Wow! We are already at May 1st – time really does fly when you are enjoying your reading! And I have really enjoyed my books this week – all three.
My first book of the week was Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy, #01 in his Vindolanda series. I had already read the second book in the series, The Encircling Sea, a few weeks ago and had a very similar verdict. First of all, the blurb:
AD 98: The bustling army base at Vindolanda lies on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world. In twenty years’ time, the Emperor Hadrian will build his famous wall, but for now defences are weak, as tribes rebel against Roman rule, and local druids preach the fiery destruction of the invaders.
Flavius Ferox is a Briton and a Roman centurion, given the task of keeping the peace on this wild frontier. But it will take more than just courage to survive life in Roman Britain…
I do love a historical novel with a fair bit of adventure! Here is my three star review:
I read this series in the wrong order, but that’s OK. This was a good attempt at a historical novel. I liked the setting, as I have holidayed in the area and have visited Vindolanda. The plot was exciting enough and I mainly liked the principal character. As the book was set in Roman Britain and was about soldiers, I didn’t expect many female characters. What I did find irritating was the fact that three main characters had such similar names (beginning with C) and that caused me some confusion at various points in the tale. Another issue was that the author squeezed in as much detail about the army as possible (i.e. uniforms, weapons), and this did detract from the plot at times. Some of this detail was interesting, but it was often over the top! I will read the third book, though.
I hate to say it as it goes against all of my feminist feelings, but these are very “male” books. There are very few female characters (there to be attractive to men, or crones, or slaves) and most of the action is by the large numbers of males. I can sort of ignore that in the context of Roman Britain, unless the book is about Boudicca!
Back to fantasy again for my next two books. One of the great things about using Goodreads is that I can record my reading and see where I have missed books by favourite authors or where I need to track down new series. This time it was the turn of Mark Lawrence. I have read his first series – The Broken Empire – and the first book from his second – Prince of Fools (#01 The Red Queen’s War). Then I saw that he had also published a third series – Book of the Ancestor. I immediately went to our Library Service’s website and put in requests for all of the available titles. And collected most of them last week.
I started with the first book in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy: Red Sister. Here is the blurb!
I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.
Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…
Oh, I did enjoy this book! It really helped me during a week where I was mainly stuck in bed. Four star review:
Wow! Plus any other suitable superlatives. This is very close to five stars but not quite and that is only because the school stuff went on a tiny bit too long. One other small gripe: I don’t really believe that small children can really think in this way. Even amazing small children. All a bit Ender’s game.
Now to put those minuscule issues aside. This was an amazing book to read. So very dark and grim in places, but gripping and exciting. I am so glad that it was only part one and there are two more books in the series. The main characters are very well drawn and I am quite surprised at how well a man can write about females. In my experience it is very rare indeed for a male author to have so very few male characters in a book.
So, a great plot with plenty of surprises, good characters who develop well, fantastic writing, excellent world building and…
Just read this!
My last book of the week, which I only finished yesterday, was the second book in the series: Grey Sister. This is the blurb:
In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.
All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.
As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.
And in all this only one thing is certain.
There will be blood.
This review was hard to write as my feelings were pretty similar to those generated by the first book in the series – Wow! Anyway, here is my full five star attempt:
I simply had to add this book to my “favourites” category. It was so engrossing that I almost made a new category of “fabulous”! Red Sister was really good, Grey Sister is even better and if the final book is better still, well….
…will my poor brain be able to cope?
I don’t know how Mark Lawrence gets under the skin of this host of female characters and makes them each so unique and interesting. Perhaps I should have been better prepared from reading his earlier books. The plot is also excellent and I love how everyone seems to be playing one another, as if on a chess board. But with ultra-violence!
Nona is such a great character, but I also enjoy the sections from Abbess Glass’ point of view. She is so Machiavellian, preparing her moves years in advance.
Lawrence continues to write so lyrically, whilst also creating such violent scenes. I cannot wait to read the third book in the trilogy. And now I will turn to his second series – The Red Queen’s War – as that is waiting in a pile next to my bed.
Phew! Yes I do have more books by Mark Lawrence ready to read, but I thought that I would have a quick break before immersing myself, so I am reading Providence by Caroline Kepnes. I will give you my views on this next week.
Happy Reading to you all!