Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Miscellany of book reviews

Title: Hawk of May
Author: Gillian Bradshaw
Length: 279 pages

This story traces Sir Gawain – here, under the name Gwalchmai, from where the title 'hawk of May' comes – from his younger years to his acceptance in Arthur's warband. He falls under his mother Morgan's influence when quite young and begins to study sorcery, but on one evening when she decides to kill one of Lot's soldiers, and entangles Gwalchmai's younger brother Medraut (Mordred) in the sorcery, he runs away and is transported to someplace out of the world. There, he meets Lugh and takes an oath to serve the Light – a contrast to Morgan, who is said to serve the Dark. Lugh gives him his sword and a blessing of his own, and is then dumped back into Saxon-held Britain to find Arthur.

That's a heavy paraphrase of the first part of the book. It's really fantastically written; despite the rather well-used designations of 'Light' 'and 'Dark' – or rather, The Light and The Dark – Bradshaw pulls it off. Parts I usually cringe at, like prayers and incantations, are done remarkably well. Side characters like Agravain, Gwalchmai's older brother, have their own character development; Taliesin shows up midway through and adds some levity. I don't know the details of Arthurian mythology very well, so the reveal about Medraut's parentage (and the implication of incest) took me completely by surprise and made me yell out loud when I realized. Merlin doesn't appear to be in this interpretation, but I enjoyed the book immensely.

The cover here is from a new printing run; this book series was originally published in the 1980s. The next book is The Kingdom of Summer, and although I’m disappointed, it’s from the perspective of one of Gwalchmai’s servants, I think I’m still picking it up. 10/10

Title: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Length: 782 words

Set in pre-Napoleonic Wars England, this novel traces the lives of two magicians, Mr Strange and Mr Norrell, as they interact with the fairies of England. In this narrative is also Stephen Black, a servant of Sir Walter Pole, who becomes entangled with the ‘thistle-haired gentleman’, the fairy. An enormous cast of characters, including the theoretical magicians of England (who believe magic has died out), the families of Strange and Sir Walter Pole, and many others make this a sprawling, enormous story.

I enjoyed this novel enormously. I read this with the [Bad username: ”bookclubfiction”] community and noticed that some people couldn’t get past the first section, which does move quite slowly. (The book begins with the rather minor character of Mr Segundus, who tries to join the Yorkshire magicians’ society, and not with any of the major characters like Norrell or Strange; and indeed, Strange doesn’t show up until you’re quite a ways in). Moreover, the book is written in a vaguely academic style, with occasional references to other books written centuries before, and sometimes the footnotes contain their own stories, often folktales that are mentioned in passing in the main text. On the whole, however, I enjoyed these digressions a great deal, but the footnotes are undoubtedly distracting and break the flow of the story. Clarke’s writing mimicked the floweriness of older styles without the more elaborate Victorian-style writing, which I found refreshing; for such a large book, it was a swift read, especially when things picked up in the later sections.

This is the sort of book I was looking for when I picked up Soulless, by Gail Carriger, but unlike Carriger’s overly clever prose, this book’s writing mostly didn’t draw attention to itself. An exceptional book. 10/10

Title: Moscow Rules
Author: Daniel Silva
Length: 443 pages

Gabriel Allon, an Israeli agent, is recalled from his honeymoon in Italy to meet a Russian journalist, who says he has information but refuses to disclose it to anyone by Allon. He, alongside his colleague who journeys to France, are both murdered, and Allon travels to Russia to talk to Olga, the editor of the paper. Various other shenanigans ensue, but the gist is that Ivan Kharkov, a wealthy businessman (and apparent former KGB agent) is selling arms to the Middle East.

I believe that this is a book in series, with Allon being the protagonist of all of them – perhaps I missed context. While the book was well-constructed and written, I didn’t feel very compelled, and put down the book midway through and didn’t go back to reading for weeks. Side characters like Allon’s supposedly-retired commanding officer (who keeps coming back) are interesting but really play only a very peripheral part; Allon just felt dull. 8/10

Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/96089.html.



Latest Month

May 2018


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by chasethestars