Tag Archives: historical fiction

Review of Ironfoot (The Enchanter General #1), by Dave Duncan

I borrowed a copy of Ironfoot, by Dave Duncan, from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
It is 1164, and for a hundred years England has been ruled by the Normans. A young Saxon boy named Durwin, crippled by a childhood accident, had caught the eye of a Norman sage teaching at a rural school of magic. Realizing that the boy had promise, Durwin was made stable boy, and eventually allowed to attend classes.

Now twenty, Durwin is proficient enough that he is assigned to teach, but the other sages refuse to promote him and he is hassled by the Norman juniors for his disability. But those troubles turn out to be the least of his worries when he manages to corrects errors in an ancient corrupted spell, which promptly prophesies murder.

Sure enough, word soon reaches the school that one of the local count’s house sage has died, perhaps slain by black magic. Durwin is whisked away to the family’s castle, only to find that one death was only the beginning. The young sage quickly learns of a dizzying plot to assassinate King Henry. Dropped into the middle of the complex politics of England’s royal courts, can Durwin stop them in time?

I found this surprisingly enjoyable. It’s much more a mystery than anything else, so it’s not action packed, but it kept me interested and I really enjoyed Durwin and William. I’ll admit that I found William’s quick capitulation a tad hard to believe and, considering how much Durwin seemed to be discriminated against, he faced very little notable resistance. Plus, he’s just a bit too good at everything. But I liked the writing, the magic system and the plot. All in all, I just plain had fun with it and look forward to more.

Review Unicorn & Dragon, by Lynn Abbey

Lynn Abbey‘s Unicorn & Dragon is one of those books that’s been sitting on my shelf for years. The darned thing was published in 1987. I’m fairly sure I bought it at a used bookstore simply because it looked interesting.

Description from Goodreads:
Wolves are loose in the English countryside. A dying monarch cannot enforce the laws, and his heirs are circling like vultures. The small castle that is Hafwynder Manor is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a mysterious young stranger, too badly wounded to explain his plans. The forces of 11th century history invade Hafwynder Manor. Its safety—and perhaps the fate of all England—may depend on the deeds of the blonde, impulsive Alison and her sister, the dark-haired and cunning Wildecent. With the forces of the outside world raging at the castle walls, the two young women must learn to shape their own destiny!

I would have been greatly assisted in reading this book if I had a firmer grasp of the 11th century politics of the Normans, Saxons, English and French. I was able to follow the plot, but there was definitely a whole element I was locked out of, seeing as knowing at least the rudiments of this history seems to be assumed. As it was I thought it was interesting, but never truly felt I got to know the characters and at the end was left wondering, “Eh, what was the point?” Perhaps it become clearer in future books. This one wasn’t bad, but it didn’t sizzle for me either. Maybe it just hasn’t aged well, being published so long ago.

Review of Cooking for Picasso, by C. A. Belmond

I received an audio copy of C. A. Belmond’s Cooking for Picasso form Blogging for Books.

Description from Goodreads:
The French Riviera, spring 1936: It’s off-season in the lovely seaside village of Juan-les-Pins, where seventeen-year-old Ondine cooks with her mother in the kitchen of their family-owned Café Paradis. A mysterious new patron who’s slipped out of Paris and is traveling under a different name has made an unusual request—to have his lunch served to him at the nearby villa he’s secretly rented, where he wishes to remain incognito.

Pablo Picasso is at a momentous crossroads in his personal and professional life—and for him, art and women are always entwined. The spirited Ondine, chafing under her family’s authority and nursing a broken heart, is just beginning to discover her own talents and appetites. Her encounter with Picasso will continue to affect her life for many decades onward, as the great artist and the talented young chef each pursue their own passions and destiny.

New York, present day: Céline, a Hollywood makeup artist who’s come home for the holidays, learns from her mother, Julie, that Grandmother Ondine once cooked for Picasso. Prompted by her mother’s enigmatic stories and the hint of more family secrets yet to be uncovered, Céline carries out Julie’s wishes and embarks on a voyage to the very town where Ondine and Picasso first met. In the lush, heady atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur, and with the help of several eccentric fellow guests attending a rigorous cooking class at her hotel, Céline discovers truths about art, culture, cuisine, and love that enable her to embrace her own future.

Featuring an array of both fictional characters and the French Riviera’s most famous historical residents, set against the breathtaking scenery of the South of France, Cooking for Picassois a touching, delectable, and wise story, illuminating the powers of trust, money, art, and creativity in the choices that men and women make, as they seek a path toward love, success, and joie de vivre.

It took me quite a long time to get through Cooking for Picasso. Partly because it was an audiobook and those always take longer to listen to than for me to read, but also because it just felt like a really long book to me. I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction. I want to be and keep trying it, but it’s rarely fantastical enough for me. But even though I admit this one was a pretty good one there was still a fairly long bit in the middle that lagged. The beginning is engrossing and by the time the red herons start toward to end, I was interested again. But the middle seemed to go on interminably.

I also so desperately wanted this to be some other story than a rebellious girl meets an older, famous man and sleeps with him. Granted, there is more to the story than this. But it is essentially this story and I didn’t want it to be more, I wanted it to be different, less cliched. This feeling only worsened when one of the characters is sexually victimized late in the book. I saw why the author did it, what changes it brought about, but it is just such an overused plot device. My disappointment was severe to find two such trite tropes in the same book.

The writing is beautiful. The mystery kept me guessing. It had a someone pat happy ending, but it is happy. And I liked the narrator, Mozhan Marno. All in all, not a bad book. Not necessarily the right book for me, but not a bad one.