17 June 2014

Rivers of London

Author:  Ben Aaronovitch
Year published: 2011
Series: Rivers of London 1
Pages: 432
Time It Took To Read: A few days, could've been quicker if I hadn't taken my time

Imagine if Harry Potter didn't go to Hogwarts, and 12 years later, he was working for the police when someone said 'yer a wizard, Harry'. That's how I described the pretext of this book to my sister. I don't think I can improve it.
Peter Grant is a fairly rubbish Met copper, who just before he finishes his preliminary training, has a chat to a ghost at a crime scene. From there, his career path wildly deviates from the path he wasn't really looking forward to. Not only is something possessing people to commit awful crimes, there's gang warfare breaking out between the rivers. No spoilers.
I loved it. I don't even want to write a proper review because I want to go and start the second one right now. I SAVOURED this book. I read it slowly (not one for reading things slowly, me), I thought about it, re-read bits if I didn't 'get' them the first time. London is lovingly, perfectly described, and the people are believable and solid. Except when they're ghosts, and then they're just malevolent. 
It's perfect for those who like their supernatural fiction to be actually believable, and not too romantic. 

I'm also reading The Odyssey at the moment. Which is quite the different tack. 

Book count: 22/50

12 June 2014


Author:  Conn Iggulden
Year published: 2013
Series: War of the Roses, books 1
Pages: 512
Time It Took To Read: A couple of days

You may have sensed a theme in my recent reading. Historical fiction (plus some fantasy), are really the only fiction books I like. And recently, I've been reading buckets of them. I am AGGRIEVED that once again, I have started a series of books that isn't even close to being finished yet. Truly, this makes me cross. My patience is thin, but I only need to wait for September for the next one.

So, the Wars of the Roses. A horrible, bloody struggle between the descendants of Edward III, which ended up in Henry VII - who had the weakest claim to the throne - taking the crown after the Battle of Bosworth Field. This series takes a rather different view of the political machinations that led to it (notably the surrendering of French land in exchange for a French bride), using an invented spymaster as the go-between amongst the factions, plotting and trying to keep the increasingly unwell Henry VI on the throne. There are bloody battles, people die without warning (shadows of A Song of Ice and Fire with this), and it's fascinating. There is real grit.

Most of the historical fiction I read of this period is framed in the eyes of women, and their historical powerlessness.  Much as I love a bit of romantic historical fiction (Alison Weir/Philippa Gregor), women do tend to lack nuance - either weak innocents, or megalomaniac monsters. This book, however, I loved because Margaret d'Anjou is amazing. She cries a lot, but she holds the power of the throne for her incapacitated husband. She's frightened, but doesn't show it. She takes the initiative. 

The historical notes at the end are lengthy, because Mr Iggulden (GREAT NAME) has taken a lot of liberties with the time scale, but I don't mind that. The only thing I have against this book is that I have to wait for more of them. 

Happy news! If I pass my exams, I'm buying myself a Kindle. Until then, I have about 20 books I've garnered and not read yet. BOOKS! THERE WILL ONLY BE BOOKS!

Book count: 21/50

9 June 2014

The Constant Princess and The Boleyn Inheritance

Author:  Philippa Gregory
Year published: 2005 and 2006
Series: The Tudors, books 1 and 3 (chronologically)
Pages: 490 and 528
Time It Took To Read: A day each

I read The Other Boleyn YEARS ago, which was Philippa Gregory's first Tudor novel (although the second, chronologically) and decided to read these as something light while revising. Which was a mistake, because these books are bloody addictive. They're not in the same ballpark as Mantel, but still enjoyable, and interesting. 

The Constant Princess covers the life of Katherine of Aragon, my favourite wife of Henry VIII. It tells the story of her first years in England, and her first marriage as well as her second. Katherine, if you didn't know, was married first to Henry's older brother, Arthur. That was his grounds for trying to divorce her years later when she didn't give him a healthy son. God was punishing him for shagging his brother's wife. Except that the Bible actually states you SHOULD shag your brother's widow if he dies heirless. But that's by the by: the crux is that Katherine claimed her first marriage was never consummated, and since Arthur died not long after their marriage, nobody could prove it either way. This book attempts to explain why she stood her ground over the virginity/divorce matter, and also portrays her as a young woman instead of the fat, barren, old hag that hangs in the background of other Tudor fiction as though she was always that way. The glaring historical inaccuracies are annoying if you know your Tudor onions, but it's still a good read.

The Boleyn Inheritance springs forward thirty years to the fourth and fifth marriages of Henry VIII. Anne of Cleves was divorced because of non-consummation, Katherine Howard was beheaded for sleeping with other men. The book speaks through Jane Rochford, who was the sister in law of Anne Boleyn, and narrowly escaped with her head after that due to giving evidence against both Anne and her husband George. She then returned to court, as Anne of Cleves lady in waiting and Katherine Howard's after her. She was complicit in Katherine Howard's adultery, and lost her head for it. That's the historical element: the book weaves a tale of Jane Rochford being an instrument of the Duke of Norfolk, and either really foolish or really evil. I enjoyed this one, as these wives of Henry VIII tend to get overlooked as ugly and slutty, when they were somewhat more complex than that.

Now...I have finished my exams (OH THANK GOD) and reading can commence once more! I have a pile of unread books like you wouldn't believe...

Book count: 20/50