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Search tags: Historical-Fantasy
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review 2017-12-04 19:39
The Mummy Case / Elizabeth Peters
The Mummy Case - Elizabeth Peters

Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist and Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname "Father of Curses" -- and at Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. And there is nothing in this barren area worthy of their interest -- until an antiquities dealer is murdered in his own shop. A second sighting of a sinister stranger from the crime scene, a mysterious scrap of papyrus, and a missing mummy case have all whetted Amelia's curiosity. But when the Emersons start digging for answers in an ancient tomb, events take a darker and deadlier turn -- and there may be no surviving the very modern terrors their efforts reveal.

 

“Catastrophically precocious”—this is how Amelia Peabody Emerson describes her young son, Walter Emerson (better known as Ramses, for his demanding nature). Several times during this novel, a chill runs down her spine when she wonders just where her darling son is and what mischief he has found in which to embroil himself!

The fact that the author herself is an Egyptologist really makes these books fun. She uses all the historical archaeologists as characters for Emerson to roar and bellow at when he is not debating archaeological issues with vicious thrust-and-parry.

I still love Amelia, armed with her parasol, seeking out clues. Ramses is lawyer-like in his reasoning, endeavouring to manoeuvre around her prohibitions. But “da cat Bastet” really steals the show in this installment—somehow I picture her as a haughty Siamese.

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review 2017-11-24 18:25
St. Peter's Fair / Ellis Peters
St. Peter's Fair: The Fourth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters

The great annual Fair of Saint Peter at Shrewsbury, a high point in the citys calendar, attracts merchants from far and wide to do business. But when an unseemly quarrel breaks out between the local burghers and the monks from the Benedictine monastery as to who shall benefit from the levies the fair provides, a riot ensues. Afterwards a merchant is found dead, and Brother Cadfael is summoned from his peaceful herb garden to test his detective skills once more.

 

What a pleasure it is to find a character and a series that I consistently enjoy. Four books into the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, and I am well and truly hooked. So I am well pleased to see that I still have 16 books ahead of me. The trick will be not to read them too quickly!

Brother Cadfael is a wonderful medieval sleuth—he’s participated in the Crusades, he’s had love affairs, he’s a man of the world, but he has chosen “retirement” in Shrewsbury Abbey. I think his philosophy would be that God helps those who help themselves, although in this installment he receives one of his greatest breakthroughs by withdrawing to the chapel to pray. Abbey politics also feature in these books and Cadfael is getting used to a new leader (and they seem to see eye to eye).

People are people, regardless of time period. Young people are going to have strong opinions, occasionally drink too much and embarrass themselves, fall in love, and generally do the things that young people do. Including getting implicated in crimes. Cadfael is wonderfully non-judgmental for a monk and full of quiet wisdom. A person who notices small details and can put them together quickly & accurately, he is an excellent forensic investigator before such a thing was considered.

A joy to read this comfortable, entertaining series.

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review 2017-11-22 21:07
The Path of the Eclipse / Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Path of the Eclipse - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

The willow bends and does not break, but the wind that blows from the west has a name...and that name is Khan--Jenghiz Khan.  It is to the north of ancient China where lies the greatest danger and no one is safe, especially foreigners.The man known to the Chinese people as Shih Ghieh-Man faces the greatest danger.  He is an enigma--a man of strength with no perceivable vices.  To survive the coming storm, he allies himself with the beautiful T'en Chih-Yu, a woman warrior desperate to save her people from the Mongol horde.But the man who offers his help has another, older name-and a terrible secret.  For he is the Count St. Germain...and the greatest gift he can bestow can be bought with blood...or death.

 

This installment of the Saint-Germain chronicles didn’t quite hit the spot for me—it seemed to cover a lot of ground (literally), a lot of tragedy, and did it all without much point. It wouldn’t have taken much to push it into 4 star territory, just a bit more focus. As it stands, this book felt to me very much like two excuses to push Saint-Germain into a Chinese and an Indian woman’s beds, and little else.

I can certainly see why female readers find Saint-Germain a sympathetic character—age doesn’t mean much to him, considering how old he is, so even we older readers can envisage ourselves as possible love interests for this enigmatic vampire. Plus, as the Indian woman, Padmiri, discovers, he is all about female sexual satisfaction. She describes a subsequent lover as willing to get her aroused because he knows that it will benefit him, but her arousal & satisfaction are not truly that man’s focus.

Two enormous, diverse countries are explored in this novel and both got short shrift. When the story begins, Saint-Germain has already been in China for some time, long enough for a university to decide that they would like him to leave. At no point is the reader told why Saint-Germain chose China or what he was trying to accomplish there. India is just a way-station on his travels “home,” and the potential for interesting adventures is hemmed in by the rather histrionic plot in which a young priestess of Kali attempts to capture & use Saint-Germain as a sacrifice to her goddess.

For me, the most engaging and interesting part of the book took place as Saint-Germain and Roger over-winter in a Buddhist monastery and get to know the nine-year-old lama in charge of the lamasery. It is a small section, disappointingly quick to pass.

What should have been a more pressing problem—Saint-Germain is running out of his supply of his native earth—doesn’t get nearly the attention that it should. Especially since he and running water don’t get along and he will need to put to sea to get home. Another irritant (for me), was a series of letters from two Nestorian Christians travelling in China, but who remained completely unexplained. It is not until the very end of the book that the survivor of the pair crosses Saint-Germain’s path and I assume that it is a set-up for another volume.

Still, despite my criticisms, I enjoyed this fluffy little fantasy tale and I will definitely continue on with the series.

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review 2017-10-20 05:28
Heartless - Marissa Meyer

Wow. So this starts out adorable, and keeps it up for most of its runtime. It puts a more whimsical and romantic twist on the Wonderland canon than most current retellings, and then twists the heck out of it for the finale. Can't say a lot about that without spoilers, other than you're afraid it's coming, it's handled well, and I still wasn't happy about it. Also stands out for excellence in food writing. Seriously, I haven't drooled as much since the Redwall feasts. Excellent deep and consistent worldbuilding. 

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review 2017-10-02 16:27
And I Darken / Kierstan White
And I Darken - Kiersten White

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

 

Another “young adult” book which hooked me from its first pages and left me wanting more at the end. And, handily enough, there is another book! So I will get another hit of this historical fantasy set in the Ottoman Empire and Wallachia. It’s a time and place that I know little about, so its interesting just to absorb the historical details.

But, Lada! Oh Lada! A strong girl, a fighter, ruthless and tough. What a heroine! Determined to chart her own course and not to belong to any man. Her handsome brother Radu, who probably should have been a girl, but who eventually finds his own way to be a powerful man. And Mehmet, the sultan’s son, who befriends both Wallachian children and eventually assumes the throne, changing their lives forever.

Having read this novel in close proximity to The Darkest Part of the Forest, I was struck by the parallels in the brother/sister relationships in both books. The girl being the tough fighter and the boy being hesitant about grasping his talents. Both being in love with the same person. Is this a common trope in young adult literature?

In any case, I will look forward to reading Now I Rise. I am pleasantly surprised, as I read the author’s Paranormalcy back in April and did not find it anywhere near as compelling.

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