Customer Reviews


132 Reviews
5 star:
 (65)
4 star:
 (31)
3 star:
 (18)
2 star:
 (10)
1 star:
 (8)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bones of Avalon - a stonkingly brilliant book
I had never heard of Phil Rickman before I stumbled, quite accidentally, upon this book. As a writer and historian myself, I am a harsh critic and have grown weary of predictable, run of the mill historical novels. Most are unconvincing both in characterisation and plot and when I picked up The Bones of Avalon I did not expect it to be any different. But I was wrong;...
Published on 18 Nov 2011 by Amazon Customer

versus
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'different' but not my bag!
I was very much looking forward to this book yet found that I had the opposite problem to usual, i.e. this time I couldn't pick it up. I have been an avid fan of Mr Rickman's works since the beginning and have to admit that I was not enthalled. The story was slow, a tad predictable and revealed no revelations.Dee is often misconstrued as this mystical magician with...
Published on 14 July 2011 by Mrs. S. J. East


‹ Previous | 1 214 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bones of Avalon - a stonkingly brilliant book, 18 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (THE JOHN DEE PAPERS) (Kindle Edition)
I had never heard of Phil Rickman before I stumbled, quite accidentally, upon this book. As a writer and historian myself, I am a harsh critic and have grown weary of predictable, run of the mill historical novels. Most are unconvincing both in characterisation and plot and when I picked up The Bones of Avalon I did not expect it to be any different. But I was wrong; Phil had me at the first line.

The Bones of Avalon is set in the 1560's; a time of religious uncertainty, Popish plot and counterplot. The people walk in fear, trusting no-one in an England still reeling from the heretical burnings and hangings of Mary Tudor's Catholic reign. Now, she is dead and another Tudor takes the throne. Another queen, the bastard daughter of Anne Boleyn - Elizabeth.
Haunted by her mother's death, uncertain if she will succeed or fail, the young Elizabeth allows herself to trust few men. Two of whom are Robert Dudley - mistrusted by the council, a wild card adventurer and rumoured to be the queen's lover; and her consultant and astrologer, Dr Dee, a mild mannered scholar and dreamer.
They are sent to Glastonbury to discover the missing bones of King Arthur, lost during the dissolution in Henry VIII's reign, so that Elizabeth might fulfil a prophecy. Without its abbey Glastonbury is desolate, the town decaying and as soon as Dudley and Dr Dee set foot there, mystery and superstition unfolds.
By the time I reached the end of the first chapter I knew I was in good hands. Mr Rickman's first person narrative is authentic enough to make me forget I was actually reading. The fumbling investigative powers of Dr Dee endears him to the reader and the primitive, wary people of Glastonbury instil the plot with ambiguity. It was delightfully refreshing to find Robert Dudley illustrated, not as a broad shouldered, devil-may-care, wife killing braggart, but as an ordinary man, torn, confused, afflicted with sickness and, throughout it all, a stalwart friend to Dr Dee and loyal to his queen.
The author's knowledge of the period is indisputable, his understanding of 16th century uncertainty is flawless but, for me, the best thing about this book has to be the atmosphere.
I am not a believer in the supernatural but Mr Rickman had me doubting my own sound good sense. He gave me goose bumps such as I have not experienced since childhood. An undercurrent of human evil runs through this book, illustrating mankind's capacity to destroy that which they don't understand as an evil far stronger than the supernatural. Although the author never infers that supernatural power truly exists, The Bones of Avalon is unsettling; it has you looking over your shoulder. It is a book to read with the doors and windows locked.

Phil Rickman has written an intelligent book. Some may find the length off putting, it certainly isn't for lightweight readers but, if you have the ability to let go of disbelief and embrace the mindset of the late 16th century, then you will love it as much as I. A whopping five stars - brilliant.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finale is horrifyingly tense, 25 April 2010
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Hardcover)
It was only a matter of time before Phil Rickman got his teeth into Glastonbury. The mystical Isle of Avalon was an obvious target for Britain's master of creepy tales and he has once again written a superlative book.
This 16th century tale is very different from his `Merrily Watkin' series of great renown, though his gift of walking the tight-rope between sober fact and the supernatural is similarly employed. I know Phil had reservations about moving from contemporary fiction to the historical, but he has pulled it off in great style.
A reviewer has the constant problem of not being able to divulge too much of the plot and especially the dénouement, which inhibits a rational description of the story, but basically it is a first-person account by Dr John Dee, the mystical, scientific astronomer-astrologist of the Virgin Queen, as she was incorrectly described. Much of the story is based on fact - or at least, the factual accounts of characters, places and times are used to weave a complex story worthy of John le Carre's espionage books, with a wealth of obscure events being drawn together, when all is explained. In 1560, the young Elizabeth sends Dee to Glastonbury to seek the bones of King Arthur, which were turfed out of the marble tomb in the Abbey at the Dissolution twenty years earlier. She has been haunted by dreams of her mother Anne Boleyn, beheaded by her father and a cryptic message suggests that by kissing the bones, this malign spirit might be exorcised.
In Glastonbury, Dee falls in love with the woman doctor who treats his companion Robert Dudley, the queen's lover, but finds that the town has become a tortured place, under the thumb of a former monk from the abbey, who has turned Protestant and become a harsh Justice of the Peace. The bones become central to the plot and the finale is horrifyingly tense, in true Rickman fashion.
The book may not attract such a wide appeal as the Merrily series, as it is a one-off, so can hardly gather a similar fan-base. It is a harder read, and without wanting to sound patronising, is more academic and cerebral in content. For those with a historic bent, it is fascinating and informative about the cruel machinations that went on during and after King Henry's reign, with Popish plots and counterplots leading to innumerable hangings and burnings in the tug-of-war over religion. For Glastonbury addicts, it will consolidate their obsession with this extraordinary place. After reading this book, I will never be able to climb the Tor again without looking apprehensively over my shoulder!

Bernard Knight ex Home Office Pathologist and author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History with guts, 8 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Hardcover)
Being a big fan of Phil's previous, didn't know what this foray into history would be like, as he's normally routed very much in the present.
Ignore the dialogue structure in the first few pages, as he renders it more naturalistically a chapter in. The thing with John Dee (and unsure if this is what Phil was after) but he paints him as a reluctant celeb of his day. At the whim of politics and royal moods, John becomes embroiled in a plan to find the bones of Arthur (as in Arturian legend), and place them in Elizabeth 1st care, as part of Arthur's heritage in the royal line of England (something to do with ER1's mother being a witch, and Bess being haunted by her - very Hamlet like?).
There's a grissly murder, accusations of witchcraft, some LSD-druggy sex (well it is set in Glastonbury!)and religious conspiracy. Typical Tudor shenanigans. But John Dee comes across as a victim of the restrictive beliefs of his time, and a naive young man, rather than the shady sorcerer he is painted as in history.
Enjoyed it, and would like to see how John's own history could pan out. But it's a bit like watching 'Titanic' - on the whole you know how it all ends...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's meat on these Bones ..., 29 Jun 2010
By 
T. Williams (Mariposa, California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Hardcover)
As a longtime reader of Phil Rickman who was hungry for my annual fix of Merrily Watkins, I must say I approached this offering of historical fiction with some hesitation. I've never quite acquired a taste for the genre, but I have to confess that this was one tasty read, a perfect blend of historical and crime fiction.

As other readers have commented, Rickman serves up a story carved from an wonderful slice of Elizabethan life. He certainly did his research, which must have been exhaustive. As with his other books, it's the characters who once again bring the tale to life. The perspective is a departure from his other books in that the main character, John Dee, is also the narrator, which allows a more immediate intimacy for the reader, or for this reader at least. I also enjoyed seeing the other characters -- both historical and fictional -- through Dee's eyes, my favorite being the one-eyed hag, Joan Tyrre, who often sees what others can't. There's also a surprise -- but crucial -- cameo by a famous Frenchman!

Rickman fans will not be disappointed in this book. The only disappointment as far as Rickman is concerned is that he can't magically clone himself and simultaneously turn out sequels to this latest book, the Merrily Watkins series, the Will Kingdom books and Thom Madley's Marco series.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Um, extraordinary and, Jesu, captivating!, 11 Nov 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Paperback)
My God this book, The Bones of Avalon, took my breath away!
I seriously don't know how Mr. Rickman does it? How he creates books that drag us in and don't let go until we've been haunted, hunted, enchanted and delighted in ways unimagined? I have so say (and this may sound like sacrilege to most Merrily fans -and I am one) that ...this is my very favourite PR novel yet.
Jesu, I only hope there's a sequal!

Mark TownsendThe Path of the Blue Raven
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, informed and totally gripping., 24 Aug 2013
By 
Bookie (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (THE JOHN DEE PAPERS) (Kindle Edition)
I'm new to the work of Phil Rickman and if his other books grip in the same way as this, I shall be delighted!

The narrative style is unusual with reminders and reference to the main character's thought process as he works through discussions and facts to draw his conclusions. I found Dr John Dee interesting and well rounded. His friendship with Robert Dudley, the Queens lover, was brought to life making it seem entirely plausible. The language used was vibrant and some of the descriptive passages gave an almost tangible sense of an all pervading evil, both moral and physical.

The historical backdrop of the Dissolution of the monasteries and Papist plots, changing allegiances, mistrust and constant threat was very well conveyed. Wrapping all this together around a search for King Arthur's bones and blowing holes in some long standing legends made it a ripping read. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical experience, 30 Oct 2011
By 
C. R. Meats "Kate M" (Oxford UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Hardcover)
This is a gripping historical novel set in the time of Elizabeth I. It ostensibly deals with the hunt for the mortal remains of King Arthur by Dr Dee, who travels with Robert Dudley to Glastonbury. Once there they encounter adventures, murders and general hostility which give the plot its mystical and threatening aspects. The landscape inevitably becomes another character as Glastonbury Tor develops into the setting for meetings, hangings and psychic experiences. The Abbey has its gruesome part to play with no details spared. The characters are convincing and the plot is well woven. The ending is convincing. I can thoroughly recommend this as an excellent read for both historical and detective story fans.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful departure, 27 Mar 2011
By 
Polly Potter (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Paperback)
.. from the Merrily Watkins stories. I too was really hungry to know What Merrily Did Next (I do worry about her) and so was perplexed to see that "The Bones of Avalon" is another departure for Mr R ... a historical thriller mystery. The first few pages had me worried, I was concerned in case it was all going to be written in a late medieval tongue, but as others have said, it soon - but almost imperceptibly - becomes much more fluent for 21C readers. On reflection I think that the decision to use the Tudor voice in the first few pages helped set the scene ... I had a distinct feeling of being on a journey back in time. As ever, Mr Rickman performs the alchemist's transformation effortlessly, he is sublimely able to create a sense of place ... and in this case, time. I admit that I fell head over heels in love with John Dee, he is so human and self aware. Beautifully written, and even though I saw what was coming I enjoyed reading the story unfurl. This was one of those books I didn't want to come to an end, and I hope that Dr Dee will make another appearance before too long. Heartily recommended!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rickman does it again!, 16 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Hardcover)
Really enjoyed this book.
Rickman skillfully evokes a believable Elizabethan world with dialogue that feels right without being inaccessible.
As usual with Rickman it's the characters that give the book it's main appeal for me.
As in the Merrily Watkins series and his earlier works the people come across as real. People you care about.
John Dee is now fixed in my head and when I read about him in other books I think, "John Dee's not like that!"
An intriguing mystery with unexpected twists, great characters, well paced action and good historical detail.
This book is a fascinating look at Glastonbury's secrets and it's long history as a spiritual place for Pagans and Christians.
(Readers of Rickman's earlier work on Glastonbury, "The Chalice" will find some interesting parallels and some familiar names.)
I thoroughly recommend this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phil Rickman's fabulously daring Dr. Dee, 30 Mar 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (Paperback)
'The Bones of Avalon' is priceless, a keeper, this is why I had to buy the hardback copy; it will be read to bits over the coming years. I love historical novels when they are well written, Ellis Peters, Umberto Eco, Samson, Peter Tremayne et al. I especially love history, so after reading non-fiction books it is an absolute delight to be able to walk through the medieval streets via Phil Rickman's graphic narratives and share the adventures of his characters. Who could forget the opening scene, with its undercurrent of shock, as Dee witnesses the unfolding of the wrapped object, after its removal from the coffin on the quayside.

Rickman's Dr. Dee is a truth seeker, a keen observer and an analyst, and once he is on the trail of a mystery, he means to see it though to its conclusion, and oh my, what adventures he has along the way. The Bones of Avalon is a tremendously satisfying read on many different levels; social, political, historical, murder, intrigue, suspense, folklore and so on. Various aspects reflect everyday life - where there are many different onion-layers of complexity. The novel is a living, albeit fictional, tribute to Dee. The characters are well-rounded, they live and breathe and you want to spend time with them.

Their environment is also well described; you might find you are picking your steps through the street for a while after reading this book. Or looking at well known houses with the realisation that certain events are based on the truth, and you now feel privy to it - even if this is a pun on the preceding sentence.

Court intrigues and the threat these brought to people's lives were captured perfectly. Whispering corridors still exist today so it is fascinating to be carried back in time to find that, in some respects, some things never change. As usual, with Phil's outstanding narratives, we were right there and what a brilliant ride through Elizabethan times with the fabulously daring Dr Dee. Please, please, please Mr. Rickman, may we have a sequel - or three or four or more?

If you like The Bones of Avalon, Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series is also well worth checking out, it is about a contemporary crime solver who is just as remarkable in her own way. I have read all this wonderfully accomplished mystery series to date, and they gave me another great reason to read The Bones of Avalon.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 214 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews