Tag Archives: history

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Review 

The Beautiful Ones is the first novel I have read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia but I’m really glad I decided to give it a try. 

Hauntingly beautiful this novel tells the story of unrequited love from the perspective of the lover and the loved. 


Set in what is presumably based on historical France (although the time period isn’t clear). Antonina (Nina) is a naive girl from the countryside taking part in her first grand season in the city of Loisail. Nina is staying with her favourite cousin and his wife who seems to inexplicably dislike her. Nina is used to dislike though, her telekinetic powers are why she couldn’t find a suitable husband at home and her less than perfect manners and lack of ability to be ladylike in public just seem to make things worse. 


But Nina’s attention and affection are captured by the enigmatic if slightly distracted Hector Auvray a telekinetic performer, as they become closer she is certain that a marriage proposal is imminent but there are other things at play that Nina knows nothing about. She has become a bit player in a game that goes back more than a decade. 


I found this book to be very engaging. It was an interesting take on a historical novel with the addition of the characters telekinetic powers. It sssms to be more of a play on the usual historical novel, while some things remain true to the times, others show a decided change. Valérie’s spite and malice make her an excellent villain against the naive and yet lovable Nina. This novel highlights the saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. 


I really liked the characters of both Nina and Hector and I was rooting for them the whole way through, I won’t say if they had a happy ending though, as always I won’t give any spoilers! 

I’ll definitely look into reading more from this author in the future! 

A Mask of Shadows by Oscar De Muriel. Review 

‘Yer may nae. Do as I said, else I’ll punch yer snooty face.’ 



Welcome back to the notorious ‘Nine Nails’ McGray and his eloquent language when interviewing a potential witness. I fell in love with McGray when I read A Fever of the Blood last year and I was really pleased to be granted an ARC of A Mask of Shadows the third book in the series. 

Once more we see the beguiling if slightly eccentric McGray, along with his partner Ian Frey thrown into a mysterious entanglement of murder, mystery and the supernatural. This time there’s a banshee haunting Henry Irving’s performance of ‘The Scottish Play’. 


I love that Bram Stoker is one of the main characters in this book, it reminded me a little bit of the mini TV series Houdini & Doyle with the two men searching, one for supernatural causes (Doyle = McGray) and one for the reasonable explanation (Houdini = Frey). It has the same wonderfully entertaining banter between the two. I love that McGray treats Frey so badly calling him everything from a ‘pansy’ to ‘Percy’ after he finds out his middle name. Yet despite the good ribbing he constantly gives him, you can tell the two have a great connection and that McGray would miss Frey should he be sent back to London. 


I also really liked how the character of Frey was developed in this novel. Usually he is the one trying to rein in McGray but this time he has a good Pop at people himself and it’s really great to see him get a pair of his own and I’m not talking tartan trousers! 


The novel features a ton of famous characters from actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry to the aforementioned Bram Stoker and even a cameo from Oscar Wilde and mentions of friendships with Lewis Carroll. 

It is engaging from start to finish and I really didn’t have a clue who was behind everything. Nothing was clear as every time the author threw a red herring that’s all it seemed it be. Everyone stood a chance of being guilty and that is the truly clever skill of Oscar De Muriel that he is able to convince us that it might just be a supernatural explanation after all…. 

Three Sisters, Three Queens. Philippa Gregory. Review 

I must admit I was a little disappointed with this one. I read all of the Tudor Court series while I was on holiday last week and I was surprised at how interesting and captivating I found them. But what I loved most about the earlier ones is that Philippa took a woman who was perceived in history as to be nothing better than the wife of a king and then turned her into a powerful feminist image. Except for Catherine Howard who was just an idiot. 

Anyway, this one focuses on three queens (as the title suggests) but mainly of Queen Margaret of Scotland, sister to Henry VIII. The other two are Katherine of Aragon Queen of England and Queen Mary of France the other sister of Henry VIII. The whole of the novel is told from the point of view of Margaret. In one sense it’s a very interesting read. Margaret is not a hugely famous figure in history, overshadowed of course by her brother Henry. So from a historical point of view it was an eye opener. 

So what spoilt it? What made it different from the others? Frankly Margaret was a spoilt brat. While Katherine and Mary developed a loving friendship, all Margaret cared about was competing with them. She had to be higher in the ranks that Mary. She couldn’t follow Katherine’s train. There was no way they should have better fashion, better children, better husbands, better anything than her. She just acted like a spoilt brat the whole time. This unfortunate character trait made her very unlikeable and therefore, I found it impossible to empathise with her when things went wrong. 

I understand the need to tell Margaret’s story but I think personally it could have worked better as a stand alone novel and not part of the Tudor series. Mary’s part was very insignificant and barely touched upon other than a lot of letters she wrote to Margaret about clothes. As for Katherine everything we learned about her was what we already knew from The Constant Princess. 

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick. Review 

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for my ARC. 
This book was surprisingly brilliant. I say surprisingly because I must admit that while it appealed to me (obviously as I requested it), I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a little and think ‘not another novel set in Tudor times’. This may have something to do with the fact that I’ve packed the whole of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Court novels to take on holiday with me. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised. This book was such a page turner. I literally couldn’t put it down! 

The Phantom Tree follows the story of Alison Banestre an orphan in the 16th century who ends up staying at Wolf Hall with her relatives the Seymours and specifically her cousin Mary Seymour daughter of the ex-Queen Katherine Parr. What follows is a tale of time travel, Magic, history and romance both in this century and the past. 

I think what really won me over with this book was the author’s ability to write something which was not in anyway cliched or ridiculous when it was a topic which frankly could have been. Time travel is something which has to be handled very carefully and it was great to see how well it was dealt with and also to see it turned on its head. Here we aren’t talking about someone who who travelled back in time but instead travelled forward and actually coped and adjusted to the modern world. That was the true magic in this story.w

The characters were both engaging and likeable and the language understandable and not overly ‘olde english’ as is often the case with historical novels. 

This is definitely up there as one of my reads of this year. Highly recommended! 

The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells

A bit of a retro review this morning on H.G Wells The War of the Worlds. It’s a book which has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while but as with everything it’s just took a back shelf (pun intended) for the more recent books I get sent to review and my university studies not to mention work! On top of this I’ve just taken on a volunteer role with the RSPCA (more on that coming really soon!)

Anyway, back to the main event. So The War of the Worlds, definitely falls into the science fiction category a genre I’m pretty fussy with. It has to be a certain style for me to like it and one of the other reasons I’ve not really looked at this book before, aliens just generally aren’t my thing…

However, having read and enjoyed The Time Machine last year I decided to give the author a chance and give this book a read and I was pleasantly surprised. The War of the Worlds is written in Well’s typical autobiographical style. Like The Time Machine the protagonist’s name is never revealed and it is written in the style of a diary-like autobiographical account of events. The reader is addressed throughout with their opinions sought out by the author.

The War of the Worlds  begins with the protagonist (implied to be Wells himself) engaging with a friend by looking through a telescope at the planet Mars and noticing some strange bursts and flashes from the planet. The reader is then thrown into the action with the first shell arriving in Woking and revealling the Martians: ‘Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth–above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes–were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.’ (Wells, 1898, in John Walker, unknown date).

The story then follows the adventures of the protagonist and for some time the protagonists brother as London is attacked by the Martians and life as they knew it ceases to exist. I won’t go on and spoil the ending for those who haven’t but intend to read it as I’m a strictly no spoilers blog, however I will explore a little more about the story and the author.

As with the The Time Machine Wells writes with a sense of modernity which does not fit with the 1898 publication date of this novel. Well’s talk of invasions from Mars is in someways a little droll in its description of the slug like creatures and their creaking metal machines it seems almost unimaginative in this day age when we have the likes of Futurama, Star Wars and Star Trek demonstrating advanced and creative creatures far more human-like and intelligent creatures. But of course Wells was working within the limitations of his time and as such the creative process was still well and above other works of the period.

One of the most engaging and clarifying elements of the book for me was the knowledge Well’s already held of the self-made vulnerabilities of mankind. When meeting the artillery soldier after almost being buried alive, the soldier quips that ‘ It’s just men and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until the men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now–just ants.‘ (Wells, 1898 in John Walker, unknown date). Further into the conversation with about The War of the Worlds which is the subject matter as well as the title, the soldier comments on the lack of importance behind the day to day life of man ‘ They just used to skedaddle off to work–I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, bit of breakfast in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket train, for fear they’d get dismissed if they didn’t; working at businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to understand; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn’t be in time for dinner; keeping indoors after dinner for fear of the back streets, and sleeping with the wives they married, not because they wanted them, but because they had a bit of money that would make for safety in their one little miserable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays–fear of the hereafter.‘ (Wells, 1898 in John Walker, unknown date).

 

This sentiment is one continously repeated in present day. The idea that our lives are full of the drudgery of going to work, coming home, living lives we are unhappy with because they are safe and are what we know. I hope that like it did with me this has given you something to ponder on….

 

 

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Queen of the Tearling has been on my to read list for a while now. I finally got to read it this week and boy was it worth the wait.

The premise of Queen of the Tearling is one of the most interesting takes on Dystopian fiction that I have come across (coming hot off the back of The Last Relicuin this was some mean feat!). The story focuses around Kelsea Raleigh Glynn Princess of the Tearling, who on her 19th birthday is collected by the Queens guard and taken to New London where she will take her rightful place on the phone folllowing her Mother’s death 16 years before. Things are not easy for Kelsea though, for one she doesn’t even look like a princess, she is plain and overweight and has been shielded by her guardian’s who swore an oath to not tell her anything about the Tearling a country she is now expected to rule.

The idea behind the Tearling is that in modern day William Tearling made a crossing from America to bring a new land taking the best and most well developed medical and technology equipment with him unfortunately they sank on the ship and now the Tearling is a place which has been thrown back to the dark ages poor and depraved and full of corruption.

It was this idea which I liked the most about Queen of the Tearling. Most dystopian novels while very good look more towards a futuristic society where technology is advanced and political control is stronger than ever. The beauty of novels like Queen of the Tearling is that they look at a futuristic society which instead of going forwards have gone backwards. The character of Kelsea is also refreshing, while the novel draws on elements from fairy tales: The princess living in a cottage with foster parents in the forest awaiting her time to return to her Kingdom or rather Queendom in this case! But Kelsea is not the average Princess as aforemetioned she is strong, can fight with her knife, well educated, plain and well built due to her love of food, she has no intention of waiting for her handsome prince to rescue her and nor would he want to.

Erika writes with skill, I have seen other reviewers rating this novel down on the basis that some things are unrealistic such as Kelsea’s shock and fascination with a red headed guard. For me though this just added to the authenticity, in the modern world where we know that people with the redhead gene are dying out why would it not be reasonable for it to be a rare and valued thing in a futuristic world? Not only that but Kelsea has lived a sheltered life, protected, away from civilisation and would have no reason to have seen anyone with red hair before.

If you like Dystopia, Fantasy and Historical Fiction and are looking for a combination of all 3. Or if you’re looking for a novel with adventure, magic, history, futuristic society, a female heroine and danger at every turn then this is the novel for you.

 

Sequel review to follow shortly!

 

 

 

Review: The Last Relicuin by Hargus Montgomery

The Last Relicuin is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The synopsis appealed to me because I love dystopian fiction.

At first I actually thought it was YA particularly as when I first started reading the story was focused on Alex Kane a young man trying to make a decision about where to go to college, as the son of the poweful Senator Kane Alex is encouraged (or forced) to achieve great things as is expected of him.

It is the 22nd Century and the whole world has been ravaged by dangerous airbone disease and the majority of the population have moved well above the old cities into glass enclosures. Everything is virtual, from school to sex and people use holograms to visit each other all to protect themselves from coming into contact with other people and potential disease. History is preserved by the Federal Musuem Academy who train willing students to live in the real life museums where authenticity is key. Senator Kane, Alex’s father though is determined to shut the museums down.

The Last Relicuin is very in depth and full of interesting details about the museums. Although the story starts off belonging to Alex it swiftly moves to other characters and the story begins to build. I don’t (as usual) want to give spoilers about the storyline and plot so I’ll try not to say any more beyond Alex’s beginnings.

What I loved most about The Last Relicuin was the beauty of the different historical periods, unlike your standard dystopian novel this one is not just based on the new cities built above the old ones. The reader instead visits a 1950s American farming town full of corn chewing farmers in their trucks growing apples for cider, 12th Century France full of castles, knights, crusades and sword fights, tiny islands where the people live in tents and the women sit outside making clothes and blankets and finally a freezing winter in a territory inhabited by Native Americans.

 

The Last Relicuin is without doubt an adult novel, along side history and dystopia it features violence, drugs and sex. It explores politics in a time where you can’t even kiss your own wife (and don’t want to). It looks at extra marital affairs and relationships not just of the romance variety but between friends, colleagues, strangers and people who need handling with a little more care.

 

I can’t express how fantastic this novel really is. I’ll definitely be reading more books by this author.