Thursday, 29 January 2015

On My Desk: BY THE SWORD by Christian Kachel

I was recently sent a copy of this book. By The Sword by Christian Kachel. It is first in a series called Spoils of Olympus and it is fresh off an Independent publisher's printing press just for me.
It was released in November 2014 and is most commonly found as an ebook, although a paper copy can be bought online as well. I don't read ebooks, so scored a hardcopy.

When Christian offered me a copy of his book, something about it made me want to give it a go. I say no so regularly, that I surprised even myself when I said yes.

Boy, am I glad I agreed to read this. I shouldn't, officially, be reading it right now because I am trying to get a different book read, but I read the first page and couldn't stop reading! I don't get to say that often enough these days!

Before I knew it I was 20 pages in and had to throw out the anchor.
I have to finish that other book I am reading, but I hope when I get back to By The Sword, that the great storytelling continues through the whole book and does not start and finish in the opening chapters.

As for the book itself, By the Sword is actually a lovely book in the flesh. A good hearty size with an eyecatching, glossy black and white cover that you really have to see in person to truly appreciate.

Being a nut for a map, I was pleased to discover a map on the opposite page to the first chapter.
Good stuff, Christian Kachel. Kudos to you.

- MM

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Does Not Translate: THE KING'S HOUNDS by Martin Jensen

The King's Hounds by Martin Jensen
This was kind of the literary version of the Seinfeld show - it was a book about nothing. Only the tv series was supposed to be 'a show about nothing', and was still about a lot of fun things.
This book was not fun, it actually was about nothing.

The characters didn't interest me, the writing was clunky and the translation was not good.
There is so much going on in this period. And yet, to me, the author failed to latch on and ride it into a great story.

In theory, the setting should be a colourful one and had all the potential to float this story like a bobbing buoy on a surging sea.
It is Britain, 1018. Cnut has conquered parts of England, cultures are clashing, uprisings are plentiful, the slave trade is about to go into overdrive. Settlements are popping up overnight. 
But, this book captured none of that to me. If it weren't for the words Vikings and Saxons being thrown around, it could have been devoid of ethnicity and could have been any European country before the Late Middle Ages.

I found the main character, Halfdan, so incredibly annoying and two dimensional and I found his support character, Winston, a poorly forged copy of historical mystery solvers who are already done to perfection in this genre, ie Matthew Shardlake from the C.J. Sansom series. In fact there were a lot of similarities between Winston/Halfdan and Matthew Shardlake/Jack Barak. At times it felt nearly plagiarised, but all it was, was a bad copy.

The translation I think was the story killer here for me. It was a terrible translation. It had been translated too literally and with modern words used frequently. A translator with a better understanding of what is required of an historical fiction translator, may have done a better job. Who knows.
I wish I was fluent in Danish, so that I could read the original to see whether this book was massacred at the hands of the translator more so than the author. I suspect the translation is to blame for a lot of the grievances I have towards this book.

I thought about giving it 3 stars, because there were some chapters that I enjoyed. In hindsight, now I have put some distance between me and this read, I realise those enjoyable parts did not in fact outweigh the overall negative feelings I have towards this book

- MM

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: THE GATES OF ROME by Conn Iggulden

Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden
It has been a bloody long time since I last had a review to do that felt this easy to write. This book was so cut and dry for me. It falls into a class of read that I never fail to find the words to elaborate on.
One of the nicest negative review words a reviewer could draw upon - incompatibility. The sweetest way to say that I thought it was bad, but maybe it isn't the authors fault.

If we were in a relationship, this book and I, I would be saying to it "I want you to know that it isn't you. It is me. I think we are just too different and are far better off apart. I know you will find other fish in the sea that will appreciate you better than I".

Only this is a book, not a relationship. So about this book I will say;

We simply are not compatible. It will be compatible with many thousands, and it has been. The proof of that is there in all the positive ratings on Goodreads and Amazon and in the book deals and bank accounts of the author.
For me, however, I do not like books that dedicate most of their quantity to childhood characters. If I liked to be in the heads of kids for that long I would be reading the Young Adult genre. A genre I do not like to read, because, obviously, I am an adult, who likes to read about adults.
That is not to say there are no adults who like to read about children. Only I am not one of them.
I say give them a chapter or two, maybe a quarter or even a third of the book (okay, a third of a book may be stretching it), but just don't make boys and girls the main feature of a book for adults.
Good for milking an extra book out of a series and making more money, but not always great fun for adult readers.

I also found the writing to be a little simple and raw, which only accentuated the YA aromatics.

The other thing that bugs me and makes us incompatible, is flagrant disregard for historical accuracy just because you don't like the restraints of the historical accuracy mistress. She isn't such a bad bird and can be forgiving if you feel the need as an author to break free and dabble. But this book doesn't dabble or stretch the confines for more freedom, this book gives historical accuracy a wide, albeit arrogant, berth.

And while there are those thousands of readers who don't know the history enough to know that this book is an alternate history, there sure are thousands that do. I don't even know much about this history, and yet I can see it.
Arrogance with historical accuracy is a turn off for me.

I read all this author's Ghengis Khan series. Had a love/hate relationship with it. Liked one or two, really liked one, hated the rest.
I don't like Roman historical fiction much, but I bought this (used) book based on some decent experiences with that Ghengis series.

That is the last time I follow an author into his or her other ventures so blindly.

I finish by pointing out the other advantage of saying a book is incompatible with your tastes. I get to say 'don't take my word for it' to anybody reading this review.
We don't all have the same approach to books. This is one of those books I think you will need to discover for yourself.

- MM 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

What? 2015 already??

2015 already? how did that happen? I feel like I had only just put my feet up.
No avoiding it. The new year is here. I will continue to blog it up in 2015 if all goes to plan.
Obviously, there are some months where I am not reading Historical Fiction or not thinking about anything worth blogging about, in those months, posts to the blog will be light on. I do not plan on those empty months being the norm though. only the exception.

Reading a Military Non Fiction currently,. Won't be reading a Historical Fiction for a few more days. For this reason, there won't be any new Hist Fic reviews for a couple weeks.

Hope 2015 has plenty of great reads in it for you!

Regards to all and sundry,
Medieval Mayhem