Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Reviews By Others

From JS Online, a review of "Hild" by Nicola Griffith:
Steeping us in the taste of seventh-century England's mead, the weight and warmth of its gorgeously woven and embroidered fabrics, and the myriad sights, sounds and scents of long ago, Seattle writer Nicola Griffith has created a marvel and a joy.
 "Hild," the newest novel from this multiple award-winning author, takes place far from her works' previous settings: the future, an alien planet, or, in the case of her popular mystery series ("The Blue Place," "Stay," "Always"), contemporary Atlanta and Seattle. Historical fiction is new territory for Griffith. Yet through her seemingly effortless prose, the forts, farms, woods and battlefields of medieval Northumbria become deeply real to readers. Though never completely comfortable.
 "Hild" is filled with matter-of-fact accounts of the life of the past. Some are disturbing: the routine prevalence of death in childbirth; the shocking brutality of combat wounds — guts on the ground, yellow fat and red bones disappearing in a welter of blood. Some are surprising challenges to our modern take on medieval history, such as the presence of black people in European trading towns and ecclesiastical missions.

From the Wall Street Journal, a review of James Forrester's "The Final Sacrament" (final instalment in the Clarenceux trilogy, the other two books being "Sacred Treason" and "The Roots of Betrayal"):
"The Final Sacrament" brings to a close his trilogy about William Harley, loosely based on a real figure, who holds the post of Clarenceux King of Arms, the member of the College of Heralds charged with authenticating noble genealogies.
Clarenceux's previous adventures left him precariously trusted and protected by Lord Cecil, Elizabeth's Secretary of State. But on June 19, 1566, the situation changed, with the birth of a son (later James VI of Scotland and I of England) to Mary, Queen of Scots. His Catholic parents and Catholic baptism gave new hope to those who wished to overturn the Protestant Reformation. Things changed again eight months later with the murder of James's father, Lord Darnley. "The Final Sacrament" is set between the two dates, a point of dangerous instability.

From Pendle Today, a review of Alison Weir's "Elizabeth of York":
If Sir Thomas More was ‘a man for all seasons,’ then the female equivalent was surely Elizabeth of York.  Daughter of a Plantagenet king, wife of the king who founded the Tudor dynasty and mother of the larger-than-life King Henry VIII, this was the woman whose marriage ended the bitter Wars of the Roses.
Alison Weir’s comprehensive, compelling and very readable portrait of Elizabeth reveals not just her life and times but the woman behind the myth, the queen respected by her husband, adored by her son and revered by the nation.

(External reviews are not an endorsement by Melisende's Library)

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Additions To The Library

Well, November is upon us and the order has gone in for the next round of additions to the Library. And here they are:

The Crimes of Elagabalus: The Life and Legacy of Rome's Decadent Boy Emperor by Martijn Icks
Elagabalus was one of the most notorious of Rome's 'bad emperors': a sexually-depraved and eccentric hedonist who in his short and riotous reign made unprecedented changes to Roman state religion and defied all taboos. This book examines the life of one of the Roman Empire's most colourful figures, and charts the many guises of his legacy.

Great Commanders of the Medieval World 454-1582AD by Andrew Roberts
A magisterial survey of the military giants of the medieval world. (And at AUS$8.00- a bargain!)

The Kings & Queens of Scotland by Timothy Venning
The story of the rulers of Scotland's constituent states and then of the united kingdom of Scots from Kenneth MacAlpin onwards is complex and often violent. It is full of rapid reversals of fortune, brilliant and incompetent leadership, family strife, and triumph and tragedy closely intertwined. The obscure earlier history is often as fascinating as the better-known stories of the Bruce and Queen Mary, though less familiar. This saga of a thousand years is a tribute to the qualities of Scotland's rulers. (I have two others by Venning - collection nearly complete!).

The Italian Crusades: The Papal-Angevin Alliance and the Crusades Against Christian Lay Powers, 1254-1343 by Norman Housley
From the cover of the book:"The Papal - Angevin alliance and the Crusades against Christian lay powers 1254 - 1343" (hey - at over AUS$100.00 off RRP - a real bargain for a  300-page hardback edition!)

The Dukes of Burgundy: Charles the Bold, John the Fearless, Philip the Bold, Philip the Good by Richard Vaughan
First published nearly forty years ago, Richard Vaughan's masterly four-part history of the Valois dukes of Burgundy has never been surpassed. Beginning with Philip the Bold, Vaughan describes the emergence of the Burgundian state. John the Fearless defended and developed its power ruthlessly during his ducal reign, which reached its apogee under Philip the Good. Charles the Bold ruled a state that was recognised as one of the major powers of medieval Europe, his ambition extending to an alliance with England. With the death of Charles fighting the Swiss army at Nancy in 1477, Richard Vaughan brings this history of the Burgundian dukedom to a triumphant conclusion. (Four volume box set).