Book Review: The Traitor’s Mark by D.K. Wilson

The Traitor’s Mark is the second book in the Thomas Treviot series by D.K. Wilson.

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Real Crime: Hans Holbein, King Henry VIII’s portrait painter, died in the autumn of 1543. A century later a chronicler reported that the artist had succumbed to plague, yet there is no contemporary evidence to support this. Suspicions have been raised over the centuries, but the mystery of what actually happened remains unsolved to this day.

Our Story: Young London goldsmith Thomas Treviot is awaiting a design for a very important jewelry commission from Hans Holbein. When the design fails to turn up, Thomas sends a servant to track Holbein down, only to discover that the painter has disappeared. In his hunt for Holbein and the lost design, Thomas is led into a morass of dangerous political intrigue, Spanish spies and courtiers that is more treacherous than he could ever have anticipated…

Favourite Quote

‘Dear God, the games these kings and great men play, using us for their cards and counters.’

Review

I find this series so interesting.  The idea of presenting a possible solution to a mystery or a crime approaching 500 years old is fascinating.  Having read the first book in the series, The First Horseman and the third, The Devil’s Chalice, I knew I would enjoy this one too.  And I did.

I like Thomas Treviot – he is a likeable main character.  He has enough status to get him the contact he needs with some of the greatest personalities in the land, but he is also happy – happier even – amongst those of lower-standing, meaning that he can move fairly easily between social groups.  Ned – a former monk who after the dissolution puts his knowledge of medicines to use as an apothecary – is also a great character.  Though I think my favourite is Lizzie: she’s strong, intelligent, sensible and compassionate.

The Traitor’s Mark is a enjoyable mystery that will take you on a journey through Tudor London and the surrounding counties, which come to life with ease.  The historical detail that is woven through the story is rich in depth though not heavy enough to weigh it down and slow its unfolding.  There’s plenty of action and drama, and twists and turns to keep the story moving at a good pace.  The political and religious turmoil of the times is clearly depicted and the story shows just how easy it was to get caught up in things, whether you wanted to be involved in them or not – a scary thought.

I really hope that there will be more books in this series, because all three of them have been excellent reads.  I can’t recommend them high enough.

Rating

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Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel.

Summary (from back of book)

The first novel in Jean M. Auel’s magnificent epic of life on the glacial continent of the last Ice Age, when two kinds of human beings, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, shared the earth.

Its heroine is Ayla, a courageous and indomitable young woman whose story beings when she is a five-year-old orphan adopted by the Clan, a group of Neanderthal.

Ayla inspires first surprise, then wariness and finally acceptance by the Clan.  She is cared for by its medicine woman Iza and its wise holy man Creb.  But she makes an implacable enemy of the group’s future leader. Broud does all he can to destroy her, but Ayla is a survivor.

Favourite Quote

“Accept her into the clan!  She’s not Clan, she was born to the Others.  Who said anything about accepting her into the clan?  It wouldn’t be allowed, Ursus won’t like it.  It’s never been done before!” Brun objected.  “I wasn’t thinking of making her one of us, I only wondered if the spirits would allow her to live with us until she gets older.”

“Iza saved her life, Brun, she carries part of the girl’s spirit now, that makes her part Clan.  She came close to walking in the next world, but she’s alive now.  That’s almost the same as being born again, born to the Clan.”

Review

I absolutely adore this series, and The Clan of the Cave Bear as the first book in it is simply magnificent.  I have read this book (and the subsequent instalments) so many times, and as soon as I open the covers I am transported back in time to the last ice age.  I find this period in time fascinating, and the amount of research that was carried out in order to make it as accurate as one can so many millennia later, is clear as soon as you begin reading.  From descriptions of the landscape and the processes involved in their evolution, to plants and their medicinal properties, this book is rich in, and overflowing with, information and detail.

The characters were engaging, and Ayla’s adopted family – Iza, the clan’s medicine woman, and her brother, Creb, the mog-ur or spiritual leader of the group – were wonderful, and are my favourite characters after Ayla herself. Brun, as the strong but fair leader who often finds himself torn between tradition (which to the Clan means security) and something new (which they fear), deals compassionately with the problems Ayla’s presence gives rise to.

This story is packed full of emotional drama that left me in tears on more than one occasion.  The storyline was captivating, and though you can work out how the book is going to end, it still comes as a bit of shock and is highly emotional.  Ayla is a strong young woman with a desire to learn anything and everything, so that she is always growing and developing, and it is this, rather than the fact that she looks different that sets her apart from those around her.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is imaginative and unique, and the storytelling abilities of the author are amazing.  We get to hear the story from the viewpoint of all the characters without it getting confusing, but we are also not in any doubt that the story is that of Ayla, a young orphaned girl taken in, raised and loved by a group of Neanderthals.

This book is one of my all-time favourite reads.  I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction and are interested in the Palaeolithic. However, if you struggle reading great swathes of detailed description, this might not be the book for you.  Also, it is worth remembering that although Auel extensively researched the book, it is ultimately a work of fiction not a science text book.

Rating

 

Book Review: The Vault of Bones by Pip Vaughan-Hughes

The Vault of Bones is the second book in the Brother Petroc series by Pip Vaughan-Hughes.

Summary (from back of book)

In the darkness of 13th-century Europe, the most precious treasures of the Christian world lie in a small church in the great ruined city of Constantinople: the crown of thorns, the spear that pierced Jesus’ side, the shroud bearing the imprint of Christ.

On the other side of the globe, Petroc of Auneford has left his old monastic world for London alongside the enigmatic Captain de Montalhac, purveyor of fine relics and other exotic trinkets to anyone with sufficient money and desire.

For Petroc, the trip is soon blighted by tragedy, but grief is no guard against greed.  The great powers of Christendom are gathering.  All covet the power of the most precious relics – and Petroc finds himself right in the eye of the storm.

Favourite Quote

But before I laid down my head I put my head out of the small window and craned to look up at the great walls of the city.  A little moonlight glanced off the cut stones and sank into the gashes and wounds of siege and time.  They had not kept out the robbers, these walls, and perhaps it was their penance to be reduced to a home for ivy and pigeons.

Review

This was an interesting story, if a slow read.  The pace did hamper my enjoyment of the book.  If the book had been perhaps 100 pages shorter, I think I would have found it more gripping, and more of a thriller.  Every place the characters stop in is accompanied by a detailed travel guide to the place as it would have looked and sounded like in the thirteen century, which on the one hand adds detail to what is going on, but also slows it down considerably.

That being said, it did have an entertaining storyline and the cast of characters were engaging.  Petroc has led a colourful life of late, something his monastic life hadn’t prepared him for.  The crew of the Cormaran are a diverse bunch, and their captain, Michel de Montalhac as a dealer of the finest relics, is interesting and likeable.

I hadn’t read the first book in the Brother Petroc series before reading this instalment, and I wonder if it would have allowed me to enjoy it more.  And yet, there was enough in it to keep me reading to the last page, hence my rating.

I would consider reading book one, and the later books in the series.

Rating

2.5 / 5

Book Review: Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwall

Summary (from Goodreads)

Four thousand years ago, a stranger’s death at the Old Temple of Ratharryn-and his ominous “gift” of gold-precipitates the building of what for centuries to come will be known as one of mankind’s most singular and remarkable achievements. Bernard Cornwell’s epic novel Stonehenge catapults us into a powerful and vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice at once timeless and wholly original-a tale of patricide, betrayal, and murder; of bloody brotherly rivalry: and of the never-ending quest for power, wealth, and spiritual fulfillment.

Three brothers-deadly rivals-are uneasily united in their quest to create a temple to their gods. There is Lengar, the eldest, a ruthless warrior intent on replacing his father as chief of the tribe of Ratharryn; Camaban, his bastard brother, a sorcerer whose religious fervor inspires the plan for Stonehenge; and Saban, the youngest, through whose expertise the temple will finally be completed. Divided by blood but united-precariously-by a shared vision, the brothers begin erecting their mighty ring of granite, aligning towering stones to the movement of the heavenly bodies, and raising arches to appease and unite their gods. Caught between the zealousness of his ambitious brothers, Saban becomes the true leader of his people, a peacemaker who will live to see the temple built in the name of salvation and regeneration.

Favourite Quote

The forest was all dark danger, which is why the woods were for ever being felled and why women were not allowed into it.  They could forage for herbs among the copses close to the settlement, or they could travel through the woods if they were accompanied by men, but they could not go alone into the trees that lay beyond the outermost fields for fear of being assaulted by ghouls and spirits, or of being captured by the outcasts.

Review

This tale tells the possible story of the construction of one of the most iconic symbols of prehistoric human achievement, Stonehenge.  Set in 2000 BC, the book sets out to give an explanation of what it was, why it was built and who built it.  Of course, much of this is speculation, and as Bernard Cornwall points out in his historical note at the end, all of the characters and deities mentioned in it are fictitious.  But, fiction is an interesting way of trying to answer history’s puzzles.  That being said, available archaeological evidence was also used where it was possible.

The stand out themes of the story were the detailed explanations of how the stone circle was constructed, phase by phase, and the bronze age religion and superstition.  Many of the characters were also fascinating.  The three brothers, Lengar, Camaban and Saban, couldn’t be more different.  Aurenna – the sun bride – and Derrewyn – the priestess / witch -were also interesting.

There is much drama, ritual, action and adventure to be found within these pages, and the rich historical detail is interwoven with the gripping storytelling .  I appreciate not everyone will like the attention to detail that the author has included in the story with regards to the building of the circle.  I have read reviews which have stated this information was boring and slowed the story right down.  I personally didn’t find that, but rather relished reading it because I found it added plausibility and authenticity to the story as well as the characters.

If I had to sum this book up in three words, I would say it was: fascinating, imaginative, captivating.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in prehistoric peoples and / or Stonehenge.  However, there are lengthy descriptions of so if you don’t enjoy that kind of detail, you might not enjoy this.  I do like it, and I enjoyed it.

Rating

 

Bookish Reflections – July 2017

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

July was Indie Only Month at Sammi Loves Books, so only Indie books were read and reviewed.  I think 2017’s selection of chosen reads were the best yet for this challenge.  I had so much fun and can’t wait for next July to come round so I can do it all again 🙂

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read of the month

Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin / The Silence Between Moonbeams by Sarah Doughty

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

None this month.  I’ve been good! 🙂

Books I’ve downloaded 

  • Listen by Sarah Doughty
  • The Silence Between Moonbeams by Sarah Doughty
  • Norfolk Twilight by M.L. Eaton

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin
  • A Body in the Backyard by Elizabeth Spann Craig
  • The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton

July‘s “What I’m reading and reviewing next month” goals

July was Indie Only Month at Sammi Loves Books, and as such I decided to set no definite reading goals.  I was definitely pleased to hit 7 books this months as I was only expecting to make 5 or 6.

What I’m reading and reviewing in August

August is Historical Fiction Month at Sammi Loves Books.  And my TBR pile for this challenge is almost floor-to-ceiling high.  I know in all likelihood I won’t get through more than 6 books, but I do have a tendency to get a little over excited for this reading challenge 🙂  Below is a selection of priority reads that I’ve earmarked for August – hopefully I will get through them all:

  • The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel (read, reviewed and awaiting posting)
  • Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwall (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The Iron Hand of Mar by Lindsey Davis (almost finished reading)
  • The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland – this is a re-read; I’ve read a Karen Maitland book every Historical Fiction Month so far, and I’m not intending to break the tradition 🙂
  • Traitor’s Gate by D.K. Wilson – I’ve read the first and third books in this fantastic series based on real Tudor crimes and I’m really looking forward to reading book 2.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 57.  I have read 28.  49% complete.  Currently 5 books behind schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads)* : 2

Total books read so far this year: 30


* “Other reads” means books that are not listed on Goodreads, but ones that are still of novel / novella length.  I’m not counting anthologies, single (very) short stories, magazines / ezines, but I will count short story or poetry collections if they are not too short.

Bookish Reflections – June 2017

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


 

In a nutshell

I’ve more or less caught up with my backlog of reviews.  There is only one now outstanding and as it’s a historical fiction book, I’ll save it and post it in August for Historical Fiction Month.  July is Indie Only Month (one of my favourite times here at Sammi Loves Books).  I’ve already got a few books earmarked for reading and reviewing,

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read of the month

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  • The Lancashire Witches by Harrison Ainsworth

Books I’ve downloaded

  • You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant
  • Memory Man by David Baldacci

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

June‘s “What I’m reading and reviewing next month” goals

  • Guenevere: The Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles [complete]
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate [complete]
  • Torment by Lauren Kate [complete]
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth [complete]
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth [complete]
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

What I’m reading and reviewing in July

July is Indie Only Month here at Sammi Loves Books, so the only books that I’ll be reviewing will be ones written and published by Indie authors.  And I’m very excited 🙂

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 57.  I have read 22.  39% complete.  Currently 6 books behind schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads)* : 1

Total books read so far this year: 23


* “Other reads” means books that are not listed on Goodreads, but ones that are still of novel / novella length.  I’m not counting anthologies, single short stories, magazines / ezines, but I will count short story or poetry collections if they are not too short.

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

(This review may contain spoilers)

Allegiant is the third and final book in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.

Summary (from back cover)

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power-struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal.  So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready.  Perhaps beyond the fence she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated ties, tangled loyalties and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind.  Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless.  Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves.  And once again Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Favourite Quote

I wonder if fears ever really go away, or if they just lose their power over us.

*

I suppose a fire that burns that bright is not meant to last.

Review

So, I really enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent, and my expectations of the final book in the trilogy were, of course, high, higher than they had been at any other point in the series.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Allegiant is quite different from the first two books.  We are now outside of the fence; in effect, in the real world, if one far into the future.  But here the world is divided too, along different lines, but the results are the same.

Tris is such a strong and clever young woman.  It’s hard to read how someone so young has lost so much, suffered so much, witnessed so much, but it’s a testament to her character that she doesn’t give in.  But it is still heart-breaking, all the same.  Tris and Four’s relationship is also hard to watch; it’s almost constantly put to the test because of what they have to endure and live through, but there are also times where it is sweet and easy and terribly moving.

I both did and didn’t expect the ending to this book and thus the series.  I know that doesn’t make too much sense, but there it is.  The question is, am I happy about it?  No.  I’m not.  Why?  Because I’m human and emotional.  And yet, I’m not sure how else it could have ended.  The ending needed to big and bold to create an impact after all that had gone before, and the author certainly achieved that.

I loved this series.  It was definitely one of the best YA series I have read, and also one of the best dystopian series I have read.  And as such, I can’t recommend the Divergent trilogy highly enough.

Rating