The premise seemed promising, a classic "fiesty plain looking girl with a secret" meets "rake ready to reform" sort of tale. Sadly for a romance, this couple were remarkably unsexy, and their few moments of passion tepid. The rake wasn't very rakish, and the central female not much of a bluestocking. Her fiestiness tricked away after the first chapter, the one word description for her would have to be "drippy".
Solutions to the her situation were repeatedly offered but she kept refusing them, willing to see the family (who we are told she would sacrifice everything for) thrown out of their home. The plot twists and new elements that kept being introduced sometimes felt like they were ideas for whole other novels, and just didn't fit this one. Also the unlikely (especially for the time) behavior and attitudes of the secondary characters constantly jarred me out of the story.
Finally, the idea that putting on glasses and a hat makes one unrecognizable even to former lovers and friends who've known you since childhood is just silly.
I finished this book and immediately bought the sequel, I really didn't want to leave the world that the author has (re)created. Set when Rodrigo Borgia become Pope, The Serpent and the Pearl was *very* enjoyable. It's just the sort of historical novel I like, with plenty of actual history wrapped around the tale, but not getting in the way of it. It's written from three alternating first-person points of view. There's the Pope's naive mistress (who shares a household with her mother-in-law and various Borgia bastards), a runaway-nun Venetian cook, and a very short but deadly bodyguard. The voices of each character are quite distinct, both in a story sense, and in the performers reading the story sense. I especially enjoyed the acerbic food-obsessed cook.
It ends on a slightly too abrupt cliff-hanger, though as I now have the next book, I'm not too worried (that was a very effective tactic there Ms Quinn).
All in all fine summertime escapism, also making me want to go back to Rome.
This story is told from the perspective of a young woman whose greatest wish is to be a proper apprentice to her metalsmith-magician father. Instead, the assassination of the local Duke by a very bad man leads to her father's death. Fiametta has to find her own way, with the help of friends, to defeat her town's enemies. I enjoyed immersing myself in this world - the heroine is bright and appealing, and the secondary characters are rich and interesting, with plausible motivations and reactions. I love Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan sagas, but I would happily visit her version of sixteenth century Italy again.
Mr Abercrombie makes his unlikely heroes human and sympathetic, even when they are variously cruel, cowardly, venal, relentless, self-serving and vain. Beautifully read by Steven Pacey, who gives each character a distinct voice with a distinct attitude. Recommended for fans of fantasy set in brutal times - no sparkly vampires here.
I first read Cyteen 25 years ago; nothing dates faster than imaginings of future technology (talk of fiche and faxes for example), but the core ideas behind Cyteen remain intriguing. The slower first part begins with an ageing Ariane Emory in charge of a sprawling business and scientific empire, the main product of which is gene-manipulated humans, the azi. From the moment azi are born from artificial wombs, they are trained and conditioned by carefully designed drug assisted ''tape' learning to be perfect workers, soldiers, or whatever. There's probably a bit much overview info on the political and scientific history and situation (the sort of stuff easily skim-read in a written novel), but there's also a murder mystery, a sinister security system, political terrorists and plenty of intrigue - all picking up pace as the story goes along.
The reading is excellent.
I love this series - this is the third of four, and I almost don't want to listen to the next, knowing that it's the last. The characters are strong and intriguing, the historical setting and context well explained without being over explained. Henry II is the Plantagenet King of England, and Adelia, a female doctor from Salerno reluctantly agrees to conduct one more investigation into some mysterious deaths for him. Evil outlaws and evil mother-in-laws, mad monks and lepers all play a part in this fine fine mystery. It's also beautifully read, with even the minor characters, men and women from different regions and levels of society, given voices that are distinctive and convincing without falling into irritating stereotype.
I struggled to pay attention during the extended sports anecdotes in the early part of this (not being American, I have no knowledge of or interest in football strategies for example). Nothing particularly wrong with the book, but I have read/heard the same basic ideas expressed more engagingly before.
This continues in the same world as the author's "Live Ships" trilogy, and includes some of the same characters, a few years on. The narrator voices the fine mix of interesting characters, human and inhuman, with convincing skill. The only minor annoyance is that it ends somewhat abruptly, albeit after 17 very enjoyable hours - a story that is very clearly "to be continued". Soon I hope!
Once, ancient history was torrid current events. This tale tells of Caesar's early career including his role in the Spartacus slave rebellion, and is packed with great characters. Voicing the flawed heroes, depraved villians and the odd innocent bystander the narrator gets it just right too. The others in this series are definitely on my listening wish list.
From the synopsis I expected "The Iron Tongue" to be exactly the kind of historical mystery tale that I most enjoy. Sadly however, the narrator's voice and the author's prose combined in a way that just couldn't hold my attention. I kept losing track of the characters and the plot, and eventually just gave up. Try some Roberta Gellis or Martin Stephen instead.
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