Book Review: Lord of Emperors by Kay (4 Stars)

Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay

4 out of 5 stars

Read in June 2010

The characters I related to best surprised me in this second half of the Sarantine Mosaic duology. I wept more than once for a chariot racer and for an obsessed, vengeful woman. Crispan, through whose eyes most of this tale was viewed, did not touch any of my heart-strings.

Both this novel, and its predecessor, Sailing to Sarantium, included phenomenal chapters filled with thundering horses hooves, dust and crashing chariots … just a pleasant day at the Hippodrome races. Continue reading “Book Review: Lord of Emperors by Kay (4 Stars)”

Book Review: Ysabel by Kay (3.5 Stars)

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in Nov/Dec 2013

Synopsis (excerpts from author’s website Bright Weavings):

Provence, in the south of France, is a part of the world that has been—and continues to be—called a paradise. But one of the lessons that history teaches is that paradise is coveted and fought over. Successive waves of invaders have claimed—or tried to claim—those vineyards, rivers, olive groves, and hills.

In Guy Gavriel Kay’s novel, Ysabel, this duality—of exquisite beauty and violent history—is explored in a work that marks a departure from Kay’s historical fantasies set in various analogues of the past.

Continue reading “Book Review: Ysabel by Kay (3.5 Stars)”

10 Key Terms That Will Help You Appreciate Fantasy Literature

http://io9.com/10-key-terms-that-will-help-you-appreciate-fantasy-lite-1463800561

Brush up on your fantasy sub genres with this article from io9. Which one is your favorite? Which one will you try next?

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

eBook Review: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Irving (3 Stars)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

3 out of 5 stars

Read in December 2008

Washington Irving painted beautifully detailed scenes of rural New England. He also had a healthy sense of humor and wit. This story read like it was being narrated by the fireside in a tavern or pub on a blustery autumn evening.

I read the edition available from Project Gutenberg (click on the book cover at left for more information).

Reflections in light of the new Fox series “Sleepy Hollow” …

Continue reading “eBook Review: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Irving (3 Stars)”

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Novik (4 Stars)

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November 2008

Why do I love tales of adventure on the high seas? Is it because I’ve always lived in Kansas, thousands of miles away from the ocean? And the icing on the cake? Dragons!

We meet Captain Laurence as he’s defeated and captured the French ship Amerité. Within its hold is a peculiar and very precious cargo, which Captain Laurence transfers immediately to his ship, the HMS Reliant. The Reliant‘s surgeon confirms the cargo is a dragon egg. Due to the recent stormy weather, which blew the French ship off course, the egg is hardened to the point of imminent hatching. Captain Laurence gathers his officers to discuss their options. The dragon egg is too great a prize for England to let the hatchling turn feral, so Laurence has his officers draw straws to present one of them as a handler for the dragon. However, the dragon, once hatched, has other ideas and refuses everyone … except Laurence. Laurence names the dragon Temeraire and their adventure begins.

Laurence immediately resigns or transfers his commission as Captain to his second lieutenant and spends the time on the return voyage to England in caring for Temeraire. Once they arrive in England, Laurence and Temeraire are transferred from the Royal Navy to the Royal Air Corps to being their training immediately. England may dominate the oceans with her Navy, the Napoleon waits across the channel with 100,000 men and his own dragons, waiting for the perfect opportunity to invade.

Naomi Novik does a fantastic job of drawing me into the early 19th century. She weaves the existence of dragons and their military applications into our history flawlessly and believably. I am looking forward to reading more of this series.

Friday (May 3, 2013) StealEbook edition on sale for 99 cents!

Book Review: Ben-Hur by Wallace (5 Stars)

Ben-Hur: a tale of Christ by Lew Wallace

5 out of 5 stars

Read in May 2009

Warning: Spoilers

This was the first book of historical fiction I ever read. It was also the first Christian fiction I read. I can attribute my fascination to ancient history, particularly Roman, to this great story. I also can’t remember if I read the book or saw the movie first – although I’ve read and watched both multiple times over the years.

Judah Ben-Hur is the son of a wealthy merchant who is also friends with Messala, a Roman soldier/politician in occupied Jerusalem. Messala returns to Jerusalem as it’s new tribune and there is a bittersweet reunion between the two. During the parade, a loose roof tile falls from the Hur household, striking the tribune and injuring him. The house of Hur is arrested, the women thrust into a dungeon cell and forgotten, and Judah sold into slavery, chained to an oar on a Roman Naval galley.

Dark dreams of revenge keep Judah alive in what most often is a short brutal existence on a Roman galley. During a naval battle, which the Romans lose, Judah saves the galley’s Roman commanding officer, prevents the Roman from committing suicide, and eventually returns him safely to the Roman Navy. In return, this Roman officer frees Judah and adopts him as his son.

Now that Judah has the means to pursue his vengeance, he finds Messala and decides to compete against him in the great chariot race. Judah befriends a sheik, the loving owner of four swift and beautiful Arabian horses. Judah trains them for the race. The chariot race culminates in Judah surviving Messala’s deadly tricks and eventually running over Messala with his chariot. But his revenge turns frigid as Messala’s dying words tell Judah that his mother and sister are still alive but lepers from their long confinement in the dungeons.

Judah finds his mother and sister, who lead him to a great teacher. Jesus was in the background of this story throughout Judah’s travails. Jesus even slaked Judah’s thirst during his trek across the desert with the rest of the galley slaves. Where Judah searched with revenge in his heart, others would speak of the Rabbi who taught of love, forgiveness and peace.

As Judah moved his family away from the leper colony, they were caught in the storms and earthquakes which occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus. His mother and sister were miraculously healed of their leprosy by the blood of Jesus washed from Golgotha by the rain. Finally, Judah comes to terms with the hollowness and futility of his vengeful hate. He forgives his enemies and receives forgiveness and peace himself.

It’s no wonder, to me at least, that this story inspired many attempts to theatrically recreate it on stage, as a silent film and finally as one of the greatest motion pictures ever filmed.

I highly recommend this novel and suggest you follow this link right now to start reading the ebook edition of Ben-Hur courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

Book Review: Sailing to Sarantium by Kay (4 Stars)

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

4 out of 5 stars

Read in June 2010

A strangely compelling story even though none of the characters evoked compassion, laughter, anger or any other strong emotion from me. Normally, without an emotional connection, I become bored and sputter to a stop. Kay crafted an exquisite tale, a risky reckless journey into intoxicating intrigue fueled by ambitious visions and ruthless machinations.

Fantasy elements are kept to a minimum, the purview of alchemists and the occasional supernatural intervention. I read this novel with the understanding that Kay ‘re-imagined’ the Byzantine Empire of Justinian II. Sort of an alternate history where the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Book Review: A Song for Arbonne by Kay (4.5 Stars)

A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

4.5 out of 5 stars

Read in April 2009

Halfway through this book I had an epiphany. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night with a realization – Kay’s A Song for Arbonne has few if any traditional fantasy elements woven in it’s rich tapestry of love, music, honor, courage, tragedy and hope. Yet I was so enthralled with the lives of his characters that I could not bear to be parted from them. The greatest tragedy of the entire tale was that it ended. I yearn for more, as I strain to hear the plaintive echo of the final fading note.

This was the February 2010 book of the month at the Fantasy Book Club group at GoodReads.  To view the discussions, follow this link:  02-3/10 – A Song for Arbonne