logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Manda-Scott
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-11 17:52
Author's Agendas Overwhelm an Interesting Tale (Review: Boudica #1- Dreaming the Eagle)

51kvbnxtidl-_sx302_bo1204203200_

 
(This review also contains an overview of the entire quadrilogy.)
 
As a fan of historical fiction I have no problems with creative license and exploring ideas, especially when there is a shortage of reference material on a topic- in this case regarding the woman known as Boudica, who led a rebel campaign against the Roman legions in Brittania in the 1st century AD. Though we know the eventual outcome, as the saying goes: it's the journey that matters, not the destination.
 
This journey feels like a family vacation you're forced to go on with your new step-parent/siblings, so you brought your stash...
 
There's not a lot of factual info on Boudica herself so author Manda Scott flexes her worldbuilding muscles admirably and fashions a layered Celtic society that starts out exploring themes but quickly turns into pure propaganda. Which is a shame, `cause it coulda been a contender.
 
It's easy to see why Manda Scott is considered one of the better crime drama authors in the UK: multiple story threads weave together creating at times a compelling drama but at others can be obtuse, but not overly so.
 
Real characters and events get submerged beneath the author's iron-willed agenda. There's a clear metaphor of Rome as the Great Western Male-Dominated Ordered Society trying to bring the Celts as the Groovy Bisexual Spiritually-Free Goddess-Loving Individuals to heel. Given that the author is openly lesbian and an advocate of Dream Interpretation, you understand why you're being hit over the head.
 
Instead of Druids and Bards we're treated to Dreamers and Singers- and Dreamers never seem to be wrong... about anything. Along with this comes page after page of spiritual mumbo jumbo centered on animal symbolism, mystic interpretations, moonlight reflections on water, hair in every imaginable hue of yellow- pass the bong, please.
 
The main problem I had with the Dreamers is the lack of explanation for their skills. Yeah- there's some divine power at work here, but for three plus books they're infallible, and only at the end when you know things go wrong do their interpretations suddenly become ambiguous- it's like being at the George Lucas School of Revisionism.
 
**SPOILER ALERTS**
 
There's also the subject of sexuality. Lots of evidence has surfaced regarding Celts and their casual attitudes towards homosexuality, and while I expected it as a sub-theme and incidental to the story it almost overshadows it. Boudica herself is bisexual: her first love is her best friend Airmid, whom she's already having sex with when they're both in their early teens. After endless passages about their longing gazes and vows of eternal devotion there's a teenage breakup spat after which she starts to notice boys, especially Caradoc, son of Cunobelin, the most powerful king. Skip to young adulthood and we suddenly meet Ardacos, who becomes a prominent supporting character and happens to be her first male lover, except that she's already kicked him to the curb... No need to bother with all that messy `coming of age character development' crap while your girlfriend is still hanging around!
 
Marriages are deliberately replaced with sexually open relationships regardless of how many children a couple has- it's entirely up to the woman as to what happens. If it weren't for the historical fact that Boudica did have children, I seriously doubt she would have been given any male lovers in this story. The fate of the children's father shows this- the aforementioned Caradoc- another historical figure whose true final fate is uncertain. His removal from the story, while factually based up to a point, honestly felt like the author didn't know what else to do with him, but needed him to leave. You can hardly run back to the arms of your one true gay love with the father of your children hanging around, now can you?
 
'Tagos, a member of the Eceni (read: Iceni) tribe who grows up with Boudica, turns coward in battle and eventually loses his sword arm and the respect of his peers. His emasculation is forgettable until you realize that he's actually Prasutagos, who is historically known to be the Roman client king of their tribe and whom Boudica is known to be married to (here they only shack up for political purposes) and whose death triggers events that lead to the final assaults against the legions. This ham-handed hack job and attempt to shade his identity from readers is a clear author manipulation to facilitate Boudica's rise to power later in the story: no more weak male rulers, here's a real woman to lead us! 
 
Then there's Cartimandua, a queen who likes to play both sides and another pivotal historical figure who's mentioned and never seen. Needing her support the rebels send emissaries, firstly Caradoc, whom she holds captive for the winter. Caradoc never elaborates about his captivity, though there's lots of innuendo. Venutios tries to use his influence to sway her and marries her to cement ties to the rebels, though she still does as she pleases. Given the significance of these events, it would've helped to see them unfold instead of being referred to in passing... but that would've been heterosexual.
 
I read through the entire series and can't recall one single healthy, nurturing straight relationship that survived the story- if someone doesn't die, it just plain ends badly. Whereas every gay/lesbian pairing is of soul-friends and soul-mates and... well, you get the idea. Case in point: Dubornos, an old friend and rival, likes Airmid, Boudica's lifelong lover. After that disaster there's Cygfa- Caradoc's daughter from another woman- who wants him, yet he doesn't reciprocate. When Dubornos finally develops deep, abiding, lifelong feelings for her, she's long over him and well into... wait for it... a lesbian relationship! You can't make this stuff up... but Manda Scott did!
 
The characterization of children of this story had them so far beyond precocious, I had to laugh. Repeatedly. As another reviewer pointed out- are these kids five or forty-five? A pre-teen boy defeats a grown man at a chess-like game like he's a master strategist instead of playing against one. Boudica herself displaces Venutios, a man over twice her age, as the pre-eminent warrior of the times... because she had a good day of hunting. Boudica's young daughter at the tender age of eight is so wise and prescient that the legendary warrior princess actually defers to her judgment on multiple occasions! Trees died for this shit!
 
The final battle was very poorly handled: in the book the Celts outnumber the Romans by about five to one, and have them hemmed in a valley... and they still lose?!? Even though the Romans had to win, this fight simply made no sense!
 
Lastly, there's the death scene that wasn't. Boudica's final fate is open to conjecture- Roman historians claim she poisoned herself to avoid capture (the author argues that this could be a conceit, as that's what a proper Roman woman would do). Here we get another all-too confusing battle scene to save her daughter's life resulting in a fatal, self-inflicted injury(!). After all, no true heroine could ever be beaten in honorable combat by the male enemy, oh no- far better that they die stupidly! We're not even given the payoff of a final scene: after a hell-ride to reach a final resting place for her all we get is another vision where Boudica bequeaths her legacy to her young daughter before crossing over. Pfft!
 
I know it doesn't seem like it, but there's a lot to recommend here. There's a wealth of detail, flavor and feeling to the story and I always enjoy a different take on a subject. And there's times when the imagery is amazing: in the final book there's a symbolic moment involving a hare that was simply a stroke of genius! I just wished there were more moments like that- less propaganda and proselytizing, and more prose.
 
2.5/5 Stars
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-04-20 13:19
Book Reviewer Interviews: John Green

So I got interviewed as a book reviewer as part of an ongoing feature over at BlondeWriteMore.  I think it went pretty well- I'm talking about me, after all- but I can't help but feel like I should've fleshed it out a bit more.  Ah, well. 

 

(reblogged from BlondeWriteMore)

 

Book Reviewer Interview

 

Welcome to my weekly series – Book Reviewer Interviews. 

 

I believe that book reviewers hold valuable insight for us writers and their answers to my interview questions make intetesting blog posts.

 

Please welcome my new book reviewer friend John Green and author of the blog Illuminite Caliginosus

 

John, thanks so much for sitting in my interview chair. Please tell us about yourself.

 

First one’s always the hardest. Lessee now- born, raised and still living in Brooklyn, NY. Wanted to be either a baseball player or paleontologist when I was little. Ended up joining the Marines instead, traveled the globe and can’t really say a bad word about my tour. To paraphrase Malcolm X: the plan was theirs, any mistakes were mine.

Worked for Virgin USA for over thirteen years; had a blast and met a lot of good people and had some great experiences. It was like getting paid for hanging out with your friends! If there ever was such a thing as a good retail job, that was it.

 

The last few years I’ve been in the Sports & Entertainment field; blogging and reviewing was something I kinda fell into, and I really enjoy doing it. I’ve met a lot of good and… interesting… people during my online career.

 

I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program and a former Top 1000 Reviewer on the site.

 

Been an avid & voracious reader all my life; I was that nerdy kid who’d always get “volunteered” to enter trivia contests, spelling bees, etc, and I always had to take something into the bathroom with me to read (once upon a time that wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Neither was being nerdy). One of these days I’ll finally finish my own novel and then get to see how the other half lives.

 

Anyone who wishes to contact me for any reason can do so via: Email / Booklikes /
WordPress / Twitter / Pinterest

 

What made you start reviewing books?

 

During my time at Virgin USA I was the Magazines Buyer for the NY stores, getting my hands on more books and reading material than I’d thought possible (rubs hands gleefully).

 

**The store was located in the same building where Random House had their offices, and I was on good terms with the building guys so they always let me know when RH would dump out books. Discovered a lot of new authors that way- good, bad and ugly. I’ll always be proud to call myself a Dumpster Diver.**

 

**Our UPS driver, Joe, offered to grab a few books for me while he was delivering up there, and part of the stack he brought back included the first three books of GRRM’s Song of Ice & Fire- all hardcovers with original artwork.**

 

After Virgin USA closed I spent a lot of time on Amazon buying even more books. I got in the habit of sifting through the reviews for recommendations, etc, and picked up on a few individuals I felt I could rely upon not to steer me wrong, like EA Solinas, Chibineko and others. I’d always been the one my friends and family would go to for a critique because they knew I was hard but fair, and it finally occurred to me that I should write a few reviews myself- sort of give back a little and have my say. Next thing I know I’m making steady progress through the ranks and I wondered what I could do with this.

 

How many books do you review a month?

 

It varies. I’ve slowed down over the past couple years; used to aim for maybe 5-10 a month, right now maybe half that. One of my goals is to clear out some of my TBR pile; I know- we ALL say that, but my work schedule affords me a lot of free time, so I have a good shot at it. I’ve still got stuff going back to the 2010 BEA I haven’t checked out yet.

What is your selection process for reviewing a book?

 

Nothing set in stone. The easy answer is “whatever catches my attention”, but defining that is the trick. I’m a very eclectic reader; I’ve always been chiefly into Fantasy/Sci-fi but right now I’m really into Steam/Diesel/Atompunk- though I haven’t seen much of the latter two so far. There’s also Lovecraftian Horror, which I think’s been under-appreciated but seems to be enjoying a renaissance now. Guess we can thank the oversaturated PNR/UF genres for that.

 

Both the blurb and the cover are key, of course- you never get a second chance at that first impression. There’s been quite a few eye candy covers that made me stop to check them out, only to get let down by the synopsis. So many books nowadays, especially in the YA genre, immediately drop the ball from sounding like carbon copies of each other that it’s hard to find anything worth investing time in. I swear you can choose ten, TEN, YA novels at random and the blurbs will all sound the same! How many Chosen Ones with Destined/Fated/Soulmates stories does the human race need? When’s the next Alice in Wonderland/Brothers Grimm ripoff due out? Will this end up being Gregory Maguire’s enduring legacy?

 

For me, it’s gotta be something at least a little different; whatever the genre it has to be something that makes it appear like the author actually had something to say- a story they wanted to tell and not just aping the latest trend to try and make a quick buck. And that gets harder to find every day.

 

A good one was Pagan by Andrew Chapman. It’s a PNR/UF/Horror series about vampires having existed for centuries but only certain agencies like the Catholic Church knew of them. All the books, movies, etc, served as misdirection and softening up for when they finally emerged and basically sucker-punched the entire human race. Some countries tried to make nice and assimilate them True Blood-style while others said F-that! Even the werewolves sided with humanity against the vamps. Made for a refreshing change of pace from sparkle-pires and woobie-wolves.

 

Read the rest of the interview here.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-02-27 13:02
Into the Fire by Manda Scott
Into the Fire - Manda Scott

Really enjoyed this one. No skimming at any point. Here's the book blurb. book blurb

 

Suspense on every page

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2015-08-05 18:26
Library Book Sale Haul
Dreaming the Hound - Manda Scott
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
The Disorderly Knights - Dorothy Dunnett
Pawn in Frankincense - Dorothy Dunnett
The Ringed Castle - Dorothy Dunnett
Checkmate - Dorothy Dunnett,Vintage Books
Push Not the River - James Conroyd Martin
The Greatest Generation - Tom Brokaw
King Hereafter - Dorothy Dunnett

$2.25

 

Nope. Not even $2.25 for this great haul of paperbacks because I had a $3 coupon for completing my library's summer reading program.

 

FREE!

 

Most of Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles and some other great historical fiction. So what if I realized that I already own a copy of The Greatest Generation once I got home. To the swap shelf it goes.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2014-12-27 21:58
Hen's Teeth by Manda Scott
Hen's Teeth (A Kellen Stewart crime thriller) - Manda Scott

I quite enjoyed this book - good read, loved the writing and with no loose strings at the end.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?