- Paperback: 1112 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz (15 Jun. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575069015
- ISBN-13: 978-0575069015
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 5 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 58 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,710,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ash: A Secret History Paperback – 15 Jun 2000
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Mary Gentle's Ash kills her first man when she is eight, and at 20 is an experienced captain of mercenaries in the small wars of the late Middle Ages--but not quite the Middle Ages we know from history. The more scholar Piers Ratcliffe works on the evidence, the more knowledge and recorded history and the rules of evidence crumble under him--this world of Visigoths with ceramic robots and of the religion of the Green Christ is nothing he knows of. Ash hears voices, but not like those of Joan of Arc--voices that give her very specific advice about the winning of battles. Married against her will to a man who despises her, but whom she lusts after; finding that the Visigoth general is her twin; coping with the day-to-day problems of battle and siege and mayhem, Mary Gentle's Ash is a magnificent creation. This long, passionate novel, blending historical fantasy with thoughtful speculative fiction, is as smart about the minutiae of mediaeval war-making and manners as it is about the wilder reaches of contemporary cosmology. --Roz Kaveney
ASH is a magnificent and gritty dream of the 15th century, a stupendous canvas soaked in blood and magic and tearsSee all Product description
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It's interesting with abrupt shifts and a fluent style and so despite length it reads well and is not difficult to swim in, mentally. I think the style of writing is good. The characterisation especially of Ash is believable. I read in reviews that it shifts towards a more sci-fi feel but will reserve judgement on that aspect if its a problem. There's stuff about genetics and breeding of Ash as a kind of conduit for a battle computer based on a Golem (stone creature).
It's worth a visit.
I moved onto finish it a few months down the line - what I would further say is that I found it had moments of great tension; the character Ash and others were well drawn. I felt that more could have been done with the author's skills in set piece situations - battle or for instance erotic even. The novel is a bit drawn out and one gets a bit like one is champing at the bit around the middle when Ash is imprisoned in Carthage. But, its well written and shows at times real panache. I did find the stuff about justifying the counter-factual premise by virtue of a link to quantum physics - well, I guess it linked into the stuff about wild machines and that was an interesting connection but it got a bit laboured in that quantum physics is a bit odd in the context of time slip novels (though I can see the ideas relevance). All said, I felt that somehow it was as others have said a work of flawed genius. But I think I will up it to 5 stars despite its weaknesses. The quality of writing at times is very high and the insight into emotions is sharp as well.
However after several hundred pages you are beginning to glean the big secrets... but there are many more hundreds of pages until you have gleaned them completely and utterly. By the end I was almost skim-reading just to get through the drawn-out denouement.
The other thing is that the characters have attitudes and ways of speaking which are basically 21st-century western middle class, despite the fact that they all grew up and continue to live in the most dire and arduous conditions. I tried hard to suspend my disbelief about this aspect, but never quite managed.
I am amazed at how much the fates of such a disreputable group of fictional characters came to mean to me. And I really do have a full life so I was not not looking to be so engaged!
Mary Gentle's prose is superb (if a little blunt for the more delicate reader), and her imagination is extraordinary. Wonderful, wonderful book - I will read this again and again.
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A fabulous blend of fantasy and real history so convincing it's difficult, even for a medievalist, to see the joins!Read more