In 1967, while doing some shoring up of the outer walls surrounding the Pallazo Vaj, gorgeous frescoes from the 1400's were found hidden inside the wall (one assumes it was a double wall sort of thing). This became the later inspiration for Monash University's restoration of the Pallazo's car park, back to the Renaissance garden it originally was. This book is a chronicle, of sorts, of that "restoration". Explanation of the quotes later.
First, let me say this book is gorgeous. Beautiful in its construction, photography - all of it. The writing was ... adequate. Mostly written like University professors submitting committee reports, but on a subject so rich and interesting that, with the exception of one section, it's still easy reading. (Not sure who Luke Morgan is, and I'm willing to bet he's a delightful, engaging person when he's at home, but his writing is nothing but pretentious gibberish. I've read articles about quantum physicals that were less opaque and obscure.)
So, this book would make a lovely gift - but maybe not for a gardener. The thing is, and this is my biggest disappointment, that while the book is beautiful, the garden is most decidedly not. I realise beauty is entirely subjective, and I realise too that this garden needed to serve as a public space.
But 80% of it is GRAVEL. Hand to god, 80%. According to the book, there were only 4 types of plants used in the entire space: box (so. much. box), jasmine, magnolia and lemon. Lovely plants, beautifully scented, but nothing else and EVERYTHING clipped to within an inch of its life. Even the magnolias are forced into a Christmas tree shape.
This is the "restored" garden:
I'm pretty sure you could still use that as a car park, just sayin'.
So, thus my rating. Great book, decent writing, horrific garden. Sorry Monash Uni, that's not a garden.
As war between Alden and Oridia intensifies, King Erik must defend his kingdom from treachery and enemies on all sides—but the greatest danger lurks closer to home…
When the war began, Lady Alix Black played a minor role, scouting at the edge of the king’s retinue in relative anonymity. Though she’s once again facing an attacking Oridian force determined to destroy all she holds dear, she is now bodyguard to the king and wife to the prince.
Still, she is unprepared for what the revival of the war will mean. Erik is willing to take drastic measures to defend his domain, even if it means sending Prince Liam into a deadly web of intrigue and traveling into the perilous wild lands of Harram himself.
Only the biggest threat to the kingdom might be one that neither Alix nor Erik could have imagined, or prepared for…
I know for a fact that I would have enjoyed this book much more if I had read the books in order. Unfortunately, I goofed—I read book 3 before this one and so I already had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. I’m usually a stickler for reading series in order and this experience just reinforces that habit!
I enjoyed this series and I liked the fantasy world that Ms. Lindsey created. Her system of blood magic, in particular, was novel (at least to me) and I thought it was effectively used. I enjoyed having a strong female lead character too. I just wish there had been a little less agonizing over decisions. Lady Alix, her husband Liam, and King Erik all seem to overthink and overanalyze everything and it get tedious after a while. Especially when they are leaders in all other ways.
I suspect that this is Lindsey’s way of letting you know that these characters are “good people.” It seems that good people are unsure and question themselves continuously, while the villains never question their actions or motivations.
I’m glad that I circled back and read book 2 despite that. Now I know the rest of the story, only alluded to in Book 3.
Consider my enthusiasm for this series dampened. This was a very average effort, with a number of problems I couldn't overlook.
The biggest is the MC, Rosie. I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and say she probably has a long-range plan for Rosie's personal growth, but if so, she's not executing it well. The MC has a chip on her shoulder about being from Essex and the stereotypes involved in being an "Essex Girl"; the chip is big enough to sit firmly in soapbox/crusader territory, as she frequently fights the good fight against the idea that an "Essex Girl" is cheap, trashy, and dumb. And then proceeds to refer to vegetarians as "nut-nuts". And utterly dismiss someone's conversation about ecology, because ... who cares? And when people fail to fawn over her best friend for being the "black urban goddess" she is, her knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss them as backward conservatives. (They were polite, mind you, they just didn't fall to their knees in awe.) Not sure how she can find the time to fight the Essex Girl stereotype when she spends so much time stereotyping everyone else.
The author also seems intent on making Rosie a bit of a dim bulb through the use of scenes and dialog that are obvious choices to highlight her ignorance without showing any desire to correct it. Again, it's hard to square this with Rosie's righteous mandate to stamp out the cliches.
She also spends a lot of time drunk. Absolutely pissed. Bottles of Prosecco at a time pissed. Now, I don't care what socio-economic class you are in or are perceived to be in by others - being a drunk is not classy. I understand some cultures enjoy the plonk more than others, but sorry, drunk is tawdry in any culture and economic class.
So. MC with contradictions. It happens, and as I say, the author might have a master plan I'm just not seeing.
Unfortunately there were some egregious editing issues too. Poor and odd word choices (she kept referring to the ground as the floor - is this a common interchange in UK English?), and poorly copyedited, this 3rd instalment felt rushed to press. The pace dragged too, and the plot was all loosey-goosey. A more severe editor would have done this book more justice.
I liked the story though, once I was able to dig through all the extraneous dead-ends. I enjoy the factual elements of historical record the author uses, tying them and local legends into her modern day murder plots. If the author dropped the hypocritical chip on the MCs shoulder, matured her up, dried her out, and tightened up her plotting, she'd have a hit series on her hands. She might yet, but this book won't be a contributing factor. I'll be taking a close look at the fourth one (if/when it comes out) before I commit to reading further in this series.
THE SLAVE PLAYERS
What would happen if roles were reversed for white Americans and black Americans in history? Megan Allen takes on this thought and places it in modern day Alabama. While the town's sheriff tries to cover up what really happens to 12 black girls on a bus trip to a camp, the medical examiner sees something different. He and his daughter take it all the way up to the governor, then the President. And chaos starts when the truth comes out in the press. The daughter of the medical examiner I didn't like. She was well written, like all the main characters. I felt she came off as a little bratty. Allen's writing moved along quickly, holding my attention, and making me think. This may be a book that some will either like it or hate it. Will what happened in the book become a reality at some point? I don't know. But the writing does bring out questions, some reality in how the different cultures think (both good and bad), and is very thought provoking.
***I won this paperback copy through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for a fair review.***