Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Family Matters: THE BLEEDING LAND by Giles Kristian

The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian
I confess, I prefer to read historical fiction set in what I call 'pre gun'. I am a swords, daggers and spears kind of person (there may be something Freudian in that) and historical fiction set after the advent of guns feels modern history to me. The guns taint my attempts to escape into history and so I stay away. Escapism through books is important to my daily grind.
In saying that I have been dabbling in the waters of some post gun historical settings lately. And when I say dabbling, I mean only dabbling. I am not reading reams of gun strewn historical settings, only a select few which are set during the English Civil War. Those books were Andrew Swanston's The King's Spy, Michael Arnold's Traitor's Blood and now, Giles Kristian's The Bleeding Land.

All three books are so different to each other and share only two similarities. All three are set to the backdrop of the English Civil War and all three are the first in a series. There the similarities stop. They have nothing in common as regards story, plot and characters.

I won't go on about my ratings or feelings towards the former of those two authors as this review is supposed to be about Giles Kristian's book, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by all three author's offerings. They taught me that even though my interests in history lay elsewhere, I should be getting out of my comfort zone more often. Because there are some gems out there that I have been missing out on.

So, while I will not exactly be ferreting through library shelves for more and more 'gunpowder' historical fiction, I will be sticking with the three series' I mention here, and will select others from time to time from other settings.. ie Crimean War. I will no longer stay within my pre gun comfort zone.

The Bleeding Land is a family saga through and through and reminded me a lot of the 'other Civil War'. The Civil War that took place on an entirely different continent. Change a few things in the book, such as place names, and The Bleeding Land story could have easily been set in the deep south of America. In fact, my mind kept blending scenery on me. It was involuntary, but I sometimes caught myself visualising an American plantation house and not an English manor house.
But then they are both brutal Civil Wars aren't they? Not so hard to have them blend in the mind.

Fought within the bosom of community, in cattle paddocks and in towns and villages, across the country. In such homeland style warfare you do have the common thread of brothers fighting shoulder to shoulder, or family fighting against family as beliefs and loyalties are stretched. And you have the women, the young and elderly left behind to protect farms and homes, falling victim to not only the enemy, but also to men fighting for your own side.

Civil War truly is a mess, no matter the country, and Giles Kristian has captured that well here in the first book in his Rivers' Family series, The Bleeding Land.

It promises to be an epic series or trilogy (can't recall which it is going to be) and I believe readers with an interest in the English Civil War will love it. I have not read the next in the series (although I do own it and I will read it this year), but in regards to this first book, I would say ignore the vibe of the cover. It is not one of those battle and gore-centric kinds of books. It is a true unisex book. A book for women as much as men and involves nearly as many female characters as male characters.

Hard to say though, who will take to this book and who won't as my impressions are marred a little by my lack of interest in the English Civil War. It affects my feelings in a way it wouldn't affect others.
 All I can say is that you will have to read it and see for yourself. If you are 'pre gun' like me then step out of your comfort zone and see what you think.

- MM


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