out the motivation behind them all.
In the end we have a natural death that became a murder for political reasons and was uncovered in a coliseum denouement to be what it really was. Quistus saves a thousand slaves, frees both Claudia and Tara from Nero’s hunt and earned the respect of millions with his perseverance of the truth.
This is a final novel and an expert entwining of the madness of Neronian imperial Rome and Celtic oppression that takes us from the dizzying heights of Rome to the murkier climes of Roman-Britain in a manner that is quietly engaging. Boast’s characterisation is faultless, his plot line crisp and clean and has ensured that the next novel about this stoical sleuth is a must read.


The Giants' Dance
The Giants' Dance
by Robert Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dance continues..., 16 Mar. 2006
This review is from: The Giants' Dance (Paperback)
Carter’s sequel to ‘The Language of Stones’ is as stunning as his first. From the eccentrically brilliant quarter turn of the British Isles map to the continuous warping of actual history and names this is one intellectually startling alternative history fantasy novel.
The sequel takes place two years after Willand’s apparent destruction of the Doomstone at the Sightless One’s monastery. He has retreated to his personal shire where a glee has hidden the village from prying eyes and blessed its people. Having married Willow and bringing up a daughter Bethe, Will finds himself calling on Gwydion one night when he sees a strange light in the sky coming from the village of Little Slaughter. Their resultant investigation and Gywdion’s confession that Maskull has returned from enforced exile encourages Will to grow in stature as an assuming and protesting wizard as both he, Gwydion and the new character of Morann spend some time trying to ascertain the depths of Maskull’s latest intrigues. Will is now an acknowledged lign and battlestone scryer and his maturity is reflected in the fact he is able to progress matters on his own and now dares to openly question Gwydion who’s status as omniscient takes a severe battering in this second novel.
The plot of the sequel steps things up a notch as several battlestones seek to draw the warring factions of the weakly King Hal and his ghastly queen who are driven by the malice of Maskull to hunt down Richard, Duke of Ebor and strip him of all he owns. We are privileged to see one battlestone wreak its havoc on the field of war, another ensnares Will as he fights it in an icy lake, another manipulates him at the climatic battle. In the midst of it all he befriends a ked, discovers his twin brother is the Dark Child, spends much time in disguise as the Maceugh and grows an ever more powerful wizard whilst still not understanding his destiny.
Carter spent much of the first novel creating this superb alternative Britain, aptly showing how word of mouth tellings can subtly warp stories as they are handed down. In this second he delivers an improved story telling performance. The plots are entirely crisp, the characterisation effortless and fifteenth century England lingers in the senses throughout the entire novel as it delivers punch after punch, maturing as his main character does. A simply stunning series is in the making here and you would be well advised to read it.


The Language of Stones
The Language of Stones
by Robert Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An immense start, 16 Mar. 2006
This review is from: The Language of Stones (Paperback)
Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Spied it quite by chance whilst browsing through a shop the other day with its catchy cover, bought it, sat down and read in two sessions. Quite a remarkable first novel.
Robert Carter’s The Language of Stones is set in an alternative fifteenth century England. One where a thirteen year old lad named Willard has his world rudely turned upside down on Beltine when a gandalf-esque character looms out of the darkness to claim his protege. This sorceror/warlock/wizard (Will is not sure what he is) goes by a multitude of names down the generations but is recognisable under more familiar pseudonyms as Jack O’Lantern or Merlyn , though know n throughout the novel Gwydion. The legend of King Arthur is reborn.
A forced march to the Wychwood dumps poor Will in the hands of Lord Strange with his boar’s head for six months where the rebellious streak in the lad means he learns some mild naming magic and promptly nearly gets killed by a marsh hag whilst waiting for Willow, a girl of equal age that he has confused feelings for. Just in time Merlyn reappears to take Will with him as the land prepares for a coming war. A trip to meet King Hal and a last minute escape from the overly boorish Duke Edgar lands Will and Gwydion off the Irish coast whence they learn what they must do. Namely discover the battlestones that sit on the lorc lines. What follows is a coming of age for Will as he continues to prove his inheritance before ending up at Fotheringham castle under the guardianship of Duke Richard, pretender to the throne, training as a squire to the overly thuggish firstborn, Edward. Schroolroom fights and taunting later he finds himself grown to a young man, learning from the Wortmaster and struggling to deal with his feelings for Willow who has reappeared.
Gywdion returns and has fallen out of favour with the Duke after passing the exquisite diamond they found at Leir’s tomb to Queen Mag. War is coming and he takes Will in a desperate attempt to locate the Doomstone, that evil-harbouring piece of granite that is driving the Realm towards War. After finding the lesser Plague stone and discovering more about his inner self Gwydion and Will find themselves at Badon Hill as Duke Richard prepares to assault the town harbouring King Hal, Duke Edgar and the Queen. A short nasty fight finds many prophecies fulfilled and Will has his own sorcerous battle at the heart of the Sightless Ones with the Doomstone cover of St Swythyn’s tomb before returning to his own Shire will he enemies defeated but not vanquished.
What is sparkling about Carter is that here is clearly an author well versed in English and Celtic myth as he transcribes many names, places and myths into his own versions that are immediately recognisable to the knowledgeable reader. His finest effort is Gwydion’s reference to Iuliu the Seer (or Julius Caesar to the historian) but the novel is littered with altered names and celtic mythology that seeks to demonstrate how easy it is to twist the facts by word of mouth. The lengthy author’s note at the end goes into some detail about the parallels he draws with British geography and the times that preclude the Wars of the Roses. Carter is a fine author and the sequel to this opener is one novel I’ll definitely be shelling out the extra for the hardback version as soon as it is out in May.


Mysteries Of Eleusis (Aristotle Detective)
Mysteries Of Eleusis (Aristotle Detective)
by Margaret Doody
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best so far, 16 Mar. 2006
Doody finally brings us to the end of the torturous sub-plot that has pervaded the last few novels. Namely, Stephanos’ wedding to Philomena. It provides an excuse for our laconic sleuth to muse in a post-drunken wedding binge that someone might have chucked a sharp knife at him. In turn, this enables him, post-nuptials, to start to think about things other than the sorry state of his interior and exterior décor, symposiums and solving the odd magpie inspired theft here and there that have not gripped our attention up to this point.
Doody’s slow inexorable plot style drags the unwilling reader along again so that by page two hundred or so of the paperback version we find ourselves wondering exactly what task Stephanos and Aristotle are being set by the author other than responding to a trumped-up charge of boundary poaching by the neighbour of his newly extended family. However, lurking furtively in the background is the murder of the helpful Sophilios and, also, Arhkias’ disclaimer over the amount of drachmae he lost in the incident.
Doody has Philomela express a desire to join the mysteries of Eleusis and this coincides with Aristotle’s slave, for whom his affection grows daily. As the novel progresses we find ourselves bombarded with more and more problems and the clue to it all lies in exactly the fact there is an inundation. Stephanos’ stumbles alarmingly through his Eleusian initiation, gets overly raucous in the Agora as he’s accused of not fulfilling his previous nuptial agreements, finds himself on the receiving end of a knife thrower and a marble head a few times, up on his own tiles and generally harassed left right and centre as he tries to deal with a spurious land ownership charge by Lykon and locate missing children.
By the time we reach our denouement in a pottery shop where we get a quick rash of murders based on the fallings out of a criminal gang, Doody neatly ties up the thievery with Stephanos’ beleaguered life and we come away satisfied that out of the murky randomness was actually a very clever plot. I have to say that I have found the Stephanos mysteries extremely laborious to plough through but this is by far the best so long as you keep gong past page two hundred. It’ll be interesting to see if Stephanos continues to improve.


Darkwar (1) - Flight of the Night Hawks
Darkwar (1) - Flight of the Night Hawks
by Raymond E. Feist
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another epic commences..., 16 Mar. 2006
After bringing us the opening three novels concerning Tal Hawkins and Kaspar, Duke of Olasko, Feist opens his third great Midkemia series, The Darkwar Saga, by expanding on the discovery of the Dasati and their automaton army, the Talnoy. It is the greatest danger to face the conclave since Pug’s involvement in the Serpent War and finds us delving into new dimensions for both Midkemia’s and Kelewan’s newest enemies, as Magnus discovers that the immobile Talnoy are acting as a beacon for the Dasati and rifts are beginning to form between the two worlds.
We commence in bucolic bliss as Caleb, the non-magical son of Miranda and Pug finds himself apprenticing the son and foster-son of Marie, Tad and Zane, two eager lads who have not much to do and an eye for trouble. After they save him from death at the hands of a bandit ambush, we then travel with them as they are turned from soft layabouts into hardened Conclave soldiers and we then learn of a series of murders of Truebloods in the Empire of the Great Kesh. The resulting concern finds Tal and Kaspar and Caleb entering Kesh at different social levels to track down the infamous lair of the Nighthawks, whom they believe responsible for the murders that seek to place Kesh in a state of civil war as the current Emperor nears the end of both his life and reign. In the meantime, Nakor has discovered greater powers are rumbling as he finds the tiniest spark of the Nameless One in the darkly Herculean Bek that promises that there could be a return for Ishar.
Political intrigue, sewer ambushes, tavern brawls and magical intervention that are all the hallmarks of a great Feist effort all follow as the Conclave discover that the inviolable magician, Leso Varen is behind the mayhem that seeks to disrupt Midkemia and move to deal with the threat.
Feist is one the finest fantasy authors produced in the late twentieth century and his works on the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan remain at the peak of the genre. Characterisation is well drawn, we have an excellent mix of old, familiar and lovable characters with new youthful, impetuous ones that engender empathy. Old traditions hover in the background where needed without overshadowing the new bloods making their literary mark. The plot is crisp, the dialogue exciting and the old thrill of looking forward to a new great Feist series rears it’s head.
Roll on the second...


Heloise And Abelard: A Twelfth Century Love Story
Heloise And Abelard: A Twelfth Century Love Story
by James Burge
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweepingly grandiose, 2 Mar. 2006
James Burge's uptodate examination of the lives and letters of the twelfth century tragic lovers, Heloise and Abelard, is a superb piece of scholarship. With an examination of both the original attributed letters and the excerpts now identified as from their original love letters collated by Johannes de Vepria and first revealed by Constant Mews in 1999, Burge takes us through the known lives of the two ill-fated lovers whilst continually instructing the reader on twelfth century european monastic life and the firm secular power that the Church weilded through its canonical law.
The story of Abelard and Heloise (he the greatest logiical philosopher of his age, she a brilliant classical scholar some ten years his junior) who fall in love whilst she studies under him in Paris, their subsequent hasty and secretive marriage, the birth of their child Astralabe, Aberlard's subsequent castration by Heloise envious uncle, Fulbert and their enforced separation to the Orders and literary reconciliation, has echoed down the ages.
The Romeo and Juliet of its time, the erudite, first hand accounts of an altogether human love between two great intellectuals opens up the world of twelfth century europe to us in a way that is priceless. As Burge correctly comments fairly early in the text, the concept of the period being part of the medieval ages and pre-renaissance is farcical in the evidence of the Parisian centres of learning that Abelard founded and taught at.
Drawing heavily on the texts, Burge gives us an insight into the personalities of both, showing Abelard as that brilliant, yet socially aggressive, scholar, Heloise as his intellectually equal, yet through what modern terms would denote as `true love', utterly under his charming spell right to the end.
The primary source material consists of eight letters, opening with a letter from Aberlard to an unknown correspondent in response to several meetings he has had, putting down what is almost an autobiography. The letter (or a copy) makes its way to Heloise who writes a reply, thus reopening communication between the two. Whilst the opening 200 pages refer heavily to the first letter of each, as Burge's biography catches up with Aberlard's abscondment from St Denis and sojourn near St Troyes at Paraclete then the remaining six letters come into force. Ableard's papal-acknowledged bestowal on Paraclete to Heloise to found her abbey means that the two came into contact and through the letters we are able to see Heloise 'force' Abelard to acknowledge that he is her first true love and her taking the veil was enforced by him upon her.
Burge now continues to move through the later stages of Abelard's life, continuing to note his cyclic fortunes, waxing and waning with Stephen de Garlande until the latter finally fell from grace as Bernard de Clairvaux rose to European political pre-eminence and the former finally returned to Paris. In a change of style Burge spends several pages discussing the themes within the hymns of Abelard, a literary examination amongst the historical investigation before reverting to discussions of Abelard's fighting with Clairvaux and the famous Council of Sens where the latter's brilliant rhetoric won the minds of the 'jurors' rendering Abelard speechless. Abelard ended his days condemned for heretical discouse, eventually dying whilst under the hospitality of Abbot Peter and with his death so the story peters out quite quickly, a few pages remaining to briefly cover what little we know of the remaining third of Heloise's life, and some of the known actions of their son before even more quickly covering their escalation within the French national identity and final resting place in Paris together.
Burge's work excels in bringing the story, the period and the nature of the philosophy to the reader in a manner that is both readable, informative and deeply stimulating. It is the kind of secondary text that would inspire a reader to go out and purchase the original texts of these brilliant twelfth cenutry lovers and read even further around the entires scope of twelfth century european religion, politics and philosophy. At the same time it does not lose its emotive discussion, humanising both of these people and making their tragic love story rise fresh to a new century of people. This book is highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2010 9:11 AM GMT


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