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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

on 9 December 2009
And now, as they say, for something completely different. Before we start, I'll come clean, and admit I know the author. Correction, I thought I knew the author, before I read the sex scenes in this book. Between hero Nicholas Blaketon and his soulmate Alice Linwood it's pure love, the real thing, but their happiness is seriously threatened by a treacherous ancient Briton. Ognirius Licinius Vranaun hovers in the ether, trying to horn in, and not metaphorically. This dead man with a grudge is staging a comeback, using the star-crossed lovers to achieve his vengeful ends. Meanwhile lecherous lecturer Leonard gets more than he can manage with rapacious and revengeful ex student Clare.

Torc of Moonlight is classified as paranormal romance, it is set partly in Hull University and city, and partly around Malton (Derventio as was), and the environs of a Celtic spring you'll find beside a Roman road, way up on the North York Moors. I'm inspired to go one day, and drop a coin or two for the water deity.

Thanks Linda, for a rattling good read
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on 19 January 2011
Most writers research a little when writing fiction, despite the fact that they can make everything up if they feel like it! Linda Acaster is no exception, in fact as far as I'm concerned she's the Indiana Jones of novel writing - questing after facts as well as truth wherever it may lie, then presenting it to the reader like an artefact to a museum.

'Torc of Moonlight' was especially interesting for me because I studied at the university where some of the action takes place, but this time-slip thriller (what a genre!) is perfect for anyone who fancies reading something that boasts as much detail as it does action. And you never know, you might even learn something about history, mythology and geology on the way!
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on 26 April 2010
A fan of Alan Garner's "The Owl Service" I began this book with high expectations. Disappointingly I finished it feeling as if the Author had been shouting at me all the way through. Perhaps it is intended for a teenage audience because it is all physicality without any pause for reflection. It seemed the characters are all either in a heightened state of fear, physical pain or sexual arousal all the time. Knowing only what they are feeling - rather than what they are thinking - made it impossible for me to develop empathy for any of them. In fact they seemed like empty vessels waiting to be filled - no wonder vengeful spirits found them so easy to take over. Silk kimonos (both Clare and Alice wore them) were mentioned far too often as was Alice's hair floating up round her head or falling in ripples to her shoulders. OK - we got the water reference. It was clear the author had carried out a great deal of meticulous research. Alice's guided tour of Hull and the museum seemed like a race to impart as much information in as short a time as possible. However, there is a fine line between having each detail ploddingly explained to one and not being given enough explanation and with the mythology the author tended to the latter, throwing us tidbits with little link to their relevance to the plot. This was particularly apparent with the references to the annual cycle of death and rebirth which were never clearly tied in to Ognirius' story. A reader not familiar with the intricacies of Celtic mythology would not have got the relevance of Samhain to Ognirius "passing through" . The author never explains that he is trying to pass through to the other world. Having then mentioned Samhain (Halloween) it was dropped. One assumes the denouement at the pool took place then - the short time when this world and the other meet? If not, why mention it in the first place? I was not totally sure at the end either whether Alice was a personification of the water goddess herself or inhabited by her priestess, Yslan. In summary; a great idea for a story that could have done with a more subtle execution.
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on 16 February 2010
Review for Torc of Moonlight by Linda Acaster.

The Torc of the title I'm assuming is an ornamental collar, and the moonlight mentioned, not one to be serenaded by in the conventional, `nobody gets hurt' style.
I'm probably going to meander off trying to do Torc of Moonlight any real justice, because it is a tight piece of work, intriguing, too, and like any good mystery, unravels at a pace which, first of all, is fast enough to slap us about a bit, whilst maintaining throughout, a dark sort of logic that we can cling to, so if the main character, (and we, through his struggle to know the truth) don't quite get it first time, it keeps on coming with further blows, each time more dangerous, until the balance eventually tips the other way.
`Kneel!' as they say, once you reach the altar stone.
By then it's too late, of course, and we're up to our torc's in deep water, with those nasty tugging undercurrents waiting.
That is the point at which Nick Blaketon, a lazy second year student, not really studying much at all at Hull University, probably begins wishing he was somebody else. But the trouble is, in a way, he already is, you see. He should have paid more attention to the fact his behaviour recently has been losing him all of his friends. Pushing old flames down steps and half murdering bicycles just isn't cricket!
This is all very well crafted, incidentally, economical but rich in vivid description, placing us firmly now, on campus at Kingston upon Hull. The trees outside Nick's lodgings come menacingly close to invading his room at times. The weather is wild and woolly, and the streets of Hull seem to blow with wet, supernatural forces.
The clue has already staggered his way through the prologue, back through the mists of time, and cleaved a hunting dog in two, neat enough for a butcher to hang its carcass up in his window. Not that far away there is a sword and a lake, a Presence, and somebody not quite of this world, indeed like him, this passionate warrior, who also guards a terrible secret. A smack of Arthurian Legend here possibly? Anyway water is the key. And there must be another sacrifice before this thing is over. Well, we, and Nick, must wait and see. For the time, our time and his, being what it usually is, we're stuck in the present. And the past has got to reach us first.
Nick Blaketon couldn't really be less equipped to deal with it. His Celtic warrior skills are sadly lacking, and he knows nothing about history at all.
Until recently his life was just simply a wilfully chaotic attempt at proving himself upon the rugby pitch and that had gone hand in glove, in bed, as it were, with a succession of easy conquests, all seemingly eager to submit to a bit of rough. So we know straight away, he's a bit of bluffer, maybe even a cheat, this Nick Blaketon guy. But maybe he's a bit sick of his image? Maybe he's looking for an upgrade?
Then Alice Linwood, the shy, studious student comes along. Not really his type, yet for a reason that seems quite irrational at first to him, he needs to get closer, and sniff out why.
He is starting to fall in love with her and it just shouldn't be. Worse for him, she shrinks away from his advances, as if he's carrying the old plague, ha, oh dear, it's not all going to end in tears is it?
There are germs of lots of different ideas here, and Linda Acaster weaves into her story, a good mix of symbols that aren't you bog standard kind. When you consider this is romance, I think that's quite gutsy of her. Go with the flow, that's what they must do. And the sex when it comes is lustful and needy. The story provokes as many questions as it answers, and begs for a sequel, of course.
But for all his blokey faults, Nick isn't a bad sort of guy. He just thinks he knows more than a first year student would, about life, and taking a few knocks. All is fair in love and rugby. Alice has notions that men she becomes fond of die. But Nick obviously thinks she should just get out more.
Well she does, and then it really does get nasty. Are they both just being used? Something is coming out of the water again....
As for Ognirius Licinius Vranaum, I wouldn't wish to argue with him. Yeah well he is the old Celtic warrior who travels through water, but he could maybe be some distant screen relation to the gladiatorial feller played by Russell Crowe, I dunno. He was a dead spirit walking, too. Both a bit of a handful, I expect, and not just in the bedroom, good with a sword, too.
Aye, them were the days!
It's a dog cleave dog sort of world and somebody has to end up being king of the castle.
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on 18 April 2011
I was attracted to this book because of its basis in English prehistory and I will start by stating that I'm both an author and a postgraduate in archaeology as both of these things affect my interpretation of the book.

The story is set in Hull and East Yorkshire, around the Vale of Pickering. From an archaeological perspective, this area is rich in sites, from high status chariot burials, dating to the Iron Age, back to wetland Mesolithic (6000 BC) occupation.

Nick is at university, superficially studying English but more importantly playing Rugby. He is transfixed by a very studious girl called Alice, who is studying history. At the same time he suffers strange blackouts and memory losses during which he apparently commits violent acts. Meanwhile, lustful lecture, Leonard, is suffering from paranoia and there are hints that he has been involved in some sort of witchcraft. Then there are haunting flashes from Romano-British times, in which a violent and lustful warrior seems to be seeking escape from his place in the past.

The writing is exceptionally elegant and well-crafted. The story is compelling, gradually gaining momentum and building suspense. It is clear that the characters from different times and places are connected in some way and that those in the present are being used by forces from the past. Yet the reader cannot be sure exactly whose intentions are good or bad, nor of exactly what the links are and certainly not of how the story will be resolved.

I particularly like the interweaving of archaeological evidence of votive offerings of swords deposited in watery sites in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age. Also the concept of water - or indeed any reflective medium - as a portal between the Earthly world and that of the gods or ancestors. This is thought to have been part of a belief system dating back to the Upper Palaeolithic (during the time of cave paintings). These archaeological theories and facts are not expressed specifically in the book but linger as supporting evidence, making the story more real for those who are familiar with them.

The characters and their actions are shown but their thoughts and feelings generally are not. Similarly, there are some quite explicit scenes which border on erotica yet lack emotional response. Both of these could be seen as flaws but I'm giving the author the benefit of the doubt that they are intentional and convey the way the characters are under varying control of an outside power. The ending is definite in one way yet uncertain in another. Again I am interpreting this as the author's lead into the next book of the trilogy.

The plot is seamless such that the reader may not appreciate the skill it takes to construct a story which interweaves through time in this way. It is a compelling story and one I found difficult to put down once I'd started reading.
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on 26 November 2009
A gripping and unusual story of the aspirations of a dying viking warrior for an afterlife. One of a group of 21st century students is targeted to provide substance for the afterlife and his behaviour occasionally runs out of his control to the concern of hinself and his friends. The mystery is tied up with a goddess of water and the question is 'will love prevail or will someone die?'
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