Profile for SJATurney > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by SJATurney
Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,127
Helpful Votes: 346

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
SJATurney "Roma Victrix" (Yorkshire, UK)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-12
pixel
Eagle: 1/3 (The Saladin Trilogy)
Eagle: 1/3 (The Saladin Trilogy)
by Jack Hight
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Birth of a legend, 8 Nov 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I just finished a back-to-back read of the first two books in Jack Hight's Saladin series - Eagle and Kingdom, so this is very much a review of both.

The story follows the youth and growth of the young Yusuf, from his childhood when he is considered weak and unworthy through to becoming the legendar character that is Salah Ad Din, scourge of the crusaders.

The first thing that struck me about these books (and I would say is still the outstanding review factor after book 2 ends) is the fresh perspective Hight has written from. The crusading era is not uncommon for writers of Historical Fiction, and Hight's offering might easily have become run of the mill, despite his obvious knowledge and talent, had he not done something different to stand out. Eagle and Kingdom are both written largely from the Arabic Saracen perspective, though seen often through the eyes of a westerner (John of Tatewic), which gives it relevance to a western reader. The main characters are generally Saracen, and that people are portrayed, unusually in this milieu, as an honourable, ethical, family-oriented, pious, friendly and likeable people. That fact alone could have driven me through the series.

Couple that with High's clear knowledge of the era of the Second Crusade and the world in which the future Saladin grew up, and also his understanding and presentation of Islam and the Islamic peoples of the time, and it creates a story that is not only fresh and interesting, but also informative and revealing. I'm no expert on the time, but I do have a grounding in the early crusades from schooling and private reading and, while the author makes a couple of small tweaks or takes a tiny liberty with direct fact for the sake of story (which all such authors do and without which Historical Fiction would simply be non-fiction) everything seems to fall perfectly into place with geography and timelines.

The story follows a general arc of personal growth, mirrored in the growth of Saracen power in the Middle East.

The first book follows how young Yusuf, in the shadow of his brutal brother, comes across John, a Christian knight, after a battle at Damascus following which he is taken prisoner. Yusuf buys John as a slave and a bond slowly begins to form between the two, granting John more freedom and hope than a man in his position should ever wish for, but teaching young Yusuf everything he needs to become the man he is destined to be. The interplay between the two characters of totally different cultures and the interplay as they learn from each other is lovely and makes the book an easy read.

The second book moves more into the world of politics and intrigue, and takes us to Egypt and into a world of internecine warfare. In the meantime, John is having troubles of his own in Jerusalem. The interplay between the characters is still there when it can be, but by necessity the series has grown and moved on in the second book and there is more of a focus on the activities of the two friends (Yusuf and John) as individuals than there was in the first book. This is, of course, wholly appropriate for the plot arc, as is the warfare that is becoming more and more prevalent and central as the story progresses.

I look forward the the conclusion of the trilogy and what it means for the friendship between John and Saladin.


The Wolf's Gold (Empire)
The Wolf's Gold (Empire)
by Anthony Riches
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riches soars to new heights, 25 Oct 2012
I've been a fan of Tony Riches since Corvus first put in an appearance in Wounds of Honour, and I'm always pleased to pick up an 'Empire' book.

I've done reviews of the others so far, and I would reference them in this review. The first three in the series I always considered very much a single story arc over three books. Moreover, they were staunchly and solidly novels of the Roman military.

Cue Tony's curveball: The Leopard Sword. The fourth book in the series was something of a departure in style, concentrating more on an ingenious plotline of intrigues and banditry than on the military campaigns we'd come to expect. Having read reviews and spoken to people since, I'm not sure how well-received the change was. I personally thought it was a triumph and a real growth in character, style and plot crafting.

Well The Wolf's Gold should be an all-pleaser as far as I can see. In one way, it's very much a return to a military-oriented plotline, with stretches of good solid campaigning in there, which should please the die-hard 'Military Riches' fans, and yet also involves a depth, ingenuity and intricacy of plot that has been born - in my opinion - from the style of Leopard Sword.

The plot to this masterpiece moves us once more. The first three books had us in Northern Britannia, and the fourth shifted the action to the forests of Germany, while in this one, the poor beleaguered Tungrian cohorts are sent to Dacia (modern Romania) into the Carpathian mountains to provide defence for the gold mines that are essential for imperial revenue. It is here that they will meet a number of interesting and often dubious characters and fall foul of plots and tricks that will once again have them fighting for their lives and have centurion Corvus creating crazy plans that have little chance of success.

As always with Tony's writing, he sacrifices just the tiniest modicum of uptight concern for anachronistic idiom (something more authors could do with trying) in favour of something that feels realistic and appropriate to the reader and creates a flow of text that's never interrupted.

And that's a big part of this book. From the very start it races away and takes the reader with it. The flow is just too easy to read and hard to put down. As usual there is a humour among the soldiers that borders on the tasteless at times, and feels thoroughly authenic (and also happens to make me laugh out loud) combined with a brutal combative narrative that pulls no punches and coats the reader with gore, all overlaid with a few saddening scenes and thoughts.

From the might of Sarmatian hordes and their perfidious nobles to the treachery of self-serving mine owners, the untrustworthiness of border troops, the mindless buffoonery of the upper class legionary Tribunes, the madness of battles on ice, and the heart-pounding stealthy infiltrations of installations by a few good men, Wolf's Gold should win on many levels and certainly does with me.

Moreover, this novel sees a significant advance in the overall arc of Corvus' history, his murdered family and the imperial intrigues that accompany it.

As a last aside, Tony is one of few writers of Roman fiction who rarely feels the need to name-drop, his characters almost always fictional and self-created, which I find refreshing and even when he does so, it is fascinating. In this case we are introduced to not one, but two, future attempted usurpers of Imperial power.

All in all, Wolf's Gold is a storming read, and Riches' best yet. I cannot wait to see what is going to follow in book 6 following the events of this.


Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part Two: Venice
Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part Two: Venice
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Swan battles on, 14 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was hit by the freshness and difference of the first Tom Swan installment after the general available array of somewhat serious, dark historical fiction. I had wondered whether a second installment might not live up to the first as it would lose something of that 'new' feeling. I was wrong.

After a brief mental dragging through my memory to do a quick 'Last week on Tom Swan..." I launched straight into it and started thoroughly enjoying it straight away. What the second part loses in novelty, it gains in immediacy. There is no need to introduce the characters or their world, so you are dropped straight into the story and the action.

In part two, at last, the relevance of the title is made clear and it has given me a strong indication of where the series is going. This short story is filled with duels and bribes, moneylenders and organised criminals, princes and liars, sea-battles and subterfuge. It has it all. Moreover, the settings really hit me as the book is set in Rome, Venice, Athens and Constantinople, all places I have been and love, and can picture the scene perfectly.

The new characters introduced in this are excellent, and the book ends on a traditional serialised cliffhanger. I cannot wait to read the next installment, hopefully this week. I hope that Cameron's experiment with this serial has proved successful for him, as I'd hate to think there will be no more Tom Swan books after part 3.


The Long Black Train
The Long Black Train

4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and atmospheric, 12 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I enjoyed this strange horror tale in the old West, partially for the ingenuity and refreshing change of the setting, but largely for the atmosphere the author manages to create (atmosphere is often what sells a book for me.)

I was a little unsure about the ending, which lacked the punch and twist I was coming to expect of it, which is what took away the fifth star for me, but it would not deter me from reading another of the author's tales.


Betrayal (Thomas Kydd)
Betrayal (Thomas Kydd)
by Julian Stockwin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.91

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly creates the feel of the time, 11 Oct 2012
This review is from: Betrayal (Thomas Kydd) (Hardcover)
I'll admit from the beginning that, despite this being the 13th Kydd novel, it is only the second that I've read, though I now realise that they are actually quite readable as standalone novels if the reader wishes.

I've recently been heavily devoted to reading ancient through medieval fiction, but I opened 'Betrayal' with enthusiasm. It has been a long time since I read Napoleonic era novels, but I was, to some extent, weaned on Forrester, Dudley Pope, and Alexander Kent. Having now read two of the Kydd novels I have confirmed for myself that Stockwin's protagonist is easily the match for Bolitho, Hornblower or Ramage.

I won't go too much into the specific plot of the book, as usual, to avoid spoilers, but the action begins in Africa, around Cape Town and with a magnificent opening chapter that evokes all the mystery and dangers of darkest Africa, the dangers of the French enemy, and the ingenuity and sheer daring of Kydd and his men. It also nicely introduces (or reintroduces) the main characters for those of us who have had time out from the series. Looking at a long period of excruciating boredom (and more importantly reduced chance of glory or advancement) patrolling the secure cape, Kydd's commander, Popham, sets off on an unauthorized, outrageous and downright dangerous plan to try and subvert Spanish control of South America. Kydd, somewhat reluctantly agrees to join and is dragged into a little known action in history of which I had never even previously heard (thanks, Mr Stockwin, as I learned something new and particulary fascinating here.)

The action picks up very quickly and then sails along (pun intended) throughout the book. Checking the dust jacket I read of Stockwin's history in the navy and realised whence one of the two things that impressed me most came. The author's clearly first-hand and near-encyclopedic knowledge of all things ships and sailing combined with his obvious love of the period show through at every moment in the book without fail, bringing a depth of detail that adds to the read rather than stalling it. The other thing that impressed me most, even above the level of research that clearly went in, was the authentic feel just to the social aspect of the story. The speech is at once familiar and easy to read, and yet seems true to period and deeply atmospheric. The interaction between characters, particularly those of different classes or nationalities is wonderful.

But as in many good long-running series, one other thing worth mentioning is the clear growth of the characters and the ties that bind them together. As I said, I've only read one other Kydd novel before, and that was around six books ago. The result is that I could easily see how much Kydd has grown and changed over the books, while retainging those parts that make him the character people loved from the start. In addition the bond between he and Renzi is a joy to read.

In all, this was an excellent read as a standalone, so I can imagine that series devotees will love it. Stockwin stands up there with the best of Napoleonic and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

Well done, Julian. Now I must go back and fill in the blanks.


The Leopard Sword: Empire IV
The Leopard Sword: Empire IV
by Anthony Riches
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fourth in number, First in preference!, 30 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Where do I start with The Leopard Sword? Strangely, with a comparison.

You see, I've been a fan of Tony's books since the first Empire novel, but to me there is a definitely change between the first three books and this fourth one that makes a comparison viable. I have recommended the first three novels to numerous people since I started them (and bought copies as presents for some) but the target audience for that recommendation was fairly specific. The Empire books have been distinctly miltary in nature, bloodthirsty (aka not for the faint-hearted), rude (in an entirely appropriate way - The Romans has a fairly crude sense of humour and let's face it, the military is pretty similar throughout history.) So I've aimed my recommendations at people with an interest in that area and who I know will appreciate the style.

The Leopard sword has lost none of these things. Everything that a fan of the first three books enjoyed is here. You will enjoy it. Believe me.

But more than that, Empire IV has taken Tony's writing (and most particularly, I think, his planning of novels) to a whole new level. I will recommend TLS to people who I would baulk at the thought of reading the first three. It shows not only a natural progression from the first three but also a maturity in style that I adored.

Moving from a 90% military plotline to a new and exciting mix of military, whodunnit and thriller, TLS had me guessing almost to the end, with its constant twists and surprises. Every time I thought I'd nailed part of the plot it evaporated like smoke. I could enthuse about this at length and give some fantastic detail, but I will NOT risk spoilers, so enjoy that aspect and be glad I didn't ruin it for you.

The first three books, for me, were very much a trilogy, and I worried, after the fairly definitive and enormous end of the third, whether Tony could really pull a fourth out of his hat. He's done that, and made me wish I'd given his earlier books a lower rating so that I could adequately express my high estimation of this one.

As well as the continued 'real' feel of the military seen in his earlier books, there is also a much more personal element to TLS for several characters. There are some new and impressive folk to meet, and the bad guy in TLS will rank among my top historical villains. From his very introduction, he exudes style and mystery. Oh, and one of the previously more 'supporting' characters has really come into his own in this book and taken a limelight role - not before time.

This book also has a far more complex and intricate plot that its predecessors, and a real feel for the time and the local environment, which play a very important role in the plot itself. The interwoven threads are so neatly tied, it pleased me immensely to see not a hint of a loose end.

Moreover, I feel that Tony may have shifted a tiny amount of his focus so that there is less concentration on the battle and viscera (though don't panic as there's still plenty of ICK!) and more on subtle plot twists and character growth. All in all, it's a subtle move in style, I think, but a welcome and mature one which loses nothing, yet gains everything.

Simply: I love it. Buy it. And - and I rarely will say this - even if you've not read the first three or don't fancy them, buy this anyway. You'll love it too.

Roll on The Wolf's Gold (now out in less than a month!)


Spartacus: Rebellion: (Spartacus 2)
Spartacus: Rebellion: (Spartacus 2)
Price: 2.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No... I'M Spartacus..., 22 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've waited until I finished the second book to review these two, since I read them back to back and a 2-part series is relatively rare. Given that, I will not be writing a separate review for each book. This review is for both Spartacus the Gladiator and Spartacus: Rebellion.

I've been a fan of Ben's writing from the start. His Forgotten Legion series was groundbreaking in a number of ways and quite astounding as a debut. I was then fairly stunned by Hannibal, which I consider to be one of the finest pieces of ancient Historical fiction written. Despite the high quality of FL, Hannibal showed a new maturity in writing and more depth of character and soul.

So on to Spartacus. I won't say, for the record, that this series is better than Ben's Hannibal (and its future sequels.) It is as good as Hannibal, and that's just dandy by me. I wouldn't have wanted Ben's style to change after Hannibal, as that book hit the spot just right for me. What I will say about these books is that there has been a slight change in conventions that I found refreshing and excellent (more of that shortly).

I won't say much about the plot, to be honest. Anyone who follows any review I write knows that I don't like to risk spoilers. But, that being said, the general tale of Spartacus is a matter of record that most people will have at least a basic knowledge of. So, bear in mind that you sort of know how this saga is going to end. I mean, there's only a certain amount of license a writer can realistically get away with (and Ben Kane seems to be very sparing with artistic license anyway) and to have the books end with Spartacus riding off into the sunset would be a little hard to swallow.

So prepare yourself. I spoke to Ben at the History In the Court event a few days ago and he wondered whether I'd cry at the end, given that apparently a lot of others had. Well, Ben, I have to admit to a few sneaky tears there, but to be honest there had been eye moistening for at least two chapters in anticipation...

One thing I find I have to say and it's the only thing that could be construed as criticism, I suspect, is that in both books, I actually wished they were slightly longer, despite that they were long anyway! The reasoning behind this is that the time spent in the ludus at Capua has some of the most important plot buildup of the whole story, but I felt that I would have liked to see more of the non-plot-important gladiatorial contests during that time (some are reminisced about or alluded to that I'd have liked to have read directly.) It is possible, of course, that this is my own problem fuelled by having recently watched the Spartacus series and craving such fights - bear in mind that it's almost impossible to read Spartacus without drawing certain comparisons if you've watched the series, but I'm confident these books will come out of the comparison favourably. Similarly, in the second book, a number of the smaller battles or skirmishes that are not critical are referenced only in reminiscence or conversation, and I kind of missed seeing them myself. Again, perhaps just my bloodthirsty tendencies showing through.

But on with reviewing: One thing that I particularly loved that was, if memory serves me correctly, a new convention in Ben's writing, is the regular inclusion of an `inner dialogue' for the major characters. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this, but as the books progressed, I decided I really liked it and loved the effect it had on conversation. Often two characters will converse, but their private thoughts have a secondary conversation above them. This really gives a boost to the understanding of the motives and desires of the characters.

Another big win for me was the character of Carbo. Clearly a fictional creation, Carbo is the Yin to Spartacus's Yang in many ways and provides a counterpoint to the main star. I will say that he is in no way a sidekick or comedy relief. He is a strong protagonist in his own right, but helps to balance Spartacus. Well done for Carbo, Ben. Not only is he an important character, a plot foil, a companion and so much more, he is also the main chance the book has for any sort of positivity in the outcome.

Similarly, I loved Navio, and the portrayal of the young Caesar. On the Roman side, it is interesting to see Caesar and Crassus at this stage in their development, giving an insight into what creates the men who will exist and are portrayed in the Forgotten Legion.
Incidentally, as well as the sadness of the inevitable conclusion, there is one scene in the first book (a death scene) that I actually found worse. It was for me a harrowing read with all the soul-crushing skill of a Guy Gavriel Kay work. Fabulous in its awfulness.

In an echo of the plot construction of the Forgotten Legion, there is an overriding element of the mystical and the divine in this work which goes deeper than simply describing the attitudes of the people in the setting, but actually provides foretellings, insights, and even explanations as to the reasons for the events of the Third Servile War. One day I may well go back through these books and read them with a different mindset, going in to them with the idea that the whole string of events is somewhat defined and informed by prophecy and divine whim, rather than the straight historical viewpoint I attacked them with this time.

All in all, these two books create the deepest, most realistic and yet refreshingly different telling of the Spartacus rebellion yet. Forget Blood and Sand and Kirk Douglas. The characters here are authentic feeling and very much sympathetic, even on the Roman side. The fights and battles are up to the very high standard that fans of Ben Kane's work will have come to expect. The undertones of divine influence are subtle and yet powerful. As always, Ben appears to have meticulously researched everything and the historical accuracy of the books is as strong as I can believe it could get. There is never a let up in the story's pace or the action, and you will genuinely be as sad at the conclusion that you have no more to read as you are at the storyline itself.

It's a win on many levels. It's so sad that there's nowhere to go and the series has to end there. There could always be the possibility of a prequel, of course, since sequels are unrealistic. But anyone who watches Ben on twitter will be able to heave a sigh of relief knowing that he's working on the next Hannibal book now.


Spartacus: The Gladiator: (Spartacus 1)
Spartacus: The Gladiator: (Spartacus 1)
Price: 3.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No.... I'M Spartacus, 22 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've waited until I finished the second book to review these two, since I read them back to back and a 2-part series is relatively rare. Given that, I will not be writing a separate review for each book. This review is for both Spartacus the Gladiator and Spartacus: Rebellion.

I've been a fan of Ben's writing from the start. His Forgotten Legion series was groundbreaking in a number of ways and quite astounding as a debut. I was then fairly stunned by Hannibal, which I consider to be one of the finest pieces of ancient Historical fiction written. Despite the high quality of FL, Hannibal showed a new maturity in writing and more depth of character and soul.

So on to Spartacus. I won't say, for the record, that this series is better than Ben's Hannibal (and its future sequels.) It is as good as Hannibal, and that's just dandy by me. I wouldn't have wanted Ben's style to change after Hannibal, as that book hit the spot just right for me. What I will say about these books is that there has been a slight change in conventions that I found refreshing and excellent (more of that shortly).

I won't say much about the plot, to be honest. Anyone who follows any review I write knows that I don't like to risk spoilers. But, that being said, the general tale of Spartacus is a matter of record that most people will have at least a basic knowledge of. So, bear in mind that you sort of know how this saga is going to end. I mean, there's only a certain amount of license a writer can realistically get away with (and Ben Kane seems to be very sparing with artistic license anyway) and to have the books end with Spartacus riding off into the sunset would be a little hard to swallow.

So prepare yourself. I spoke to Ben at the History In the Court event a few days ago and he wondered whether I'd cry at the end, given that apparently a lot of others had. Well, Ben, I have to admit to a few sneaky tears there, but to be honest there had been eye moistening for at least two chapters in anticipation...

One thing I find I have to say and it's the only thing that could be construed as criticism, I suspect, is that in both books, I actually wished they were slightly longer, despite that they were long anyway! The reasoning behind this is that the time spent in the ludus at Capua has some of the most important plot buildup of the whole story, but I felt that I would have liked to see more of the non-plot-important gladiatorial contests during that time (some are reminisced about or alluded to that I'd have liked to have read directly.) It is possible, of course, that this is my own problem fuelled by having recently watched the Spartacus series and craving such fights - bear in mind that it's almost impossible to read Spartacus without drawing certain comparisons if you've watched the series, but I'm confident these books will come out of the comparison favourably. Similarly, in the second book, a number of the smaller battles or skirmishes that are not critical are referenced only in reminiscence or conversation, and I kind of missed seeing them myself. Again, perhaps just my bloodthirsty tendencies showing through.

But on with reviewing: One thing that I particularly loved that was, if memory serves me correctly, a new convention in Ben's writing, is the regular inclusion of an `inner dialogue' for the major characters. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this, but as the books progressed, I decided I really liked it and loved the effect it had on conversation. Often two characters will converse, but their private thoughts have a secondary conversation above them. This really gives a boost to the understanding of the motives and desires of the characters.

Another big win for me was the character of Carbo. Clearly a fictional creation, Carbo is the Yin to Spartacus's Yang in many ways and provides a counterpoint to the main star. I will say that he is in no way a sidekick or comedy relief. He is a strong protagonist in his own right, but helps to balance Spartacus. Well done for Carbo, Ben. Not only is he an important character, a plot foil, a companion and so much more, he is also the main chance the book has for any sort of positivity in the outcome.

Similarly, I loved Navio, and the portrayal of the young Caesar. On the Roman side, it is interesting to see Caesar and Crassus at this stage in their development, giving an insight into what creates the men who will exist and are portrayed in the Forgotten Legion.
Incidentally, as well as the sadness of the inevitable conclusion, there is one scene in the first book (a death scene) that I actually found worse. It was for me a harrowing read with all the soul-crushing skill of a Guy Gavriel Kay work. Fabulous in its awfulness.

In an echo of the plot construction of the Forgotten Legion, there is an overriding element of the mystical and the divine in this work which goes deeper than simply describing the attitudes of the people in the setting, but actually provides foretellings, insights, and even explanations as to the reasons for the events of the Third Servile War. One day I may well go back through these books and read them with a different mindset, going in to them with the idea that the whole string of events is somewhat defined and informed by prophecy and divine whim, rather than the straight historical viewpoint I attacked them with this time.

All in all, these two books create the deepest, most realistic and yet refreshingly different telling of the Spartacus rebellion yet. Forget Blood and Sand and Kirk Douglas. The characters here are authentic feeling and very much sympathetic, even on the Roman side. The fights and battles are up to the very high standard that fans of Ben Kane's work will have come to expect. The undertones of divine influence are subtle and yet powerful. As always, Ben appears to have meticulously researched everything and the historical accuracy of the books is as strong as I can believe it could get. There is never a let up in the story's pace or the action, and you will genuinely be as sad at the conclusion that you have no more to read as you are at the storyline itself.

It's a win on many levels. It's so sad that there's nowhere to go and the series has to end there. There could always be the possibility of a prequel, of course, since sequels are unrealistic. But anyone who watches Ben on twitter will be able to heave a sigh of relief knowing that he's working on the next Hannibal book now.


Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part One: Castillon
Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part One: Castillon
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A new and very welcome direction, 9 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am familiar with Cameron's writing from Killer of Men, which is an astounding novel written with feeling and depth, and I am aware of his work being a sweeping set of different series all set within the mileu of Ancient Greece. Thus it came as a bit of a surprise to me to discover that he had branched out with a series of short e-books based in the 15th century. I have to admit to having been intrigued enough that I bought Tom Swan pt1 and shuffled it into my reading pile (it's only short, and I read it in one night so it caused no backing up of books.)

The style of Tom Swan is very different from Cameron's other work, I would say, though that is no bad thing and it suits the serialized adventure fiction type of book that this is perfectly.

The thing that struck me most about this work was the simplicity of the story and the plot and the humour and real humanity injected throughout. Too often historical fiction takes itself far too seriously it can be a real tonic to punctuate the deeply heart-rending or tense pile of books in my reading list with something light, enjoyable and exciting like this.

I have to say that I had no idea what the story was about, and still I have not read the description of the book or the sequels. The title intrigued me and, while I hate giving spoilers in my reviews, I have to say that I've reached the end of part one and still have no idea of the relevance of the title! I am therefore dying to read part two and dig deeper.

The characters in this story are realistic and among the most engaging in anything I've read - especially Alessandro, who has leapt into my top ten supporting characters of all time. The plot rattles away at an excellent pace that never leaves the reader wanting.

Quite simply, this book is a stunning piece of writing and I think it would be a complete waste if the potential reader passed it up at the wonderfully low price it sells at. I for one will continue to read the rest of the books and hope Cameron's planning on taking the series past three books.

Well done Mr Cameron for taking a chance on a new era and a whole new style of book and nailing it perfectly.


The Stockholm Octavo
The Stockholm Octavo
by Karen Engelmann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.22

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex & fascinating, 8 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Stockholm Octavo (Hardcover)
The Stockholm Octavo is a complex piece to consider or review. My opinion of the book has been high all the way through, though I have had trouble nailing down why I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Engelmann's writing is fluid, graceful and highly emotive. It is very hard not to get sucked into the story and the prose that conveys it, and the descriptions, locations, activities and conversation evoke a feeling of another time and place, totally removed from the reader's world. I suspect that this is the fact that will make or break the book for a lot of people. To be honest, for me the way the book was written made the actual reading of the book hard work, requiring a lot more concentration than much historical fiction. Fortunately, the plot and setting are so intriguing that I found that even when I put the book down I was wondering what was coming next and had to pick it back up again.

The story revolves around a plot against the King of Sweden in the late 18th century, tied in with the ambitions of a gambler with a career in the city bureaucracy and an Octavo that is drawn for him - an Octavo is an unusual form of Cartomancy where eight cards are drawn on consecutive nights and represent the eight persons that are intimately tied into a great event, and which, if worked correctly, can control that event and bring it about. Beyond that I shall say no more - I am all for avoiding spoilers in a review.

One thing that really did enthral me in the book is the setting Sweden in the age of Revolution is about as alien an environment for me as I could find, and therefore every page brought me new learning and fascinating facts, painting a picture of a world I have never considered. Moreover, in the background, the world is undergoing great events following the revolutions in France and America. It really is a deep and fascinating situation for a writer and I am now amazed that so little has previously been written about it.

Two things that detracted a little for me and which I think were over-emphasised more than necessary for the story were the nature of the period's folding ladies' fans and their use and meaning, and the details of the card games played in the seedy gaming house. Both were a little too in-depth for me and slowed the story to a sluggish pace at times. Yet (and this is what confirms that this is all a matter of personal opinion) the detail of the cartomancy and the laying and interpretation of the octavo I found fascinating.

All in all, I would say that if you're looking for fast paced, action packed historical fiction, this book will leave you wanting considerably. If, however, you're looking for an immersive experience that tells a complex tale in a beautiful manner and brings to life a strange and intricate time and place, then you'll enjoy the Stockholm Octavo.

End result: Not for everyone, but a fascinating look at an unusual setting.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-12