I haven’t finished quite as many books this week, only two, probably because they were longer and “meatier” than usual! Both have been very enjoyable, though.
The first was a different kind of book for me – Conclave by Robert Harris, which I awarded four stars. Here is the blurb:
The Pope is dead.
Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.
They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.
Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.
And this was my short review on Goodreads:
Oh, this is such a clever, fabulous book. I am a firm atheist, but the religious aspect of this was fine even for me, because it was about so much more. Political machinations were central, as well as questions of faith, belief, doubt, pride and strength of character. A great read.
I have mentioned before on this blog that I went on a study tour of Greece and Italy when I was at University in the 70s. On part of the trip, we stayed in Rome for a week and visited most of the usual tourist spots and museums. One of those involved a tour around the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s. It was so interesting to read about these same places which are the setting to the book. All those years ago, I stood in the Sistine Chapel and looked at Michaelangelo’s wonderful paintings with the same kind of awe as characters in Conclave, although in entirely different circumstances, of course! Highly recommended.
The second book of the week was Joe Abercrombie’s Half a War, the final part of the Shattered Sea trilogy. The blurb sets the scene for this excellent YA fantasy:
Words are weapons
Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.
Only half a war is fought with swords
The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.
Sometimes one must fight evil with evil
Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.
This is what I wrote about the book on Goodreads and I said rather more than usual for this five star read:
This is one of those books which I feel sad to have finished. The kind of book that makes you read it in great gulps to find out the next part of the story. The book that you also want to read slowly so that you don’t finish it too soon. A brilliant finale to a brilliant trilogy. I think I will have to set aside some time to read all three again in succession. So I will have to buy the books myself – there is no higher accolade than that for me 😄.
Although this is supposed to be YA, it veers very close to an adult book, if only because of the violence and gore. The trilogy is about more than these, though. There is a lot of cleverness, well thought out “deep cunning”, unexpected turns and characters who constantly surprise the reader with their development. Those characters surpass stereotyped sex roles and twist expectations. Abercrombie is one of those authors who leave you thinking, long after the last bloody sword has been wiped clean.
Phew! I can’t say any more than that!
I am now around half way through my penultimate Jack Reacher thriller – Lee Child’s Gone Tomorrow, #13 in the series. This is another quite long book, so I haven’t managed to finish it in time for this week’s Roundup. I will include it in next week’s.
Happy Reading to you all!