April 2014
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Currently: 20.04.14, or, Happy Easter!

tssbadge1Time // Sunday evening, 18:45

Place // My desk

Eating // Nothing just now – earlier, some rosemary and olive bread from the market. Bread is my weakness. There may also have been a salted caramel brownie.

Drinking // A glass of water

Reading // Just like last time I did one of these posts, I’m actually between books – the space in which I fit blogging, these days. Earlier today I finished The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. If anything, it was a bit too literary for me, and I never really felt pulled back to it when I wasn’t reading. In contrast, a couple of days ago I finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and did absolutely love it – so still plenty of amazing reading going on. I’m not sure what to read next. I have Longbourn by Jo Baker up next on the immediate TBR pile, but I’m not sure it’s the one for my mood just now. I think I might make a Read-a-thon pile instead and see what catches my eye as I’m pulling books from the shelves.

Watching // I finished watching the second season of Call the Midwife the day before yesterday and immediately longed for the third! Unfortunately, all stores which might sell the DVDs are closed for Easter Sunday, so I have to wait a little bit longer to get my hands on it. We also went to see The Amazing Spiderman 2 in cinemas yesterday, which was okay. Not much else to say about it to be honest, I probably wouldn’t watch it again but it wasn’t a bad film.

Cooking // Amazingly, I’ve been doing a ton of cooking over the last week and a bit. It’s completely thanks to two things – Keith and I have been doing the Insanity workout for the last two weeks, which has been inspiring us to eat better, and the fact that we bought one of the Hairy Dieters’ cookbooks. The Hairy Bikers are a couple of British cooks who have made loads of TV shows and generally go off on their motorbikes to exotic locations and cook delicious-looking food. We became interested in their recipes after a friend cooked us an amazing beef curry and recently these two decided to go on a health kick and publish a couple of cookbooks, as well as make a TV show. These are perfect for doing with Insanity – they’re calorie counted to about the right amount of calories and actually are pretty healthy, easy to cook, and taste really nice. I find that cookbooks often contain elaborate recipes that don’t fit in too well with normal life and this cookbook so far has really been the exception. The recipes have a few more fresh ingredients than I might normally buy, but all the food is stuff we’ll actually eat pretty happily and has turned out well. So far, we’ve had a chicken pot pie, chicken bake, and fajitas, and made a couple of different cooked breakfasts.

Learning // Not actually learning much at present, which sounds pretty bad. I’ve been pouring effort into work and then doing the Insanity workout almost every day for the last two weeks. My brain is a little bit fried. I’m hoping, as usual, that things let up before too long.

Gaming // Nothing here either! As above. I haven’t been prioritising any of the games I want to play. Perhaps another time.

Loving/Hating // Still loving the coming of spring. It feels like new flowers spring up every week, which is just what I need on weekends. It’s also been surprisingly sunny, though not really warm enough for my tastes yet. Struggling with work at present – I wouldn’t necessarily say I hate it, but I’m not anticipating the return on Tuesday. Trying not to think about it until I’m there, and hoping that this week is the end and I can go back to feeling things aren’t too bad.

Anticipating // We’re going to see my parents and taking a long weekend trip to London in May – it’s going to be a busy month but in the best ways. And, next weekend, the Read-a-thon! I’m excited to participate and hope I do the event a bit more justice this time.

Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!

Review: St Cuthbert's Corpse, David Willem

st cuthbert's corpseSt. Cuthbert died over 1300 years ago, but the mystery of his incorrupt corpse has continued to fascinate generations of religious Brits, especially Northerners. Years after St Cuthbert died, a group of monks opened his tomb for the first time and were amazed to discover that he appeared lifelike in every way; though his body was covered with a white shroud, his limbs were flexible and his skin pliable. Over the centuries, his tomb has been moved across northeast England, finally finding a home in Durham Cathedral, but it’s been opened five times since with different discoveries made each time. David Willem looks at the original sources of each tomb opening to create the most reliable possible account of the corpse’s history.

I found this book unexpectedly fascinating, so much so that I actually came home from reading it on my commute and told my husband all about it (he’s not a history person but tends to listen patiently to my excited ramblings, as in this case). It’s a short book which I read over just two days, covering each instance of tomb-opening from the saint’s death to the last opening in 1899. There is no real ending possible, although the author does draw some conclusions; the saint’s corpse is still in the awe-inspiring Durham Cathedral, but it’s quite unlikely that it will be opened again any time soon. But the way he traces back the history and tries to figure out exactly what happened and how a corpse could be “incorrupt” two hundred years after burial was really interesting. It’s also fascinating to see what might happen to a prominent person’s body for centuries after death. This saint hasn’t been forgotten in the slightest and it does serve to remind us of how our mortal remains might gain a history of their own.

This is a very tightly focused book and doesn’t include much context; we don’t really learn much about what’s happening outside the small piece of the world inhabited by the corpse and those who tended to it. But for someone with a good background of the various periods of history, it’s clear that the corpse is actually impacted by each, from the Viking and Norman invasions to the dissolution of the monasteries right up to the later Victorian interest in antiquities. The way the corpse is treated is itself indicative of the general atmosphere at each given point. Very designed for people who already love history, rather than those who might be dipping their toe into the water, the book contains a number of excerpts from the primary sources consulted by the author. He’ll normally tell the story (and let it be told through the eyes of the primary sources) and then look more carefully at what the person has actually said.

In summary, I really enjoyed St. Cuthbert’s Corpse and would happily read more like it. A quick read that nevertheless adds a dimension onto history, certainly worth the time I spent reading it. I now know a lot more about St. Cuthbert and I’d like to go back to Durham Cathedral to visit the tomb in person.

I received this book for free for review.

The Belated March Wrap-Up

tssbadge1Good bye, first quarter of 2014! I have been so happy to see most of the back of this winter; the daffodils out have been making me really happy over recent weeks and just this last weekend we started spotting a greater variety of flowers and buds on the trees. It’s my allergy season, but this year I genuinely don’t care. I’ll sniffle happily outside if we’re heading towards summer.

As with a lot of months these days, March seemed to slip through my grasp. Suddenly it’s April, and we’re already nearly halfway through the month. How did that even happen?

I read a lot in March. I also went a little bit overboard with the book buying (probably my most egregious sin was buying six books in Forbidden Planet while a little bit tipsy. I guess if my worst crime while tipsy is going into a store full of books and buying too many, I probably don’t have much to worry about), which probably spurred me to read more than I ordinarily would have. I also appear to have gone on a mini fantasy binge in the middle towards the end of the month.

So, to books:

Fiction

  • The Arrow of Sherwood, Lauren Johnson
  • Empress, Shan Sa
  • A Dance with Dragons: Part 1, George R.R. Martin
  • One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Secrets of the Demon, Diana Rowland
  • The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau
  • Night Broken, Patricia Briggs
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black
  • A Tangle of Magicks, Stephanie Burgis
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  • Panic, Lauren Oliver
  • A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Non-Fiction

So yeah, that whole writing about every book I read again thing? It really isn’t happening. I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but at the same time, I have a lot to write about if I can dig some motivation up from somewhere.

Fortunately, I am still accomplishing those reading goals I set out in the beginning of the year. One book by an author of colour, which was Empress, and One Night in Winter is set in Russia. I also acquired Empress in 2008, so it satisfies my other condition of reading books bought pre-2013. I need to get better at that, though; all the rest of the books came from 2013 and 2014. I actually could get better at all of the goals, but I had a rough second half of the month, so I’ll let myself off a little.

Over the rest of April, I would hope that I’ll be able to get a few more posts going; I’ve got a lot of great books to review and I would like to re-start some mini reviews. I’ve also, believe it or not, had several post ideas going in my head, but whether or not they will make it to the blog is another question altogether. That said, it’s a four day weekend coming up, and I am really hoping to draft up some posts and schedule them out. We’ll see!

How did your March go?

Review: Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan

promise of bloodPromise of Blood is “flintlock fantasy” or, an epic fantasy set in a world with guns as well as magic, roughly equivalent to the 18th century (ish) in our world, a new-to-me genre. In this particular series, Field Marshal Tamas, the leader of the Powder Mages, who gain strength from gunpowder, has just overthrown Manhouch, the king, an exceptionally corrupt individual, and is now working to set up his own government against many who would prefer he not do just that. Some of those are in his inner circle, so Tamas enlists the help of Adamat, a private investigator, to find out exactly what’s going on, and his son Taniel “Two-shot” to protect his fledgling state from power-hungry neighbors.

The book felt to me very similar to those I’ve read about the French Revolution, except with a less redeemable monarchy and nobility. The fact that there are old-fashioned guns involved undoubtedly helped, as it seems to further the prospective era of the fantasy along in my head from the typical medieval-esque settings. The people are unhappy and the people are hungry; in the case, though, Tamas does genuinely want to help them. It made for a nice change and provided a different atmosphere than what I was used to. I’ve never read a book in this particular branch of fantasy before, as I generally start being less interested in history when guns get introduced, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I really liked the magic system. The Powder Mages don’t exist in isolation; there are also the Privileged, who work a different kind of magic entirely, and act in a sort of opposition to the Powder Mages. When first starting the book everything seemed very confusing, but it sorts itself out quickly and by the end of this first volume I felt very familiar with how everything was meant to work and who was who. I’d say it’s a similar learning curve to most books of this sort. If you’re starting a new epic fantasy series, you’re going to have to learn the ropes before you can enjoy the story, and this is one that drops its readers straight into the thick of it.

Undoubtedly this book benefited from the fact that I’ve spent the last few months craving fantasy (just like certain sets of historical fiction now suffer from over-reading). I really, really wanted to read a proper epic fantasy and this certainly started me off in that direction. It’s also fast-paced, with consequences that are wide and political but characters that are very human, aspects of books that I love. Probably its only fault is that virtually all of the characters and central players in it are men. Women are rarely featured in positions of power, with a few exceptions, in the particular society McClellan has created, although the foreign Ka-poel, Taniel’s bodyguard, is an excellent example of how women can subvert that.  I think Ka-poel is the most interesting character in the book, simply because she’s mysterious and completely underrated by most of the other characters. I’m really looking forward to seeing where McClellan takes her.

Aside from that particular gripe, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the world and the magic system and I felt I really got to know the characters. I’m invested in what happens next and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, The Crimson Campaign, out next month.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

TSS: Currently, 30.03.14

tssbadge1Time // Late Sunday afternoon, 17:15

Place // Same desk as always

Eating // We’ll be having a beef rogan josh for dinner – an experiment from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals

Drinking // Just water at the moment

Reading // I’m not reading anything right now. I finished Panic by Lauren Oliver this afternoon and Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan yesterday. I’m pondering what to nominate for the Hugos and still not firm on what to choose. I’m going to have to pick something eventually, there’s just one day left. No idea what I’m going to read next. Kingmaker by Toby Clements is next up on the TBR pile, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood for the Wars of the Roses. I might keep my head in fantasy while I ride out the next couple of stressful weeks.

Watching // Still watching a crazy number of shows and mostly just seem interested in making it worse for myself! We seem to be sticking with Red Dwarf right now and Breaking Bad when there’s more time in the evenings. I started watching Call the Midwife for when my husband is too busy with his final university course to watch with me. He’s never a huge fan of historical dramas, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out.

Cooking // I’ve been cooking a little bit. As mentioned above, I’m attempting a Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal later on tonight, and am trying to get back into it. Some, at least.

Learning // Back to the crocheting. I finished this interesting-looking frog just yesterday:

crochet frog

He’s not perfect, primarily because I ran out of the light green yarn before I could make his eyes, but it’s been a while since I actually finished a crochet project, so I’m just happy to have one done.

Gaming // I’m not sure I’ve even touched a game since the last time I played Halo 3 weeks ago. Oh, I tell a lie – I have played a little bit of Final Fantasy XIII, just to try and finish that game once and for all. With 2 sequels it can’t be that dreadful.

Loving/Hating // Loving the daffodils, the occasional nice days, the sunshine. I’ve been doing the 100 Happy Days challenge for the last week and making more of an effort to find things that make me happy. It’s working, a little, although at the same time I worry that it means I’m giving off this false message of perfect happiness to the social media world. Definitely not true. It’s reminding myself that happiness is a choice; that I can focus on the lovely things that make life wonderful and ignore everything that is getting me stressed and depressed. Ignore maybe isn’t the right word, but I have a bad habit of remaining worried and stressed about things that I either can’t help or can’t do anything about at a given time.

Anticipating // The end of the current round of stress at work. I had a moment two weeks ago when I thought things weren’t too bad and the universe seems to have decided to punish me for it. I want to go back to thinking things are not too bad. I’m hoping that time will come in a couple of weeks, but we’ll see.

Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!

Review: The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau

the chaliceJoanna Stafford has been cast out of Dartford Priory with her fellow novices and nuns thanks to the dissolution of the monasteries, but she’s still attempting to live quietly with her five-year-old cousin, Arthur. Fate won’t let her, though; an unexpected visit with relations who have been restored to prominence embroils Joanna in a plot that threatens the very heart of the nation. Even as she attempts to move past her previous life with a man who loves her, she can’t escape the threads of prophecy that wind themselves tighter and tighter as England’s future grows murky.

When I started this book, I’d somehow missed that it was a second book in a series – my own fault for not reading summaries or synopsis of any kind! The author does a good job of filling us in on the missing history, but I would highly recommend reading The Crown first so you don’t miss anything even if by accident.

That aside, though, I really liked this book, to my surprise as generally Tudor fiction doesn’t do it for me any more. Joanna is great as a main character and has a perspective unlike any that I’d read before. She has two struggles in this book; the first is against the prophecy which attempts to dictate her life and the second is to actually find what that life should be after her life in the priory. She’s a very religious girl by nature and by education and her inclinations in that way color her interactions with other people.

I liked the way that the prophecy was interwoven into the story. One of the things that is difficult to grasp for a modern mindset is that, in the medieval period at least, “magic” was often stuck in with religion without people struggling to differentiate between the two. I think this is starting to change at this point in time, but the prophecies around Joanna don’t really conflict with her faith. The messages from the prophets are a gift, not a curse, although Joanna grapples with what they actually mean she must do. The implications of them are interesting albeit extremely unlikely from a historical perspective.

Probably the only thing that annoyed me about this particular book was the love interests. Joanna is clearly a novice in the ways of love as she is with the church, and she never expected to have romantic contact with men. The dissolution of the monasteries changed all that. Joanna is now not only beautiful, but she’s an eligible romantic interest, and two men have feelings for her; Geoffrey Scoville and Brother Edmund, a former monk. Because I had no real background without reading The Crown, I wasn’t able to see how these relationships developed, and I think that affected how I perceived them in this book. Plus, I felt like one in particular pretty much forced himself at her more than once when she wasn’t too thrilled about it, which meant I was not his biggest fan.

Still, though, I really enjoyed reading The Chalice and I can only imagine that I’d have liked it even more if I’d read The Crown, too. I definitely recommend that you start there, but it looks like Nancy Bilyeau is an author to watch.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore

one night in winterAndrei Kurbsky’s father was exiled to a labor camp and he and his mother have spent the last few years in Stalinabad. In 1945 Russia, everyone is under suspicion, and with Andrei’s chequered family history, it seems like a small miracle that he’s been accepted into Moscow’s top school – where Stalin’s own children were educated. Andrei finds himself rubbing shoulders with the children of film stars and top governmental officials, developing a crush on a girl called Serafima, who is one of the most sought-after teenagers in the school. He is swept into the Romantics Club, where several of the students re-enact scenes from Eugene Onegin, one of Pushkin’s most famous plays. But when two of the teens end up dead, Andrei, Serafima, and their friends, just children, land in Lubyanka prison, subject to the brutal interrogation methods that could end up destroying them and their entire families.

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to have the state watch your every move, and arrest you on the slightest provocation, this book is one to read. It perfectly evokes the atmosphere of suspense and suspicion that haunted every single person in Moscow and in the rest of the Soviet Union. Any false move – even one that isn’t false – and prison awaited, along with the potential for exile to a labor camp where many suffered, including in this book Andrei’s father. For an idea of what this was like, I’d go read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – unforgettable. But this book covers instead the questioning, the wondering, and the suspense. No one was immune, not even these children.

Montefiore has written previous histories of Stalinist Russia, including biographies of the man himself, so he’s clearly done his research on the period which makes it easier to trust what he says. This is a surprisingly suspenseful novel; it’s easy to genuinely worry about Serafima, Andrei, and the other teens and children who find themselves in prison without being quite sure what they’ve done. The back story is revealed slowly, so we know Serafima has a secret from nearly the beginning of the book but aren’t sure what it is.

What I really liked in particular was the contrast between the children’s and some of their teacher’s love for what might be termed old Russian culture and the suspicious, derelict city of Moscow. Russia is still suffering the effects of the war and Stalin’s paranoia only increases as he ages; meanwhile in school, the teens admire the romance of Pushkin’s poetry and adore the teacher who shows them how life in the country used to be.

I really liked One Night in Winter; it’s a readable, tense, suspenseful account of what life may have been like during Stalin’s dictatorship. It has multiple threads of romance and mystery throughout, as well as a sincere homage to Russian culture. Recommended.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: The End of Plagues, John Rhodes

the end of plaguesDisease is a constant in our lives. For those who aren’t privileged enough to live or be born in a first-world country, disease and death is an even greater, every day fear. But many of these diseases are now preventable, primarily due to vaccination, and it’s the history as well as the future of this very modern medical miracle that Rhodes explores with this book. As an example, smallpox used to kill two million people or more every year. Now, it’s virtually extinct, surviving in just two known test tubes in the world. Rhodes starts with the pioneering work of Edward Jenner and moves through time to explore the discovery and science of vaccination, its history, and the current fight against some of the world’s fiercest diseases.

The End of Plagues was a fascinating and unexpectedly inspiring book. I had never really learned (or don’t remember) anything about the history of vaccines in school or otherwise, but I’m always interested in learning more about the world. This book spans the entire world when it comes to the history of immunisation and the fight to eradicate diseases. Most of the discoveries were made in Europe and in the United States, but the latter part of the book focuses heavily on the struggles which have and still are taking place in the Middle East and Africa to finally defeat some of the illnesses with vaccines. Disease is truly global and Rhodes looks at the entire world to get a clearer picture of where progress lies; it’s easy to forget that diseases we’ve obliterated from our own countries still flourish in others with many still suffering from illnesses we no longer see. But the progress that we’ve collectively made is astounding and it’s inspiring to read about so many countries coming together and choosing to protect their people and improve the world in the fact of extraordinary difficulties.

The history was really interesting too, although the book skipped around a little bit in the initial chapters which made it harder to follow. I got the drift quickly though, as discoveries came in hard and fast after Jenner first made his vaccine. One thing I was surprised to learn is the chequered history of older vaccinations. Because the vaccines were actually developed before the corresponding science, there was a huge amount of trial and error and it’s immensely safer now that we actually understand exactly what happens when a vaccine is placed into someone’s body. It’s a balancing act and in many ways it’s fortuitous that Jenner made his discovery exactly how and when he did (the book refers to this as serendipity and it resulted in a couple of discoveries). Vaccines are safer now, but despite the element of luck those initial vaccines and the ongoing campaigns now have eliminated scourges that have haunted humans throughout history.

Rhodes is extremely fair when it comes to understanding why people refuse vaccines for their children and even shares his own experience with doubt. Although links between vaccination and autism have been disproven, there is still a vocal minority of people who are firmly against vaccination for various reasons. While their children definitely benefit from herd immunity, these people open cracks in our defense against serious illnesses. Rhodes explores the history of vaccination and where those worries come from. In the end, though it’s small consolation to the few parents whose children do suffer side effects, vaccination has changed the world much for the better. The simple fact that children can play outside in midsummer without worrying about permanent paralysis or death proves this. Rhodes isn’t heavy-handed, but logical and understanding; worries are there, but he went ahead and vaccinated his daughter because he knew the consequences that ensued from a lapse in that “herd immunity”.

Definitely recommended – whether you’re questioning vaccination, whether you’re interested in history, whether you’re curious about efforts to cure current scourges (primarily malaria and HIV), whether you just want to learn something new. This is a book I’m glad to have read.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

TSS // Currently 09.03.14

tssbadge1Time // Sunday evening, 19:08

Place // The usual desk

Eating // Not much right now; I had a veggie pie earlier and will be having pulled pork for dinner.

Drinking // Copious amounts of tea to keep myself alert enough to get some work done

Reading // I’m currently in the middle of two books, the first half of A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin and One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The first is my commuting book on my Kindle. I’ve recently been tackling longer reads on the commute because I know I’ll make consistent progress while sitting on the train, although it took me a really long time to get into ADwD given how much I remember loving the previous books in the series. As for the latter, I’m about 150 pages in and completely hooked. I really want to know what’s going to happen to these arrested children in Stalinist Russia, and I hope it isn’t the worst.

Watching // We are watching too many shows right now thanks to our recent sign up to Netflix and its wealth of treasures. We discovered Sherlock quite recently and I have very happily jumped on the Benedict Cumberbatch bandwagon. We have just the last episode of season 3 left so please no spoilers. We also just recently started continuing with Breaking Bad and will then move on to House of Cards. When we don’t have much time, we’re re-watching Red Dwarf. 

Cooking // I’ve still not been getting on as well as I should have been with cooking this year. Maybe now that it’s lightening up in the evenings my motivation will come back. I’m still pinning recipes away so the desire to make delicious food hasn’t diminished, at least.

Learning // Not much to be honest. I’m considering investing in my first DSLR and getting better at photography. I did a bit of crafting towards the start of the year and re-taught myself how to knit, but I haven’t kept it up.

Gaming // In my new quest to get used to first-person shooters, I am playing the first Halo game on my Xbox. I can’t say I’m in love with it, but I must admit it’s helpful after a stressed day at work.

Loving/Hating // I love how warm it was today and the fact that daffodils are popping up! I can’t wait for summer; my husband says I’m wishing my life away, but I am so tired of being cold.

daffodils 2014

Mostly hating that it’s not really spring despite one lovely day. It’ll be cold again tomorrow.

Anticipating // Summer; visiting my parents in May; planning this year’s holiday (still not decided).

Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!

Review: The Arrow of Sherwood, Lauren Johnson

the arrow of sherwoodWhen Robin, Lord Locksley, arrives home from four years on Crusade, his family is astonished. His fiancée has become engaged to someone else, his mother has re-married a sheriff, and his estates have become entrusted to his young nephew, who has become the ward of the Viponts, one of the most dangerous families in Nottingham. They believed he was dead. Alive, he has to fight to regain what should be his by right. In doing so, he realizes that the Vipont family has been mistreating many of the lowborn families he grew up with; taxes are extremely high and the Viponts are closely allied to the Count of Mortmain, or John, King Richard I’s younger brother, who rules the country while his elder sibling is imprisoned in Germany. Justice is subverted and new laws are created to benefit the lords, not those who suffer under their leadership. Robin is convinced that something needs to be done, and as a lord without any of the benefits of lordship, perhaps he’s the one to do it.

The Arrow of Sherwood is written by a trained historian and it really shows in the best possible ways in this book. There are details which make it clear that this isn’t a tale of modern people in fancy old dresses or a gritty hack-and-slash which shows that the Middle Ages must have been brutal; instead, it’s somewhere in the middle, with scenes at court and scenes of battle and thievery. Johnson recaptures what sort of person Robin Hood might have actually been and the book’s realism, in my eyes, is a huge selling point and definitely set it apart. It’s also a bonus that this isn’t a book about the Tudors or the Plantagenets; it’s a realistic re-imagining of a legend and for that I couldn’t help but appreciate it hugely.

The book is well-written and takes us through Robin’s journey, which is fraught with twists and turns as he struggles with the almost insurmountable authority of the Vipont family. The book gives a really good idea of how much local families were stuck with each other; there are only so many people who have authority within a given region and if one person is higher up, that’s it for everyone else. Justice was a red hot iron pushed into your hand; if it was infected, you were guilty, and if it wasn’t, you were innocent.

The only issue I had with it was actually understanding the feasibility of the set-up behind Robin’s rescued prisoners. Towards the middle of the book we essentially have an entire “hundred” of people in a forest, masked as a leper colony, but one that no one ever finds except a couple of peasants and Marian and Elaine. In addition, Robin is juggling double identities and really doesn’t seem to lie very well. I had a difficult time believing he’d be able to keep the secrets with which he is entrusted and I didn’t understand why none of the Viponts ever think to follow Robin on his travels like some of the more minor characters do. The set-up seemed too convenient, although perhaps this is again just my modern brain not actually understanding the scale of a forest.

Definitely recommended for those who enjoy fiction set in the Middle Ages and, even though Robin Hood is a well-known legend, for something a bit different than the masses out there.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.