Monday, 27 September 2010


TroubadourTitle: Troubadour
Author: Mary Hoffman


Score: 7/10


Troubadour is an interesting book, that readers of most genres should enjoy. It is written fairly simply, in the sense that it is an easy book to read. The vocabulary isn't particularly difficult, and any period terms are generally explained in the prose (with a handy glossary at the back in case you forget).

In fact there was only one problem that I had with the historical aspects if the book, and that was the definition of France. In my mind, France is as it is defined now. But according to the map in the book, the south of France was a region known as Occitania. Now this in itself isn't a problem, but it would have been nice to have known this at the BEGINNING of the book. Consequently, "the French were attacking" confused me, given that I was under the impression it was a civil war.

But other than this slight confusion, I found myself enjoying learning history while reading a novel. Of course it's not  perfectly accurate, it's fiction, but it was an interesting experience, that I'd be happy to repeat. In fact, I really loved the first two parts (of three).

The third part however, feels rushed, sometimes unrealistic and somehow wrong. Obviously the war had to be won by the historical victor, but the fictional main character's end-story seems to disregard many of the threads that began the book, particularly what I would consider the main one, the love interest.

But before this final part, the feelings and emotions of the two main characters, Elinor and Bertran, are acutely described, and they seem to be very real people.

So while this book isn't in my normal reading genre, it has left an impression in my mind that perhaps I should read more historical fiction. The plot weakened towards the end, which was disappointing, but the first two parts, in my mind, more than made up for that. If you can't stand a book with a weak ending, this probably isn't for you, but if you read to appreciate a good writer, then buy/borrow/steal* this book as soon as possible.

*Do NOT steal the book, that was a joke.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): Female
Main Antagonist(s): Lots of Men
Main Relationships: Heterosexual
Genre: Historical Fiction
Brief Synopsis:

A story of persecution and poetry, love and war set in 13th century Southern France. As crusaders sweep through the country, destroying all those who do not follow their religion, Bertrand risks his life to warn others of the invasion. As a troubadour, Bertrand can travel without suspicion from castle to castle, passing word about the coming danger. In the meantime Elinor, a young noblewoman, in love with Bertrand, leaves her comfortable home and family and becomes a troubadour herself. Danger encircles them both, as the rising tide of bloodshed threatens the fabric of the society in which they live.

ISBN: 978-0-7475-9252-5
Website: Author's Site
Amazon Link: Troubadour
Pages: 278
First Published: August 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


ThistleTitle: Thistle
Author: Casey Simpson
Succeeded By: ???


Score: 5/10
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Probable


The first thing that can be said for this book, is that the characters are wonderful, especially the titular character, Thistle, during the middle section of the book. She is a lost and confused girl, who nevertheless is devious and very, very loveable. Another favourite are the two captains, Parma (a major character) and Dozy (a more minor character).

But while the author has written these wonderful characters well, I get the impression that the editing hasn't gone so well. There are regular mistakes in spelling and punctuation, as well as word misuse (their instead of there), which I believe needs to be looked at before this book can become widespread. There was also the single use of brackets, which personally, i find offputting in any story.

But as I earlier mentioned, the author writes rather wonderfully, and I'll discuss the plot in a moment, but there are two devices that I think the author uses exceedingly well. The first is psychology. The descent into madness of a particular character is impressive - the author switches to her perspective regularly, and each time she is less and less composed. But the author doesn't stop there. He manages to show us how each main character has changing views of increasingly insane woman.

The other device is more commonly done well, and is the dropping of important information early in the plot. I don't want to go into detail, as not to ruin the story, but it is there.

As with almoat any book. There are weak points, and the greatest weakpoint here was the romance. Early on, it starts well, in a scene with a drunken thistle, but then at the end it moves far too quickly. There is no real description of the getting together scene, it just happens, and no description of Thistle's feelings. Additionally, thay start calling each other beloved almost instantly, and while I could maybe expect that from the man, I would imagine that thistle would be scornful.

That getting together scene is one that I would have liked to have seen. The other is the ear removal scene. Or at least before and after, as it would keep that particular character in our minds, and show more her change in position.

Finally to the plot! While at first I found that there were too many sub-plots, and that the story was too complex for it's length, they quickly tied together nicely, and the one or two remaining sub-plots were woven well with the main plot. While each of the sub-plots were interesting (and Anselme's in particular could have been the start of a completely different book, such was the impact it had), when they joined together it made Thistle's storyline much richer.

Overall then, the main downfall of the book is the grammatical and spelling errors, which really need to be looked at. Nevertheless, the story is a good one, with the odd scene that I would like to see included to ease the flow of the plot.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): 1 Female (with 2 secondary male)
Main Antagonist(s): 1 Female
Main Relationships: Heterosexual
Genre: Fantasy
Amazon Synopsis:

On the edge of a crumbling empire, a young orphan struggles desperately to escape a life of poverty and slavery. When she stows away aboard a galleon headed for the capitol of the world, Thistle is set on a collision course with the Royal House of Ran. Aided by a drunken sea captain, a one eyed peddler and a boy soldier, Thistle fights to save her world, even as she learns the strange truth about this far future earth. A queen who must remain forever masked dreams of reviving ancient glories-and unspeakable weapons from the dawn time. But she is not what she seems, nor is the unforgettable girl known as Thistle. 

ISBN: 978-0982640913
Website: None Found
Amazon Link: Thistle
Pages: 350
First Published: March 1, 2010
Publisher: Flying Panther Media