From the rough highlands of Scotland to the crumbling majesty of Constantinople, a gripping historical novel written and read by TV historian and broadcaster Neil Oliver.
In 15th-century Constantinople, young Prince Constantine, heir to the Byzantine throne, is left permanently crippled when he saves the beautiful Princess Yaminah from falling to her death in the Hagia Sofia. Meanwhile in Scotland, John Grant, a young man with unusual abilities, is rescued from certain death by a formidable Moorish warrior whose own life was once saved by John's father.
Unbeknown to them, John Grant and Prince Constantine share a unique connection - a connection that lies at the very centre of their beings.
When fate orchestrates that their paths should cross, the repercussions will be felt across the continents.
I loved this novel which reminded me a little of Dorothy Dunnett's wonderful books. However I did struggle with it in audio form and feel, with its jumping in time, it would be easier to follow in book form. I enjoyed Neil Oliver's use of language and really liked his voice but there was no pause between chapters and slight pauses, especially when a new chapter takes you to a different time or place in the story, do help when listening rather than reading what is a fairly complex narrative. Personally I love the blend of history and the supernatural and the author's version of Jeanne d'Arc's life. His writing let me "see" all the action (though some of the bloodiest scenes made my stomach clench!) and I think this would make a great film. I would certainly be keen to listen to another book by Mr Oliver.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I absolutely loved this book. It's a sweeping epic of a story spanning a continent and several lives. It is woven together by a beautifully crafted narrative and made all the more appealing by Neil Oliver's performance.
This is the best book I've listened to in a long time.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A well written story beautifully told, a fascinating glimpse of a moment in history. My only grumble is that the very end seemed a little rushed, it took me by surprise.
Set in the 15th century It starts with a prologue -a woman jumps from a tower. Then there's a young boy John (who lives with his mother), and a bear of a man -Badr who is a warrior. We discover Badr knew the boy's father, so the two eventually come together. Separately a new strand starts up with the story of John's mother. The writing is evocative and I can see how the author tries to weave the story together. At times it is emotional, but I found it really confusing to follow on audio and wasn't interested enough to finish it. Read by the author, he has a strong, clear voice but the production wasn't great as there was no pause between chapters. I often didn't realise a new chapter started and this added to my confusion. Overall disappointed with what could have been a heartfelt story of past times.
I thought I was getting a historical fiction novel not superstitious/mythical rubbish. Gave up after2 hours.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful
What was most disappointing about Neil Oliver’s story?
Neil Oliver is one of my all time favourite historians. Generally, I love his work! have read all of his non-fiction books, and, of course, seen all of his documentaries. I would consider myself a bit of a history nut.
Unfortunately, in a historians need to include all relevant, or even simply interesting, information about a particular era, Mr Oliver included a bit much. In writing a fiction book, I feel he was distracted by the facts.
The book covers a reasonably large time period (about 20-30 years) and mentions the major events taking place in Europe/ Middle East at the time. Which is A LOT to cover in such a short book, and as such the character development, political, religious setting and even the physical settings are bushed over rather broadly.
The book should have been broken up into more books or perhaps only more detailed sections. For example, a book/section covering the main character in more detail; growing up, learning to fight, to hunt and to be a general all round bad ass, the relationship with the man who becomes his substitute father, the factors that led his to join the crusades, struggles ect. You know, character development. Let us love the character, and really get to known him.
What character would you cut from Master of Shadows?
90% of the character should go. The book covers too much.
Any additional comments?
I was so exited for a fiction book by Mr Oliver, but I was let down by what I got. It is more a creative recitation of fact, than an actual story. He has the bones, but this one needs more flesh.
Written by a historian with just enough beautiful fiction, its a tale that wants to be heard. It weaves in your imagination and takes you to ancient places that can be seen without having been there.