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on 12 March 2010
The sequel to the author's astonishingly adept debut
novel 'The Redemption of Alexander Seaton' shows
her to be a supreme writer of historical mysteries.
It again features,Alexander Seaton,and is set in
1628.Seaton is lured from his teaching at Aberdeen
University,by his Irish cousin,Sean,to go to Ulster
to assist his family who have been placed under a
poet's curse.Once there,he finds himself faced with
subterfuge,bigotry, and resentment as he endeavours
to break the curse,which is beginning to come true.
Whilst not containing the immense sense of place
of the first novel,this is a well-written mystery
which enriches the reader's historical knowledge,
and skillfully conveys the brutality and morality
of the time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 July 2013
The second in the series following Alexander Seaton; there's sufficient backfill for this to work well as a stand alone. The story starts in Aberdeen, where Alexander is settled as a tutor at the University. The story swiftly moves to Ireland and the remainder of the book is set in Ulster, where Alexander learns about his Irish ancestry. His loyalties and trust are tested to the extreme as he tries to break a poet's curse.

The complex national and family divisions caused by an English king keen to extend and control his kingdom are very well explained. This is an historical thriller, set in a factual context. I gained a greater understanding of the history of this period and the legacy.

There's a much larger canvas in this story; more characters, a complex plot and a range of locations. It's far less introspective than the first novel, but an engrossing read. Ms Maclean creates a story that keeps you guessing at every turn. It's an historical action murder mystery. All the ingredients are there; chases in the night, deception, cliff face escape, treachery, betrayal and love. I really enjoyed it and its added a new and different dimension to the development of the Alexander Seaton character. Looking forward to The Crucible already!
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on 28 October 2011
I came to the first book in this series ("The Redemption of Alexander Seaton") with no great expectations but was pleasantly surprised by a literate historical novel with interesting characters and great atmosphere. Perhaps because expectations were so much higher for this second book there was bound to be a measure of disappointment. Don't get me wrong; this is still a perfectly good book but I don't think it quite measures up to its predecessor. To an extent the author is to be congratulated for not simply churning out a clone of the first novel; for the most part the only character carried over from the original book is Seaton (the narrator) and we also have a complete change of location, from eastern Scotland to Ulster. On the other hand, I rather missed some of the other characters encountered in the first book and would have enjoyed reacquaintance with them and the Banff and Aberdeen locations they inhabited. Instead, we have a whole new cast of characters, mainly relatives of Seaton's on his Irish mother's side. And therein lies one of the difficulties; I found it quite difficult to keep track of all the diverse strands of all these family members. This wasn't made any easier by the complexity of the Ulster population's ethnic make-up at this period and the equally complex range of conflicting loyalties.

Thus, I never got to know and understand the many characters in this book as much as the smaller group of people featured in the first book. And whereas the first book had me totally engrossed almost from Page 1, this second book seemed to take a lot longer to really get going - though in the end it was still a worthwhile read. There is an interesting plot line (if you can keep up with all the different characters) and, despite its complexity, it does illuminate a fascinating period of Irish history of which I had very little knowledge. That brooding sense of menace which was so well conveyed in the first book doesn't really materialise in this sequel, although there is an eloquent, gradually increasing sense of sadness as the book progresses to a far from happy ending.

To summarise: A slightly disappointing sequel to an excellent debut novel, but nonetheless a distinct cut above much of the dross being turned out in this genre at the moment. I'll certainly be looking out for the third book in the series.
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on 17 January 2014
I regret reading the less than positive reviews of this book as it took me a while to get round to reading it when I shouldn't have deprived myself! Great story, great characters and super writing. This is the best series of books I've read for sometime and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. My only regret is not reading them in the right order, although they are stand alone stories.
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on 3 March 2014
Having very much enjoyed the first novel featuring Alexander Seaton, The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, I took me quite a while before I began reading 'A Game of Sorrows', but from page one I was once again captivated.

In the winter of 1628 (Charles I has been on the throne for 3 years by then), Alexander receives a quite unexpected visit in his rooms in Aberdeen: blissfully unaware that he even had one, Alexander's Irish cousin Sean O'Neill turns up with a story of a curse resting on their family, and pleading with Alexander to return to Ulster with him to lift the curse. And so it is that barely hours later Alexander finds himself on his way to Ulster, instead of travelling to the Baltic as his Principal Dr Dun had asked him to do. And once there, Alexander soon finds that the advice given to him to 'trust no one' is very apt indeed...

As in 'The Redemption of Alexander Seaton', this is a very good historical novel / thriller / mystery: Shona MacLean has a real feel for the period and knows how to immerse a reader so it feels as if you were present there and then. The characters are all very well drawn, and the plot is intricate enough to keep you eager to read on and on, but not so complicated you'll find yourself flipping back and forth to re-read earlier passages. Although I really couldn't afford to do so, I completely ignored all other pressing business and finished this brilliant novel in a matter of days.

If you're fond of good historical novels, this book should be a treat!
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on 22 April 2014
Slow burning period thriller with plenty of under plotting going on between families and acquaintances. Seaton's character is developed well from the first book and so are those around him. The danger and atmosphere of 17c Ulster comes across through the story and is an interesting backdrop.
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on 19 February 2013
This was a superb read as far as I am concerned, especially when the plot centred around an area I know so well. Alexander Seaton has become an old friend in that he has appeared in several novels by Shona MacLean and he is a worthy hero. I can't wait to read the next one in the triology.
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First Sentence: The bride's grandmother smiled: she could feel the discomfort of the groom's family and it pleased her well.

It is disconcerting enough to be accused of less-then reputable actions you know you did not commit, but even more so when confronted by a man who could be your twin. Alexander Seaton, a reputable teacher at Marischal College in Aberdeen, has never known any family beyond his now-dead parents until now. Near-twin cousin Sean O'Neill is about to change all that with an entreaty for Alexander to come with him to Ireland. It seems his grandfather is dying and the entire O'Neill family is under a curse which only the proven existence of Alexander can break.

It is always frustrating when you absolutely love an author's first book and are then disappointed in their second. Unfortunately, that was the case here.

In "The Redemption of Alexander Seaton," I felt great empathy for the character and came to care about him. In this book, other than as the "voice" of the story, and the one to whom everything happens--how many times can one get hit on the head without major concussion or brain damage--we learn little about his internal makeup. Yes, it is interesting that he is such a fish-out-of-water character being an academic caught up in conflict, but he never really came to life.

I've never been to Ireland, but I did love MacLean's descriptions. She made me feel as though I were standing next to the characters, and wished I could be. I also felt she well conveyed the sense of Ireland as a land where faith and superstition walked hand-in-hand.

While I found the history fascinating and gained a better understanding of the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants, English and Irish, I felt MacLean became so caught up in the history, I somewhat forgot about the story. I was also interested to learn that a troupe of travelling players may have performed Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" in Ireland during this time.

The story was interesting but I found it difficult to keep track of all the characters and, because most of them were simply that, there were few about whom I really cared. I am, by no means, ready to give up on MacLean. I do hope, however, her next book focuses more on telling us a whopping good story.

A GAME OF SORROWS (Hist Mys-Alexander Seaton-Scotland/Ireland-1628) - Okay
MacLean, Shona - 2nd in series
Quercus, ©2010, UK Trade Paperback - ISBN: 9781849161527
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on 1 April 2014
I really want it give this four and a half stars. It is a really enjoyable Novel on so many levels. Wish I had bought it in paperback rather than kindle as had to keep going back to check who the various characters were. A great read.
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on 6 June 2013
The first book in this series The redemption of Alexander Seaton was unputdownable and this one is, too. It brings to life Ireland in the 1600's and inhumane treatment by the British of the Irish. You do not have to read the first one as the books are stand-alone, but you may want to having read A game of sorrows. Buy it, it's well worth it.
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