It was good while I was reading it. I enjoyed it. But in the end it did not leave much of an impression on me. This seems to be less a story than a character study of Julius Caesar, following him through the last months/weeks of his life in epistolary (letters, diaries, etc.) form. Historically, it’s a bit of a mess, the timing of some events have been shifted for more dramatic structure (I guess) and some characters are alive when the real people, who potentially should have had more of an effect on what was happening, were not. One gets the sense that this was Wilder’s pet project, his ode to Julius Ceasar, rather than a fully structured and more accurate historical novel. But as an ode, as a character study of Caesar himself at that point in his life, of why he was so disregarding of his safety, it is excellent and worth the read.
To my shame, I had never heard of Druon or “The Accursed Kings” series until I got this novel cheap off Bookbub. And what a delightful surprise it is. The Iron King is historically accurate, its characters fleshed out and fun to read about, the drama intense in a story that, yet again, Hollywood could not have invented.
This book is the first of the series about the downfall of the Capetian Dynasty. This book is the beginning of the end. When Phillip of the Fair arrested the Templars in order to seize their treasure, he burned the leaders when they refused to sign confessions to the usual trumped up charges of heresy and sodomy wrung out of them after years (seriously, seven years) of torture. Druon uses the legend (not proven, but it started circulating shortly after their burning) of the Templar curse; that supposedly the Grand Master cursed Phillip and his family unto the 13th generation, his Keeper of the Seal (who trumped up the charges) and his puppet Pope in Avignon to give the novel the extra kick and create the theme. Hence “the Accursed Kings.”
But the truth is everything was in place for Phillip’s downfall before the Templars burned. The downfall of society when the worst aspects of “courtly love” were acted on by the brides of Phillip’s three sons. They committed adultery (or at least two of them did, enabled by the third), and were outted by Isabelle, Phillip’s daughter and consort of Edward II of England. (It has been noted that after that incident, the romances of the troubadours pretty much vanished from the landscape.) Obviously, this throws the characters and the country into some serious personal and political turmoil.
Which of course is always fun. I loved it, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
I have known of the YouTube series, “The Order of the Good Death” and her very funny and informative videos for years now. I did not discover she had written a book of her experiences in the mortuary industry until very recently. Of course, I immediately bought it.
This is fascinating book that swings easily from the rude realities of death to humorous anecdotes to poignant moments to pondering and personal insights and revelations.
Doughty is not merely a good storyteller, she also asks some of the “big questions” without harping on them or trying to “sound deep” herself. Often they come up in the course of the weirdness of her job. She is self effacing, acknowledges her initial naivete and mistakes, and guides us through the odd world of those who handle the dead.
It’s not anymore overtly “graphic” than a CSI episode, so if you can handle that, you can handle this book, which is definitely worth the read.
A decent mystery marred by the fact that Sherlock is seriously off his game. Sherlock is allowed *one* “Oh, I have been so stupid!” moment, not three or four of them. This means the mystery was actually not good enough to keep the character truly occupied, so the writer was reduced to PIS (Plot Induced Stupidity) to keep it going. However, the characterizations were good and enjoyably carried the story.
So it’s not bad, but it’s not great either.
One could almost call this the companion book Hupt’s The Museum of the Missing. In fact, the current front cover of the paperback for Hupt book is a picture of the crime scene of the case the Rescue Artist is constructed around: The 1994 theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. (Or one of them, at least.)
This is the police’s point of view, particularly how one detective who had become very experienced in recovering stolen art. This is how he infiltrated (for the umpteenth time) the world of stolen art and recovered The Scream. During the course of telling that story, we learn how this officer got into the game of recovering stolen art and the cases he was involved in. We learn about the odd world of stolen art, the mindset of the thieves (not nearly as meticulous, complex or even thinking long term as Hollywood imagines), to the odd places great works of art can end up (such as being used for currency in a heroin deal in Turkey). The existence of the fabled Thomas Crown/Dr. No connoisseur who would steal for their private enjoyment is debated. The stereotype is dismissed by the cynical police, but not by people in the world of art itself.
It’s a fascinating look into the world of stolen art from the people’s point of view, including interviews not only from police and members of the art dealing world, but criminals involved in art theft. (There is also a good, short, biography of Munch, his mindset, and how he came to paint The Scream.)
So obviously as you can tell from the cover, not exactly hard SciFi here. It’s an interesting story of a human suddenly thrust into the political machinations of the ruling class of a different world. Taken at face value, it’s an entertaining, enjoyable book.
However, the characters were a bit flat and there were some parts that irked me. First, how the heroine is suddenly transformed from Plain Jane into the most beautifulist alien ev-VAR! At this jaded point, it’s a kind of sexist cliché (See: Twilight series). Second, the sexist world, bordering on neanderthal, she’s had fallen into and was perfectly happy in. Don’t get me wrong, she does have a vital, pivotal role in the story and plays it ably, especially considering her complete lack of cultural knowledge. But one can’t get over the fact that women are “claimed” by men practically on sight and their reason to exist in this society is to crank out kids. And the heroine is fine with that, because the man who claimed her is hot and sexy.
Now, I don’t define a “strong heroine” as necessarily one who has a sword in her hand. A strong woman can be a strong heroine without being an action hero. But when you looked at the overall picture of the world she just fell into by chance, *yeek*.
McCaffrey’s world building is interesting; what parts of society have advanced and what have not. She explains the advances by saying they were borrowed from their conquerors, though that doesn’t explain the medical advances or why someone who has undergone reconstructive surgery after injury is considered horrible. I mean, they’re still writing with stylus on permanent slabs of metal, but have extremely advanced medical technology? *head quirk*
But if you do not spend too much time pondering the deeper implications, it’s still an enjoyable romp.
I’ve also been reading Pirot mysteries in the interim for some light reading; some fantastic (Murder on the Orient Express, Cat Among the Pigeons), some not so much (One, Two, Buckle My Shoe-the ending for that came completely out of left field, she didn’t incorporate any, or at least enough, clues into the story).