Friday, January 29, 2010

Mark Charan Newton Signs a New Two-Book Deal

Mark Charan Newton, the author of Nights of Villjamur (review) and City of Ruin (review) has signed a new two-book deal, for an undisclosed five-figure sum. You can read the official press release on Newton's blog alongside his comments.

His current Legends of the Red Sun series will remain as a tetralogy, as he had always planned. These two books will continue the series, taking place in the same world. As he puts it himself "The history is large enough for me to have some fun with."

As a reader, I'm very excited about this good news. As you can see from my reviews, I think very highly of the first two books of Legends of the Red Sun series. And the promise of getting more of that is exciting indeed.

Congratulations Mark! Looking forward to reading your new books!

Review: City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton

Title: City of Ruin
Author: Mark Charan Newton
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Top
Publishing Date: 4 Jun 2010
Hardback: 400 pages
Series: Second book of the Legends of the Red Sun tetralogy.


Welcome to Viliren! Despite the rapidly changing climate of the Boreal Archipelago and the beginning of an ice age, Viliren still looks like a wealthy and healthy city ruled by free democracy instituted by Portreeve Lutto. However the illusion of greatness disappears quickly as you set foot in the underground where the rotten heart of this city beats, where democracy doesn’t exist and where the king is the intimidating Malum.

Viliren is where the paths of Investigator Jeryd and Commander Brynd cross. Jeryd flees Villjamur and finds himself tracking a mysterious and merciless serial killer in Viliren, while Commander Brynd has the impossible mission of preparing the city defenses against the approaching genocidal Okun tide.

Viliren is also the destination of Randur, Eir, Rika and Denlin who left Villjamur behind on a rickety boat. They have a long and a perilous journey to live through.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

I'm not sure that I like this cover art. The person on the cover, probably Commander Brynd, looks almost manga-like to me. Although, I like Brynd's looking over his shoulder, which probably intends to convey the uneasiness he feels in Viliren. After having read the book, I can think of a few other ideas that, in my humble opinion, would have suited the book's spirit better:

Instead of Brynd, we could have seen Jeryd looking over his shoulder in a dark alley. And not viewed from directly behind him but from a bit higher. Or even a picture of Viliren, from the harbor, the point of a ship visible in the foreground breaking the ice and progressing towards the city.


And I used to think those nights in Villjamur were full of freak shows, Jeryd thought. This place is twice as bad.

If I was asked to write a very short review, I would use the excerpt shown above. Because, ladies and gentlemen, in this second book of Legends of the Red Sun series, Newton is braver. He mixes the same ingredients he let us taste in Nights of Villjamur but his elixir is bolder this time. I imagine there's a risk in being brave, but I think Newton does an excellent job in keeping the reader captivated and surprised, and in creating an unusual setting that is not absurd but that creates an intriguing world full of mysteries and astonishments.

In City of Ruin, Newton gives us back some of the characters that we met in the first book and the reader has the pleasure to discover some very interesting new personalities. Just like in Nights of Villjamur, these characters are alive and they are colourful: some darker than others. The reader ends up caring for them easily.

Even though it starts slightly slower than the first book, City of Ruin quickly picks up pace. The story contains a lot of surprises, unfortunately not all of them good. It also contains a fair amount of military action, which I really enjoyed. As I mentioned earlier, it is braver in including unusual fantasy elements. I especially loved the horror-scented parts.

An aspect that I appreciate very much in books running well balanced parallel stories is the lack of a single central hero and the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the protagonists. All the characters add colour to the tale however none of them is indispensible. Therefore, the reader is always left anxious about the fate of their favorite character while reading about their actions.

Newton also continues his world building in this second book of the series. The reader is given more information about the various aspects and the history of this world, which answers some of the question marks appearing in the reader's mind throughout both books. At the same time, it opens up more questions, hopefully to be answered in the future installments.

I was lucky enough to be able to read Nights of Villjamur and City of Ruin back to back. What a treat this was! If you are looking for a full-bodied fantasy series with pleasantly unusual traits and satisfying twists and turns then pick up your copies. I absolutely loved both books and I'm looking forward to reading the third installment.

Rating: 9.5/10


"Amusing that you assume merely seeing will confirm reality. If one sees a stump of a tree in a field at dusk, it may resemble the form of another human, and your fears may creep in, but it is still a tree. One should question what is being seen, at all times." - Artemisia

"When someone has no future, they look in the other direction" - Malum

"It takes one individual genius to recognize another" - Bellis

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cover/Fantasy Artist: Jesse van Dijk

I came across Jesse van Dijk's work on an on-line forum and I really liked it. Two of his works, shown above, are used on two of the books of the German fantasy author, Alexander Lohmann (unfortunately I don't speak German so I won't be able to comment about Mr. Lohmann's books) and they are outstanding in my opinion.

If you visit Jesse van Dijk's site, you'll see various other book covers and some of his personal and commercial work. Especially where he plays with the light, he can create some amazing fantasy settings (clicking on the images will take you to Jesse van Dijk's site directly):

Update: In case you're wondering about the English translation of Alexander Lohmann's books, I contacted Bestei Lübbe, the German publishing company. They don't hold the translation rights and they kindly forwarded my enquiry to the author himself. I'll update this post when I hear more about this.

Monday, January 25, 2010

City of Ruin and Two of Its Chapters

Last night, I finished reading Mark Charan Newton's City of Ruin. Sequel to the brilliant Nights of Villjamur, that I reviewed very recently, City of Ruin doesn't deceive. I loved it and I'm going to post my review during the week.

City of Ruin is going to be published in June in the UK. But in the mean time, you can check two of its chapters on the author's blog.

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gamers! Donate $20 to Haiti Relief and Get $1482-Worth of E-Books

Are you a gamer? DriveThruRPG has an incredible incentive for gamers willing to donate money to Haiti relief efforts. For a simple $20 donation, you can download $1482-worth of e-books.

This is a very generous offer and I hope the gaming community's response will be as generous.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton

Title: Nights of Villjamur
Author: Mark Charan Newton
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Publishing Date: 5 Jun 2009
Hardback: 400 pages
Series: First book of the Legends of the Red Sun tetralogy


It is getting colder every day in Villjamur. Its inhabitants, much luckier than the thousands of refugees camping at the gates, are trying to get ready for the Freeze, the ice age that's going to last 50 years.

Villjamur is home to investigator Rumex Jeryd who finds himself working on a mysterious murder case. Villjamur is the destination of Kapp Brimir, a young man native to Folke, who is trying to save his mother under a false identity. Villjamur is what commander Brynd Lathraea's army is protecting. It is where Tuya Daluud is working... It is a city where, on a typical night, you would hear a Banshee keening in the distance, see a flash of magic with the corner of your eye, or hear a lute playing sevenths in some tavern nearby, accompanied by the dreary tune of an off-key singer. This is a city where at night you would easily see shadows stepping out of alleyways behind you, or hear the sound of ghostly feet scuffing on the cobbles. Villjamur is a city that breeds paranoia... and with good reasons...

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

I liked the cover art when I first saw it, well before reading Nights of Villjamur. After reading the book, I think it represents very well the picture of the city that the story is painting. Majestic but old, snow covered but dark, beautiful but dangerous...


The irony of the weather, I started to read Nights of Villjamur, a book that tells the story of people who face an ice age, when we had been living the coldest days in fifty years. Anyway...

It's hard to live up to the expectations, especially when the expectations are set extremely high after numerous highly praising reviews. This was the case with Nights of Villjamur when I had the opportunity to read it. When I think about it, I should have read this book long time ago. Not that I read all the books as soon as they're released but some of the bloggers whose tastes I trust, have posted excellent reviews about it. So, I should have listened to these reviewers and read one of the best books of 2009 in 2009.

Nights of Villjamur is a fast-paced and strongly-captivating book. It sticks to your hands and it becomes very hard to even take a break. I remember, by the time I reached chapter 9 I was totally sold. All I could think of was the story and its various characters who are not flat or black and white. In this book, the evil is not pure evil, the good is not dressed in white. They are multi-dimensional and they are believable. In the book, there are also many enthralling story threads running in parallel and its 46 chapters are pretty well-balanced.

In this first book of the Legends of the Red Sun tetralogy, Newton has created a very interesting world with numerous races. In the very beginning, I thought that the story was unfolding on Earth, in a very far future. Because the sun is red (probably a red giant) and it is dying, just like our sun will be in 5 billion years. However, it soon becomes obvious that it's about a planet with two moons.

The magical system is very smart and, I dare say, logical. I liked the way the magic worked, the way magical items are worked and the dangers involving untrained use. I'm not going to get into more details as I don't want to spoil it. I think you'd like to discover it yourselves.

Please don't hit me for being such a stereotype fantasy reader but one of the things that I first check in a fantasy book is a map. It's just that I like to visualize the world and keep it in my head while I read the story. To tell you the truth, the lack of a map didn't bother me much in Nights of Villjamur but I heard that the paperback might get a map yet.

I don't want to get into discussing things like New Weird or Old Peculiar, and I'm not going to pretend that I can do a good job at it. All that I know is that Newton has created an amazing story that dances among various genres and sub-genres. It is a dangerous thriller but it also contains traits of horror. It is fantasy but it also touches science-fiction. All this is mixed so well in this book that it was a true delight to read.

If I had read Nights of Villjamur in 2009, the year of its publication, it would have been one of my top two books of 2009. Now that I read in 2010, even though the year is very young, it's going to be hard to best it. The bar is raised very high.

Rating: 10/10


"Remember, this city is a city of legends. Long have poets written about the nights of Villjamur" - Urtica


Mark Charan Newton pays tribute to Arthur C. Clarke by citing Clarke's third law in Nights of Villjamur: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Know Thy Numbers

Series are very popular in fantasy and science-fiction. And of numbered series, trilogies are the most popular ones, probably because they date back to ancient times, to the festivals of ancient Greece. However, just like the word trilogy, there are others that cover series from 2 to 10 works:

Number of Works
Name (Greek)
Name (Derivative)
Duology can be used.

Quadrilogy is occasionally used.






Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Short Fiction: High Stakes by Sarah A. Hoyt

You can read Sarah A. Hoyt's short story called High Stakes on Darwin's Evolutions.


But you don’t stay alive very long by giving way to first impulses. Someone was unlocking my door. This meant they probably suspected something. The identity under which I’d come to Babylon was not that interesting. Unskilled, young – thanks to extensive cosmetic surgery – and with an assumed IQ in the high nineties. My coverup identity would mean nothing to them. This meant either that they’d suspected something – that I’d let my guard down somehow – or that the person opening my door had some other intention in mind. 

Read the whole story at: High Stakes by Sarah A. Hoyt

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Hyddenworld - Spring by William Horwood

Title: Hyddenworld - Spring
Author: William Horwood
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Macmillan
Publishing Date: 5 Feb 2010
Hardback: 325 pages
Series: First in a tetralogy


The journey beings here...

According to the myth, Bearnamund, the greatest metal-smith, the greatest CraftLord, made a flawless sphere of metal and glass, in anger, the day his beloved Imbolc died. Seeing Bearnamund's audacity, Gods shattered the object in pieces. He could only find three parts of it... three gems: one for Summer, a second for Autumn and a last one for Winter. He knew the one for Spring was close-by but he could never find it. He also created a pendant disc of gold, where he set the three gems, in the belief that Spring, the lost one, might one day come to light...

Over the centuries, the humans have lost their belief in such things but the hydden have not. That's not the only thing we have lost our belief in. “Humans are almost blind to everything but that which directly concerns them” they say in Hyddenworld. So we cannot see the hydden, or their dwellings. The hydden city of Brum is such a place. It lays just below the centre of modern Birmingham, whose human inhabitants go about their business in ignorance of the fact that one of the most historic cities in the Hyddenworld exists right under their noses...

Jack is a hydden but he's a giant-born... an outcast... In an attempt to save his life, he is sent to our world when he was six years old. And being a giant, he could live with the humans just like a regular kid. But there are legends and prophecies that suggest a giant-born is needed to find Spring, the missing gem. So his destiny, his wyrd as the hydden call it, brings him closer and closer to the Hyddenworld...

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

I like the cover of Hyddenworld - Spring. A dark forest with an eerie green light source gives a mysterious air to the book and whispers invitingly (it almost suggests an alien presence or evokes Stephen King's The Tommyknockers). I assume that the following books' covers will be based on different colours. Green representing the Spring, other colours will probably be chosen according to the other seasons.


I haven't read William Horwood's Duncton Wood novels, which I've only heard good things about. So Hyddenworld - Spring, his first fantasy in 15 years, was his first novel for me. I was expecting to be moved by this book after having read the blurb and an early review. Unfortunately this book disappointed me in various areas:

Because Hyddenworld - Spring is the first book of a tetralogy, I was not very surprised to see that the first half of the story was very slow paced. I know this may happen with long series, especially with the ones where the setting or the world building is done very meticulously. Throughout the book, there was a lot of information to digest about the characters, about their past and about the history of Hyddenworld. Jack and Katherine's reunion dragged quite a while. I appreciate that it's important to witness their developing relationship however it was plain boring for me. Furthermore, I found the general tone of the book too innocent.

The plot was flat and not very engaging. There weren't any surprising turns and twists. At no point in the story I was worried for the protagonists or even for the other characters.

I couldn't relate to the protagonists. Actually, I can probably say that the only character that I enjoyed was the young and intriguing Stort. When I closed the book to take a break, the characters didn't come with me. They stayed safely in the story and my mind was elsewhere. I didn't feel the need to talk about them. I simply failed to care about them.

But of course it wasn't all negative. In his book, Mr. Horwood has started to develop a beautiful world. He creates a colourful and magical environment. It's a pity I didn't read Hyddenworld last year when I was travelling to Birmingham every week. I would have looked at the city and its canals differently. The descriptions, characters backgrounds, side stories and the hydden mythology introduced in this first book give the impression that it is part of a much bigger picture. I'm expecting the future books to further expand the world of the hydden.

At the end, when I think about Hyddenworld - Spring, I almost feel like someone who missed the subtlety of a joke. You know? Just like when you don't get the humor but you know there's something there? I think that a lot of people will like this book very much. It's just that I'm not one of them.

Rating: 5/10


"But that's always the challenge of life itself, having to make such difficult choices." - Brief


[Possible spoiler ahead...]

There is something that I didn't quite understand. Jack is a giant-born: he is a giant in Hyddenworld. He's sent to our world so that he escapes execution because at the age of 6, his abnormality is apparent in his size. When he crosses into our world, his size doesn't change. But when he goes back to Hyddenworld when he's 17, he shrinks and becomes hydden-size. There seems to be an inconsistency here or I am missing something obvious. If he's a giant-born, he should be a giant when he goes back to Hyddenworld. If he's not a giant in Hyddenworld anymore, it would have been enough to send him to our world when he was a kid and get him back immediately in hydden size.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Color e-Readers to Arrive Soon?

The e-Reader market is growing fast and e-Readers are evolving rapidly. We all have been hearing about new e-Readers coming into the market, contributing to a fiercely competitive environment. Especially before the holiday season, e-Reader related news and advertisements multiplied.

These days, the source of the most of the news is where the heart of the electronics market is currently beating: 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And of course, among a total of 2,700 exhibitors, e-Readers occupy a large area with a multitude of vendors and their devices.

As e-Readers evolve, one of the areas where companies seem to compete is the color display. And I heard two very interesting news on this subject.


The first one is about Liquavista who produce e-Paper readers.

The video above shows LiquavistaColor, Liquavista's color e-Reader. As you can see, this is a demo device. It's probably attached to a unit simulating the user interactions. So if the device response time is just like as it's shown in this demo then I'm extremely impressed by it.

Their e-Readers are e-Paper readers but not e-Ink. There seems to be a misconception that I keep hearing: e-Ink is a company. They produce the popular display that is called EPD (Electrophoretic Display). EPD is used by the most popular e-Readers such as Amazon's Kindle and Sony's PRS series. Liquavista uses a technology called EWD (Electrowetting Display), therefore their displays are e-Paper but not EPD as we are used to see in popular e-Readers. EWD has some advantages over EPD. For instance, higher contrast and better refresh rates make this technology even capable of displaying video in an acceptable fashion. Apparently, LiquavistaColor is based on their monochrome product called LiquavistaBright and it offers color viewing with quite high reflectance.

Kindle 3

The second news that I consider interesting is about Kindle 3. Actually it's about Qualcomm's new display technology called Mirasol.

When pressed about who its partner might be in 2010, a company spokesman asked me, "You know that device that everyone reads books on? Well, it's going to be a game changer on a device we all know."

If the two rumorish news articles that I read are true (this one and this one), that's the technology that Kindle is going to use in the future. How soon? Your guess is as good as mine. Do you think that we are going to meet the new Kindle just before the next holiday season?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Best e-Book Readers in 2009

1) Sony PRS-505
The "Classic" and the absolute winner among all the readers since sales began. But it is no longer manufactured since 2009.

2) Pocketbook 301+
The company pocketbook began its triumphant climb with this model, and so they captured 2nd Place in the rankings.

3) Pocketbook 360°
The novelty of the year 2009! Pocketbook 360° could prove a better place if the price is not with the "classical" 6" models would have been comparable.

Bear in mind that the above list is representative of the Russian market where the format requirements are different than most of the other countries. For instance, ePub is not popular in Russia, they mostly use fb2 therefore devices that don't support fb2 probably lost points during the comparison.

By the way, check this page if you want a quick guide to e-Book formats!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Generic Question Regarding Something I Read in Best Served Cold (No Spoilers)

While I was reading Joe Abercrombie's brilliant Best Served Cold, I came across the following section:
The Army of Grand Duke Rogont marched across it [the great bridge or Puranti] in good order, six men abreast. The regular tramp, tramp of their boots was like a mighty heartbeat...

This raised a question mark in my mind. I'm not sure where I got this from but as far as I know, armies don't cross bridges in an orderly fashion to prevent any damage caused by rhythmic tapping. Maybe someone with some general military knowledge can comment on this.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Book Review: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Title: Best Served Cold
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Gollanz
Publishing Date: 1 June 2009
Hardcover: 544 pages


Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the Butcher of Caprile, was the best mercenary, the best general that Grand Duke Orso had employed. But Monza and her brother had become a little bit too popular to Orso's taste. Feeling threatened, he decided to kill them. But if you try to kill someone like Monza, you'd better make sure that she's dead.

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

This cover art is proof enough that we don't have to use lone capped figures to create an attractive cover. I kinda like the fact that it has similar traits with the covers of The First Law trilogy. Furthermore, the hardback cover is very beautiful when it's unfolded.


In a recent interview, when he was asked about how he wanted his readers to feel after reading his books, Joe Abercrombie said:

"I'd like them to feel they've been entertained – thrilled, amused, tantalized, titillated, surprised, or some combination of the above... I'd like them to feel they've met some vivid, interesting, unusual characters, and that those people will stick with them for some time to come... Above all, of course, I'd like people to shut my book with a burning need to pick up the next one..."

Well... I must admit that he succeeds in all of the above with Best Served Cold.

In his latest dark fantasy book, Abercrombie welcomes us back into a world where mercy and cowardice are the same and a world that is familiar to those who have read his The First Law trilogy. Mentions of Tul Duru, Bethod, Black Dow, the Dogman and Ninefingers bring back memories about other great stories from the same world.

When I started to read the book, the first thing I told myself was about the protagonists. They were so alive, I wanted to read more just to be with them. They felt real, they even talked real as Abercrombie makes his characters talk like real individuals. They react, have sex, urinate, curse and insult like real people, which contribute to the overall atmosphere of the book. Furthermore, the protagonists are multifaceted so one is not confronted with only good or only evil characters. It's also a real pleasure to read their dialogues. Throughout the book, I had them pictured clearly in my mind. The martial wisdom scattered throughout the book, the protagonists' own humour, their sarcasm and their personal struggles add much color to the story.

Best Served Cold is a fast-pacing book. From the start, it cruises pretty much constantly at 6th gear. The scenes, especially the action scenes are very captivating. They are so vivid, they go through you like hot iron. More than once, I found myself reading with all muscles clenched.

In this era of multitudes of series, it is also a blessing to read a great standalone. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to read more books written in this world. However, it's nice not to have to wait for future instalments to read the end of the story. It is also a welcoming change to read about a female main protagonist.

Best Served Cold tops the list of best fantasy books that I read in 2009. With it, Joe Abercrombie confirms his place as one of my favourite authors. I'll follow his pen anywhere...

Rating: 10/10


"I have been many things. A student. A messenger. A thief. A soldier in old wars. A servant of great powers. An actor in great events. Now? Now, it seems, I am a man who settles other people's scores." - Shenkt

It was truly hard to choose a single quote among so many good ones. For more quotes check my earlier post.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quotes from Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold

Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold topped my best fantasy reads in 2009 (review will follow soon). I loved every bit of it, so I thought it would be good to extract the quotes that add such an epic air to this book. Here are the ones that I particularly enjoyed reading:


"Good steel bends, but never breaks. Good steel stays always sharp and ready. Good steel feels no pain, no pity, and above all, no remorse"

"The dead can forgive. The dead can be forgiven. The rest of us have better things to do."

"A strange group she'd gathered, surely, but when you have a half-mad plan you need men at least half-mad to see it through."


"It was just like the Dogman had told him. Once your hands are bloody, it ain't so easy to get'em clean."

"Right y'are! I must be the stupidest bastard in the Circle of the World, er? It's a wonder I can hold my own shit in without paying mind to my arse every minute."

"Death was death, same for everyone. The Great Leveller, the hillmen called it. Lords and beggars made equal."

"You have to take what you can while you still have breath. The earth holds no rewards but darkness."

"All your life spent getting ready for the next thing. I climbed a lot of hills now. I crossed a lot of rivers. Crossed the sea even, left everything I knew and came to Styria. But there I was, waiting for me at the docks when I got off the boat, same man, same life. Next valley ain't no different from this one. No better anyway. Reckon I've learned ... just to stick in the place I'm at. Just to be the man I am."

"War killed some soldiers, sure, but it left the rest with money, and songs to sing, and a fire to sit around. It killed a lot more farmers, and left the rest with nought but ashes."

Shivers & Friendly

"What do the dice say?"
"Dice say nothing. They are dice."
"Why roll'em, then?"
"They are dice. What else would I do with them?"


"A man sleeps through most of his life, even when awake. You get so little time, yet still you spend it utterly oblivious. Angry, frustrated, fixated on meaningless nothings. That drawer does not close flush with the front of my desk. What cards does my opponent hold, and how much money can I win from him? I wish I were taller. What will I have for dinner, for I am not fond of parsnips? It takes a moment like this to jerk us to our senses, to draw our eyes from the mud to the heavens, to root our attention in the present. Now you realise how precious is each moment. That is my gift to you."

"Often, the last thing men believe is the truth."

"Sometimes you must take one life to spare more, and when those times come, sentiment helps nobody."

"But chaos is the natural state of things, for men pull always in their own directions. It is those who want the world to march all the same way that give themselves the challenge."

"I have been many things. An apprentice. An ambassador. A solver of stubborn problems, and a maker of them. Today, it seems, I am a man who settles other people's scores."

"I have been many things. A student. A messenger. A thief. A soldier in old wars. A servant of great powers. An actor in great events. Now? Now, it seems, I am a man who settles other people's scores."


"Still, it was better to swear an oath and never follow through than not even to bother with the oath. Wasn't it?"

"The world changes, alters, is born anew and presents a different face each day! A man never knows what each moment will bring!"

"The world is all change, my friend. We all would like to go back, but the past is done. We must look forwards. We must change ourselves, however painful it may be, or be left behind."

"The memories of our glories fade," he whispered, "and rot away into half-arsed anecdotes, thin and unconvincing as some other bastard's lies. The failures, the disappointments, the regrets, they stay raw as the moments they happened. A pretty girl's smile, never acted on. A petty wrong we let another take the blame for. A nameless shoulder that knocked us in a crowd and left us stewing for days, for months. Forever." He curled his lip. "This is the stuff the past is made of. The wretched moments that make us what we are."

"In my experience, life rarely turns out the way you expect. We must bend with the circumstances, and simply do our best."

"It's always the poor who are crushed under rich men's ambitions."


"When you build your life around only one thing, love only one person, dream only one dream, you risk losing everything at a stroke."


"Patience is the parent of success."

"One battle at a time!"

"A captain looks first to the comfort of his men, then for his own."

"A good leader should never be comfortable."

"When faced with two dark paths a general should always choose the lighter."

"I have seen hell and it is a great city under siege."

"The general with the smallest numbers should remain always on the offensive."


"Mercy and cowardice are the same."

"Never trust a man beyond his own interest."

"Give me only evil men for friends. Them, I understand."

"Never fear your enemies, but your friends, always"

"Bravery is the dead man's virtue. The wise commander never trusts it."

"Never fight your own battles if someone else is willing to fight them for you"


"Money is a different thing to every man, but always a good thing"

"The people far prefer a leader who appear great to one who is."

"Any successful state is supported by pillars of steel and gold."


"When faced with two dark paths a general should always find a third."

"It is a deplorable thing to run from the enemy but often better than the alternative."

Kantic Scriptures

"When God means to punish a man he sends him stupid friends, and clever enemies."


"Blades can kill men, but only words can move them, and good neighbours are the surest shelter in a storm."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book Review: Like Mayflies in a Stream by Shauna Roberts

Title: Like Mayflies in a Stream
Author: Shauna Roberts
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hadley Rille Books
Publishing Date: 1 October 2009
Hardback: 196 pages


The mighty Gilgamesh, the Sumerian hero-king, is restless, which is causing great distress to the people Uruk. When he hears about a wild-man living outside the city in the wilderness, he sends Shamhat, a priestess of Inanna, to tame and bring him.

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

My first impression of the cover art was “I don't like it at all”. It definitely didn't appeal to me the first time I saw it and it still doesn't appeal to me. Now that I read the book, I must urge you not to judge this book by its cover.


I wish I could say I've always loved History. Even though my mother was a history teacher, I never liked History at school. I can easily blame my teachers and above all, the programme that the schools followed. It was during my late teens that history piqued my interest, probably thanks to historical fiction that I've enjoyed since then.

Like Mayflies in a Stream is a historical fiction story taking place in Mesopotamia and it is a rather faithful interpretation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Mesopotamia, the cradle of the civilization and where the Epic of Gilgamesh is originated from, is one of the most interesting historical areas. That's why I was excited to have this book in my hands opening a window onto the life in ancient Mesopotamia. I didn't know the author before reading Like Mayflies in a Stream, however her background gave me enough comfort to trust the facts that she used as a basis for her story.

The protagonist, Shamhat, is a priestess of Inanna (As far as I remember, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Shamhat is pictured as a singer or a prostitute). The story is mainly told from her point of view. The other principal characters are King Gilgamesh, the wild-man Enkidu and Zaidu, the hunter who complains about Enkidu to Gilgamesh, therefore the main catalyst of the story.

The book is a relatively short one, which goes well with the Shauna Roberts' fast, resourceful but sharp style. Roberts tells a fast paced story without getting into lengthy descriptions. One of the parts that I really liked was her use of little sections, scattered throughout the book, giving information about the real life of this era: the material used for a makeup, the gazelle skin that a hunter carries, the way that a common house/hut is built. And those facts are not merely cited in a boring fashion. They are rather told to the reader discretely without turning the story into a documentary.

The biggest thing that disappointed me... or should I say I wish there were more character development. At times I found the story would have been even more gripping with deeper characters. It almost felt like the story was stealing the show and wasn't allowing the characters to fully bloom.

Like Mayflies In A Stream is a fast-paced historical fiction that I enjoyed very much. It was like a colourful window opened onto the Epic of Gilgamesh, the greatest story of ancient Mesopotamia. I don't doubt that anybody who has an interest in history would enjoy it.

Rating: 8/10


"Don't drive out the powerful; don't destroy the wall of defense!"