Ashes of London / Andrew Taylor

Title / Ashes of London
Author / Andrew Taylor
Publication Date / 2017
Overall Star Rating / 

 

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Goodreads synopsis: London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer. In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.

 

I actually ended up reading it as one of my holiday reads during the family holiday to Crete this year. I had seen the comparisons to C. J. Sansom and his Shardlake series, so I was interested in trying out this historical fiction. While I did end up enjoying this book, it definitely wasn’t perfect and it kind of proves to me once again not to be pulled in by comparison. To me this was a little disappointing after comparing it to that series. Having said that, it is a pretty compelling book. It’s almost 500 pages long but I managed to finish it pretty quickly because it does grip you into the story. Although I still not entirely convinced by the writing, it is good overall and quite easy to get into. I did find the writing dragged out a few scenes and so the book overall could have done with some cutting, however I never felt this adversely affected my overall reading experience. The author does a pretty good job of creating London during the 1600’s – he’s clearly done his research for this book. I personally find the setting an interesting one and he captures the fire really well, although the tension it creates doesn’t last long. I definitely found this quite a light and easy read – perfect holiday reading really. It’s not a profound book that will have you in deep contemplation but I don’t think it was written to be that sort of book – it’s simply an enjoyable historical fiction. One thing that I wasn’t entirely convinced by was the mystery. Without spoiling it, murders start taking place and there is a certain method that the killer has, but there is no given reason why this is. Why these people are murdered in this way… or maybe I missed something. I just didn’t feel that the mystery elements were fully developed and so I found it a little lacking. I think that is a theme for me with this book – it’s just a bit lacking in certain places as I also wanted more tension/suspense. The characters were good but again I wanted more from them. There wasn’t enough development and to be honest I didn’t really care about the characters. If anything I found them a little annoying, especially one of the main characters Cat – I wasn’t a fan of hers and there was many a time where I questioned what she was doing. Some of her actions make absolutely no sense to me. The ending was kind of anti-climactic but I still enjoyed seeing how it all unfolded. Anyway this definitely had potential but as I’ve already said it didn’t work for me. I’ve seen quite a few great reviews though, so don’t let all this dissuade you from trying it out if you are interested in reading it.

 

Overall this was a compelling and enjoyable read, but I definitely had a few issues with it. I will say I think it’s great holiday reading or it’s great if you want a lighter read. If you enjoy historical fiction and this time period then I would recommend checking this one out. I would say this has quite slow pacing, so if that is not normally your thing then it may be something to be aware of. Have you guys read this book?  I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Eagles of Rome trilogy / Ben Kane

Title / Eagles At War, Hunting the Eagles and Eagles in the Storm
Author / Ben Kane
Publication Date / 2015, 2016, 2017
Overall Star Rating / 
Goodreads synopsis of book 1: In the summer of 9 CE, Publius Varus, the Roman governor of Germania, and Lucius Tullus, a centurion garrisoned on the Rhine, march east with three legions. As they prepare to return to their winter quarters, they are lured off the road and ambushed by German warriors. The Germans are led by Arminius, a chieftain who is a trusted ally of Rome—and a man who has been secretly planning to betray the empire since childhood. Trapping Varus’ legionaries between a hillside and a marsh, and thereby preventing them from forming up or using their artillery, Arminius and his warriors wreak a terrible slaughter. The Roman defeat is overwhelming, but it is not until the third day of the massacre that the scale of Arminius’ victory becomes clear. Three legions, upwards of 14,000 men, have been annihilated, and three treasured Eagle standards have been lost. Just a few hundred legionaries, including Tullus, manage to escape. Nor is the survivors’ ordeal over. Pursued to the last Roman fort east of the Rhine, they are besieged by thousands of bloodthirsty tribesmen. Only the gods can save them now.

 

I picked up the first book up on a bit of a whim as I wanted to try out more historical fiction. I’m glad I did, although it take me a while to get into the first book. I thought this trilogy was a fantastic military historical fiction depicting the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD (the first book). Now I knew very little about this time period before reading this book, so I can’t so much about the accuracy of the historical elements, but I thought this was a fantastically realised trilogy. Personally, I felt that you could really tell that the author had done his research for these books. The world felt very authentic and from the beginning of the first book I was immersed in this world. The level of detail in this trilogy really lends itself to creating a very vivid world but at the same time it is very readable. It is not bogged down by all of the details. As I have briefly mentioned before, I do not know a lot about this time period, so I cannot comment on its accuracy. I can only say that the world Kane created is a vivid one. After reading this trilogy I am definitely interested in trying more historical fiction set in this time period.
The writing is great and so easy to get into. Kane does a fantastic job at creating tension and the overall atmosphere throughout the trilogy was so well done. It adds so much to the reading experience. This means that even if you know the history behind this time period and battle, you will still enjoy the book, despite knowing what will happen. The narrative does switch between a few perspectives (mainly switches between Arminius and Tullus), all of which are engaging but it’s perhaps something to be aware of if you are not normally a fan of multiple perspectives. The characters are all well written, if a little wooden at times. Having said that, I thought their progression throughout the trilogy was good. I will say that these books are quite battle focused and have a fair amount of violence in them, so if you’re a little squeamish than I would probably avoid this trilogy. The second book didn’t quite have the same intensity as the first and third book, in my opinion. I did still enjoy it, but it felt a little lacking. These books were pretty quick reads for me though, as the plot is engaging. There were a few instances of the plot dragging a little bit but the writing and world meant it was still gripping. Basically I thought this was an enjoyable historical fiction trilogy and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic military historical fiction trilogy. I didn’t know much about this time period before reading this and I would definitely say you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy this trilogy. I think these are great reads for any historical fiction fan. I am interested in trying more books by this author. I’m sorry this review is quite short but hopefully it means that it’s concise :). Have you guys read these books? What did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa