I am such a fan of the books of Kate Morton, but I despaired of ever finding a book that would enthrall me as hers do. How lucky I feel to have found this one !! The main character's story is so absorbing, leading the reader into the maze with an inevitability that is magical... And the narrator is absolutely wonderful. Highly recommended, and now I want MORE books by this author.
I have long been fascinated by the Cathars, the sect which the Roman Catholic Church not only proclaimed heretical but eventually snuffed out completely with the simple expedient of burning its adherents at the stake. I have read several books about the so-called Crusade ordered by the Pope against these peaceful people who considered themselves Christians, but this is the first which actually clarified for me some of the Cathar beliefs. When I began to listen, I thought the narrator's voice and even his prose were a bit slow and old fashioned to hold my interest, but soon it became apparent that both were perfect for this story. Both author and narrator (one and the same) clearly made a great effort not to taint the narrative with condemnation of the persecutors of the Cathars.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in wars of religion (of which we seem to have plenty even today), medieval history, religious thought, freedom of speech and religion, and the awful deeds done in the name of the Roman Catholic Church during the days of the Inquisition. Until I read this book, I was not even aware that the Inquisition extended beyond Spain, but here we are in Languedoc, a region now considered part of France. I also was not previously aware of the complicated politics which underlay this appalling (and successful) attempt to completely extirpate all faithful believers who called themselves Cathars, a rather quiet and humble sect which the Pope was worried might undermine the supremacy and authority of the Catholic Church. This is an eye opening and at times terrifying story, told with grace and simplicity.
I simply loved all three volumes of Sandra Worth's trilogy, of which this is the second. Being a great reader of historical fiction, I am not easy to please at this point. However I found Sandra Worth's account of Richard III, the workings of his heart and mind, all the terrible pressures to which he was subjected by a political climate of constant intrigue and betrayal, and the decisions he made in the face of those pressures, to make a riveting listen, particularly as narrated by Robin Sachs. I will certainly never look at Richard III the same way again-- and having finished the trilogy I am somewhat stunned to find that in fact I feel as if during all the hours of listening to these three books, I actually lived through the 1470's and 1480's with Richard and Anne. Bottom line: Sandra Worth is a marvelous writer, Robin Sachs is a terrific narrator, and the entire trilogy is a wonderful listen !
Sandra Worth takes us into the mind and heart of Richard III, that much maligned king of Shakespearean fame, and gives us an entirely different interpretation of his character than has been traditional for hundreds of years. Beyond that, she writes a great story. I was pulled along by her beautiful prose every step of the way, and by the last part of the book, which depicts the rather sad end to which Richard comes, I felt as if I had truly lived through those terrible times with him. This is an engrossing listen, particularly after hearing or reading the first two books of this trilogy-- in fact, as proof of their addictive power, I admit that I listened to all three volumes in three days. Don't miss a single one !! Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys truly great historical fiction.
I read the three volumes in this trilogy (or rather, listened to them) back to back and I am writing this little review after finishing all three-- and that's because this trilogy is a "could not put down" listen. I have read many historical novels set in the period of the so-called "Cousins' Wars" (AKA the Wars of the Roses) and before I began this trilogy I really doubted that anyone, and perhaps particularly a writer of historical fiction, could shed any new light on the events of this time. But Sandra Worth succeeds there, and also weaves a spell around these historical characters which makes all seem new again. As a passionate lover of historical fiction, I can recommend this entire trilogy as a great read !
I love historical novels, and have read many of them, including many in audiobook format. I don't often go to the trouble of writing a review, but this book is a gem. Joanna Hickson swept me along with wonderful insight into her characters, and really made me care about their fates. Her writing is delightful and engrossing. Highly recommended. I am also happy to note that apparently Ms. Hickson has written a sequel to this book ("The Tudor Bride")-- which is due to be released in January of 2014 and which I hope will be listed on Audible for all of us who, like me, can't wait to find out what happens next to Catherine of Valois, the heroine of this book, after her wedding to Henry V of England--which is where this book ends. Onward to Henry's death (not that I don't regret his untimely, early demise) and Catherine's love affair with a Tudor !!
I don't think I ever expect to explore a serious historical topic like this one and come away totally passionate about both the author and the narrator (which in this case are one and the same), but this book is the exception to almost every rule ! Ever since 9/11 (and I was in lower Manhattan on that day) I have been struggling to understand why the West and the Middle East are at such a terrible pass, why they seem so angry at us, and why the enmity seems to be so "stuck." I came to this book hoping it might shed some light on this complicated topic, but I admit rather shamefacedly that i was somewhat skeptical because the author's name looks Arab-- well of course he is an Arab, but to see the history of the world through his eyes is an extraordinary experience. I was born and will always be an Anglo Saxon Protestant, descended from a long line of Brits and Danes, and I will always be true to the faith of my fathers. But I am also a well educated person with an inquiring mind, and I found this book immensely satisfying. The author as narrator adds a special dimension to the experience of reading his book because his tone is so reasonable, just as reasonable as his prose is well reasoned, and the combination of the two is powerful in a gentle way that will not alienate even those of us who think that the whole concept of jihad is revolting, heartless and inhumane. This gentlemanly scholar seems relatively unbiased, as his story sets forth many aspects of Islamic history that are no less pretty than some of the excesses of the "Christian" Crusaders. His book will inspire me to read more about the history of Islam and the Arabs; in fact on my nightstand I now have a paperback called "The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization"-- I think the ultimate measure of this book is that the author has intrigued me enough that now I want to learn more. His book is a great starting point on the road to understanding the entire mess in the Middle East, and also to the realization that the jihadists do not represent all Muslims, much less all Arabs. Cannot recommend this too highly !
This audiobook was a huge disappointment. I found the narrator so affected and cloying that in truth my revulsion to her reading colored my view of the entire narrative. I kept plugging on hoping that there would be some redeeming moment of truth or some flash of interest, but it was like trying to swim in a pool full of mud. As best as I could make out, the book was every bit as bad as the narrator, full of hackneyed cliches and over-sentimental slop, with no imagination on the part of the author to enliven the slog.
I am a big fan of historical fiction, and my appetite for it is ravenous, so for me to be unable to finish this book says a lot about its quality. Don't waste your money.
I have read a lot of books about the Borgias, and of all those on my bookshelf (actual volumes on the shelf, as well as audiobooks) this is far and away my favorite. I loved the author's approach, which for one thing takes the reader back to the very FIRST Borgia Pope (and here I didn't even realize that there WAS any other Borgia Pope than Rodrigo), and fills in all the lacunae which other authors have ignored. I found every detail fascinating because I really want to understand the events in Italy of this time period, and the details are what create a rich picture of the times for those of us who are looking back 1500 years. I also cannot imagine a more wonderful narrator for this book. He carried me along with him on this fascinating journey with his rich, mellifluous tones, and that was truly the icing on the cake, great marriage of narrator with material. If you are interested in the history of early Renaissance Italy, you should love this book !
I am a very bright, over educated person who has nonetheless never understood the relationship between the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Recently I went to Italy and saw the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna. That did it -- I HAD to understand how the Christian world (which was dazzlingly on display in those mosaics) had extended to Constantinople, and how on earth the so-called Byzantine style in art had arrived in Italy. This book has all the answers, and best of all is narrated with terrific panache by the author. He is a great storyteller as well as an excellent narrator, and I found the entire book mesmerizing, which is a feat given that it is also so informative. In fact, this book was so wonderful that now I have begun listening to a book about what was happening in the same thousand year period in the lands to the south and east of the Roman/Byzantine Empires, and next on my wish list would be a book focusing on the same period in Western Europe (for example Charlemagne). This book and this author have really whetted my appetite for history and even geography. I can't recommend it too highly !! Ten out of ten !!
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