Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

August 17, 2010 Comments off

There is a danger in series that the whole thing can get a little tired. The characters all get a little too comfortable, and pages can go by with nothing really happening. Fortunately, none of that applies to this, the sixth in the Temeraire series. Naomi Novik delivers another cracking read, continuing the story along. This time, the emphasis is on the consequences of actions taken (or not taken) over the course of the previous five books. Even in their supposed exile in the new colony of Australia, Temeraire and William must deal with global events, and consider their own part in those events.

The sixth books makes for a great story in itself, while also setting things up nicely for the next few books.


Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden

August 5, 2010 Comments off

I had no idea this one was coming, and it was a very pleasant surprise to see it in the bookshop the other week. I love the Genghis trilogy, and this one continues the story by focusing on Subedei, Genghis’ general who is responsible for what is known to Europe as the Mongol Invasion in one of the most remarkable sustained campaigns of history.

All told in Iggulden’s blistering style, this was yet another great read.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

October 23, 2009 1 comment

This book could be considered the fourth book in the Baroque Cycle, although it was actually written first. One character features across all four books, but telling you who would count as a spoiler, so I won’t.

Cryptonomicon takes place partly in World War Two, partly in the 1990s. Two stories, each gripping in their own way, gradually connect on the Philippines in a search for Japanese war gold, looted from Asia and hidden away for decades.

As you might expect from the title, a lot of the World War Two action focuses on the codebreaking efforts of the allies, as they race to decode German and Japanese transmissions while also hiding from the enemy their successes.

As with Neal’s other books in this cycle the research has been meticulous and every location is describes briefly, but with incredible authenticity. From the Philippines of the 1990s to Sweden in World War Two, each location becomes almost a character in its own right. I love Neal’s writing so this book was a real treat for me. Highly recommended, along with the three Baroque Cycle books.

Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

October 16, 2009 Comments off

The Genghis Khan trilogy wraps up with this book. That was a shame from my perspective as I was hoping for more books. Personal bias there, as I find the Mongols of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries quite fascinating.

The saga of the Mongols in their conflict with one of the pre-eminent military powers of the day, the arrogant Khwarizm takes centre stage in this book. All is not well at home for Genghis and his close family members are either under threat, or a threat to Genghis. Conn Iggulden ends a great series with a neat twist.

Charley’s War by Pat Mills

October 15, 2009 Comments off

I am a sometime participant into the practice of having my childhood repackaged and sold back to me at today’s prices. Charley’s War is one such. Originally published between 1978 and 1986, this comic series really blew me away, and I only originally read the last 3 years’ worth.

Titan Books has begun a collection starting from the first episode and working through the story. I certainly hope they go all the way through. Adding to the value of the product are commentaries on the series by Pat Mills, and each volume has an article about the period of history, or from someone giving another view into how the series came to light.

Charley’s War remains a wonderful anomaly. An anti-war war story about The Great War appearing in a boys’ comic about how great war is. It’s a gritty, unrelenting examination of a truly horrendous period of history. Better yet, it’s well told, full of characters to love and pity and hate, and brought to life with incredible artwork from Joe Colquhoun.

The books are being released at the rate of one per year, in October. The sixth is coming soon. Mark your calendars!

Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

November 10, 2008 Comments off

The second Mongol book by Iggulden shows first hand just how ruthless and effective their way of war was. With an army comprised of hardened men, all mounted, all expert archers, the Mongols lay waste to the armies of the more civilised and advanced Chinese. With their defeat of the main foreign power on their borders, it seems the Mongols are free to expand until their empire is bordered by the sea on all sides.

As he has done with Caesar before this, Iggulden vividly brings to life this period of history. Turning historical account and tribal memories into characters and events to keep the pages turning is no mean feat, and Iggulden excels here. Lovers of history and fiction alike will find this series to be a great read. Readers of historical fiction may believe they have died and gone to heaven. You haven’t it’s just a very good series. The final, Bones of the Hills is out now.


August 1, 2008 Comments off

Many books have their moments, scenes that stay in your mind even years later, as vivid as when you first read them. This is one of the things that drives me to keep reading, the knowledge that there are more such memories waiting to be burned into my mind.

I’ve selected some of my own favourites below – I’m sure you have yours. I’ve put the book they come from after the scene.

William reading his letter from Marygay, written centuries earlier. (The Forever War by Joe Haldeman)

The cacophony of talking stones at York cathedral. (Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell by Susannah Clarke)

The French dragon falling screaming to its death after suffering a face
full of acid from an English longwing. As it plummets, its sorrowful rider puts a
pistol to the head of his faithful companion to end its agony. (Temeraire by Naomi Novik)

Ilya Volyova walking the vast and silent corridors of her ship. (Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds)

Fat Charlie Nancy’s karaoke experience – I’m smiling as I type this (Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman)

Trying to use the phones in Unlondon (Un Lun Dun by China Mieville)

The wizard Harry Potter digging the faithfuls Dobby’s grave using only a
shovel and the strength of his arms. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by Joanne Rowling)

Reid Malenfant, at the point of death, clutches an image of his wife,
dead 6000 years ago. Her name is the last sound on his lips. (Space by Stephen Baxter)

Sansa realising it is her wolf that is to be executed. (A Game of Thrones by George RR Matin)