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The Dark Volume
6 New from
The second book in series following the adventures of Cardinal Chang, Miss Temple and Dr. Svenson as they attempt to thwart the cabal. The action takes place immediately after the last novel and continues in the mysterious alternative world full of blue clay, steam power and airships. The novel works as a stand-alone piece but it is highly recommended to read the previous book to fully understand the complexities of the plot.
The books in this series seem to polarise opinions with some critics singing praises and the others condemning. It seems however that this series is not generating the popularity that is deserves. The alternative reality and characters created by are superb however the plot at times can lose pace. That said, these books really are worth reading. Take a chance!
6 New from
This is the best of the Shardlake series by a small margin as all of the books have been excellent. This story sees Shardlake on the trail of Greek Fire and a Serial Killer. The plot moves at a terrific pace and is thoroughly absorbing. This is a terrific read, regardless of whether the book is read in sequence or not. Easily one of the best new historical fiction authors writing at the moment.
The Mauritius Command
7 New from
Patrick O'Brian's books are not for everyone. The complex narrative style and attention to technical details, make for vivid realism but may be to laborious for some readers. This book however is one of the easiest to read and has more of the traditional sea-battle sequences to liven up the action. Existing fans will probably enjoy the increase in pace of this novel compared to the series so far. That said this whole series is superb and thoroughly recommended.
13 New from
Dull and bereft of any exciting incidents, this is a poor novel from Cornwell, who is normally so solid.
Based in the Dark Ages this novel focuses on the formation of Alfred the Great's kingdom and the early days of England. The story is told from the first-person perspective by Uhtred a warrior caught between the warring factions of Danes and Saxons. It is this division that occupies the central line of the book with Cornwell merely stringing together a series of incidents to form a weak and vague plot.
The most apparent thread running through the novel seems to be about religious differences, with new found Christianity replacing the old Norse gods. Cornwell seems somewhat fixated by this and frequent references are made to the various character's religious convictions and which is a superior lifestyle. This seems to have little relevance in a book of this nature and serves merely to pad-out the plot. Uhtred's continuous idle boasts about his own physical prowess and general smugness, make him an unlikable boorish character. Cornwell also disappoints in the fight sequences, something he did so well throughout the Sharpe series.
This book seems just to be a poor attempt at a history of the formation of England, with Cornwell focusing too much on trying to highlight the social and economical issues rather than the plot.
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
10 New from
This book has all the right ingredients for an exciting and extraordinary mystery thriller. Set in a gothic alternative reality, the plot focuses on three very different characters, whose lives become inadvertently intertwined. The book follows each of the three characters, separately and as a group, frequently witnessing the same scenes from different perspectives. Unfortunately this is the undoing of the novel. Whilst the plot moves at a good pace when the characters disperse, it becomes somewhat tedious and confusing to repeat scenes or remember where the particular character left-off. As a result of this and the author's desire to prolong the mystery, the finale is too long in coming and the last few chapters are difficult to get through. That said, this is an entertaining and rich book that conjures a wonderfully plausible alternative reality and some terrific characters. It is a pity that it is let down by a distinct lack of pace in the final chapters.
The Big Sleep
1 New from
A fantastic read and exactly what you would expect of a classic private eye novel. The story unfolds in suitably cryptic way and Phillip Marlow is as tough as they come, other such novels pale in comparison.
2 New from
In an unusual change of scene, this episode sees Sharpe and Harper return to England to investigate the disappearance of the Regiment's recruits with the plot requiring the pair to go undercover.
Whilst this appears to be a resonable premise for a good story, the return to England limits the plot significantly. Rather than solving problems on the battlefield, Sharpe is required to dabble in politics with the plot revolving around a fish-out-of-water idea which does not fit well with the rest of the series.
Cornwell does manage to get some limited action into the plot but these tend to be isolated incidents, lacking the scale of a large battle. The usual battle sequences are sorely missed, as are the Green Jackets and whilst Sharpe does save the day, it's with brain rather than brawn.
1 New from
Obadiah Hakeswill returns to thwart and frustrate Sharpe in another installment. The title however is somewhat misleading as Hakeswill's role is quite small, with Sharpe's attention focused on the defence of a small but strategically placed fort instead.
Cornwell's decision not to feature Hakeswill so prominently is strange, as he has admitted that he believes that creation of Hakeswill was an achievement equal to the creation of Sharpe and Harper. This book ignores him to its detriment and whilst the battle sequences are delivered with the usual drama, Hakeswill is sorely missed. Hakeswill's appearances although few, do deliver the usual punch, arguably giving him the last laugh once again.
3 New from
This book is quite difficult to describe, it is a novel but written more in the style of a history book; albeit a fictional history of a future civilisation.
What Asimov has produced is not exactly a consistent novel following a series of characters but instead a number of episodes of significance over a period of 200 years. These episodes follow the particular stories of some key individuals which does not leave much room for character development and whilst this makes a captivating story, there was very little emotional link with the characters.
The book however was thoroughly enjoyable and the concepts that Asimov developed were literally light years ahead of eveyone else who was writing at the time. It was also interesting to notice how many modern Sci-Fi films and books have been inspired by the ideas contained in this saga.
The First Casualty
12 New from
This book is quite a departure from Ben Elton's usual satirical style but shows that he is a serious author. This book is ostensibly about a murder investigation in the First World War front-lines but is actually more about the horrors of war; however the plot is suitably strong as to maintain the reader's interest. If you like Ben Elton you will enjoy this venture into a more serious genre.