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To Defy a King (William Marshal)
To Defy a King (William Marshal)
von Elizabeth Chadwick
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,90

3.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining Historical Novel, with Minor Flaws, 7. März 2013
'To Defy a King' is a historical novel by the prolific author Elizabeth Chadwick. Like many books of this genre, it focuses on a 'strong' female character, in this case Mahelt, daughter of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, and wife of Hugh Bigod, heir of the earl of Norfolk. The novel is very well researched (though some research methods are rather unorthodox) and provides, as far as the facts are concerned, a good description of the events of this time. The years of the tyrannical rule of King John are a fascinating period of increasing unrest, civil war and political change. It is an entertaining, even gripping tale, probably more so for those who, unlike me, do not already know what is going to happen next on the 'big stage' of English history.

The characters are interesting, but a clear demarcation is drawn between the good guys and the bad guys. Few waver somewhere in the middle. Personally, I prefer characters to be a little more complex. I find this clear-cut good vs. bad less interesting. Particularly if the 'good' people also are the ones who are good-looking, love children, treat their social inferiors with respect and never hurt animals unnecessarily, while the 'bad' people are cruel to animals, have no patience for children and treat their servants, lower ranking men and women of all classes with disrespect. Here the 'good' people also display in part amazingly modern attitudes, for example about a woman's place in life, while their 'bad' counterparts are mentally stuck in the middle ages, as one might envision them.

Despite these drawbacks, I did enjoy 'To Defy a King'. Having quite extensively researched the period myself and being a rather demanding reader, I also know that my perspective is different than that of many other readers and can recommend it to friends of historical novels.


Die Gegenspieler: Friedrich Barbarossa und Heinrich der Löwe im Kamp
Die Gegenspieler: Friedrich Barbarossa und Heinrich der Löwe im Kamp
von Paul Barz
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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1.0 von 5 Sternen Im finstersten Mittelalter, 3. Februar 2013
In "Die Gegenspieler" beschreibt der Autor Paul Barz die Geschichte der beiden Cousins, pardon Vettern, Heinrich der Löwe und Friedrich Barbarossa von den 1140er Jahren bis 1195. Um diese enorme Zeitspanne einem Buch zu behandeln, kann der Autor natürlich nicht allzu detailliert auf die einzelnen Ereignisse eingehen. Das ihm das gelingt, ohne dass das Buch unverständlich wird, ist aber auch schon das beste Kompliment, das ich ihm machen kann.

Ein farbenprächtiges Gemälde einer glanzvollen Zeit verspricht der Text auf der Rückseite des Buches, doch so sehr die Juwelen auch funkeln, der stärkste Eindruck, den das Buch hinterlässt, ist dass das zwölfte Jahrhundert eine finstere Epoche war, bevölkert von rohen, ungebildeten und selbstsüchtigen Männern und Frauen. Charaktere strotzen vor Grausamkeit, andere sind naiv bis zur Albernheit oder so von der Richtigkeit ihrer eigenen, überdimensionierten Ziele erfüllt, dass sie größenwahnsinnig zu sein scheinen. Brutalität und Gedankenlosigkeit gegenüber anderen waren sicher ein Teil des Mittelalters. Hier ist es aber die einzige Seite der Zeit, die zu sehen ist. Die "Ungestüme Kraft", von der auf der Rückseite die Rede ist, besteht nur aus Zerstörung, die "derbe Sinnlichkeit" darin, Sex so grobschlächtig wie irgend möglich zu schildern.

Die Einseitigkeit der Darstellung der Zeit und ihrer Bewohner haben mich in der Tat so geärgert, dass ich mich - nicht zum ersten Mal - gefragt habe, was der Autor hier eigentlich erreichen will. Dass der Leser totfroh ist, heute zu leben? Die historischen Ungenauigkeiten und schlichten Fehlaussagen, die auch reichlich vorkommen, konnte ich daneben fast ignorieren. Eine reine Geschmacksfrage ist, ob altertümelde Sprache mit ihren 'Eidams' und 'Oheimen', ein Gefühl der Authentizität vermittelt oder den Leser (wie mich) stört. Mich hat letztendlich nur meine Faszination für diese Zeit (und mein Unvermögen Bücher auf halber Strecke wegzulegen) dazu gebracht, das Buch bis zum Ende zu lesen.


No Peace for the Damned
No Peace for the Damned
von Megan Powell
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,99

3.0 von 5 Sternen Unterhaltsamer Roman nach bekanntem Muster, 31. Januar 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: No Peace for the Damned (Taschenbuch)
Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
'No Peace for the Damned' ist der erster Teil einer neuen Urban Fantasy Serie. Die Heldin, Magnolia, entkommt den Klauen ihrer teuflischen Familie und findet bei einer Organisation namens 'Network' Unterschlupf, mit denen sie nun gemeinsam gegen die üblen Machenschaften ihrer Familie kämpft. Ihre Superkräfte und Unzerstörbarkeit sind dabei sehr hilfreich.

Der Roman ist kurzweilig und unterhaltsam, leider aber auch nicht mehr. Die Handlung ist - für meinen Geschmack - etwas zu vorhersehbar und die Charaktere zu wenig interessant, ungewöhnlich oder vielschichtig, um mein Interesse und/oder meine Empathie zu wecken. Vielleicht bin ich zu kritisch, vielleicht habe ich einfach zu viele Bücher dieses Genres gelesen, aber für mich lief alles zu sehr nach dem bekannten Muster ab. Ich habe bis zum Schluss gehofft, dass die Geschichte irgendwann doch noch eine überraschende Wendung nimmt, dass der Roman doch noch eine Überraschung bereit hielt, wurde aber leider enttäuscht. Die Tatsache, dass die Heldin gar so übermenschliche Kräfte hat, dass ihr gar nichts mehr wirklich gefährlich werden kann, war der Spannung auch eher abträglich. (Das "Superman Problem", nur dass zumindest bislang kein Kryptonite vorkam.)

Als "leichte" Lektüre ist 'No Peace for the Damned' durchaus zu empfehlen, man sollte nur nicht zu viel erwarten.


Masques
Masques
von Patricia Briggs
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,00

4.0 von 5 Sternen Thoroughly Engaging Fantasy Novel, 16. Januar 2013
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Masques (Taschenbuch)
Having read and hugely enjoyed a large number of Patricia Brigg's Urban Fantasy novels, I decided to give her 'straight' fantasy novels a try. Somehow my first choice was 'Masques', the re-print of the first novel by Ms Briggs ever published and though she slightly reworked it, it remains basically as it was originally, as the authors tells us in the preface. She also writes that she is not completely happy with the book any more.

Armed with that knowledge, I was curious what I would think of the book myself. All in all I was quite pleasantly surprised. It is true, that 'Masques', compared for example to Briggs' Mercedes Thompson novels, is a less polished tale and in some aspects quite conventional. An enormous amount of plot is squeezed into one, not particularly long book, so that less attention can be given to characters and details. Nonetheless, it is a enormously enjoyable and engaging story with interesting characters and a humorous note that I enjoy very much.

Therefore it is a book that I can recommend to friends of the fantasy genre.


American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic (Vintage)
American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic (Vintage)
von Joseph J. Ellis
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 10,90

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Six Episodes that Shaped American History, 21. Juni 2011
First of all, it is probably good to say what "American Creation" by Joseph J. Ellis is not. It is not a history of the creation of the United States of America, nor does it provide the concise story of the first decades of American independence. Instead Joseph J. Ellis picked out six pivotal events of the first twenty-five years of American history and discusses them in detail and how the decisions taken then have influenced their own time and the future. For this reason it is necessary to have some previous knowledge of this period of history (e.g. what 'Valley Forge' stands for or who the major players were) otherwise, I presume, the book will be very difficult to understand.

The events described start with the build-up to the Declaration of Independence in 'The Year' and end with 'The Purchase' detailing the history of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Another chapter, 'The Treaty' describes early, and ultimately doomed, efforts to achieve an accommodation with Native Americans. 'The Conspiracy' describes the development of the Republican Party, whose goals and fears of a too powerful federal government are surprisingly reminiscent of those of their modern day counterparts. 'The Winter' about Valley Forge and 'The Argument' about the writing of the constitution complete the book.

Ellis discusses each subject in its own time and context. Often developments that in hindsight were considered triumphs were in fact ad hoc compromises or even regarded as catastrophes by the participants themselves. Ellis also shows that the people who were in the midst of these events were neither flawless heroes nor visionary geniuses, but men with strengths and flaws and for that all the more interesting. Nor are the darker sides of the times omitted, notably slavery, which would lead to the Civil War, and the relationship to native Americans and all its tragic consequences.

As I am by now means an expert in this period of history (in fact this is the first serious book I read about it) I cannot judge the accuracy of the book's historical content. It is, however, very convincingly argued and I certainly enjoyed reading "American Creation", which is not only a very interesting but also a well-written book.


Das Buch des Dämons (Die Tore zur Unterwelt, Band 1)
Das Buch des Dämons (Die Tore zur Unterwelt, Band 1)
von Sam Sykes
  Broschiert
Preis: EUR 16,99

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2.0 von 5 Sternen Zu viel Action, zu wenig Spannung, 17. Juni 2011
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Die Inhaltsbeschreibung von "Die Tore zur Unterwelt. Das Buch des Dämons" klang recht unterhaltsam: ein Fantasy Abenteuer mit Dämonen, Söldnern, dramatische Kämpfe um Leben und Tod, und natürlich die titelgebenden Tore zur Unterwelt. Leider war das Buch für mich aber eine rechte Enttäuschung. Dämonen, "Abenteurer" (nichts anderes als Söldner, nur mit weniger Moral) und jede Menge Action kamen zwar tatsächlich vor, aber je länger ich las umso weniger war ich an den Figuren oder der Handlung interessiert. Zuletzt war es nur noch mein Pflichtbewusstsein, das mich das Buch zu Ende lesen lies.

Meine zunehmendes Missfallen an dem Buch lag zum einen daran, dass der Autor in seinem Versuch seine zusammen gewürfelte Truppe von Abenteurern besonders exotisch und interessant zu gestalten, Klischees von edlen Helden oder rauen Halunken mit einem guten Kern zu vermeiden zu weit gegangen ist und die Figuren letztendlich unsympathisch und ihre Motivationen nicht nachvollziehbar sind. "Unrealistisch" mag als Kritik an einem Fantasy Roman seltsam klingen, aber auch eine fantastischen Welt und ihre Bewohner müssen in grundlegenden Dingen realistisch sein, um für den Leser glaubwürdig bleiben, was hier leider nicht der Fall ist. (So sollte z.B. ein professioneller Kämpfer zumindest in der Lage sein zu sehen, wie viele Waffen sein Gegner in der Hand hat.)

Des weiteren sind die Action-Sequenzen viel zu ausgedehnt und langatmig. Nichts gegen lange und detaillierte beschriebene Kampfszenen, aber hier wird Action wirklich zum Exzess getrieben. Muss der Anfangskampf wirklich fast zweihundert Seiten dauern? Noch dazu hatte ich nicht wirklich den Eindruck, dass die Geschichte durch diese Teile vorangetrieben wird, sondern dass der Autor einfach fand, immer mehr und immer gruseligere Gegner würden ausreichen um die Spannung zu halten. Nicht zuletzt wird auch noch während dieser Kampfszenen viel zu viel gequatscht. Was dabei gesagt wird ist dann auch immer wieder das Gleiche, was doch ziemlich langweilig wird.

Ich habe mir wirklich Mühe gegeben, dem Buch auch positive Seiten abzugewinnen. Der Autor hat auch einige gute Ideen und versucht eine neue, andersartige Welt zu erschaffen. Allerdings wog das in keiner Weise die negativen Seiten auf. Ich habe mein Interesse an den Figuren verloren und war von die endlosen Kampfszenen so sehr gelangweilt, dass ich nur erleichtert aufgeatmet habe, als das Buch endlich zu Ende war.


She Wolves: The Notorious Queens of Medieval England: The Notorious Queens of England
She Wolves: The Notorious Queens of Medieval England: The Notorious Queens of England
von Elizabeth Norton
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 16,52

3.0 von 5 Sternen Infamous or Famous?, 5. Mai 2011
In this book the author provides a series of short biographies of a number of English Queens, ranging from Anglo-Saxon queens like Aelfryth to Mary Tudor. The author also tries to describe the function of a queen in medieval and Tudor times and to determine how these women acquired their negative reputation and whether or not they deserve it.

Without doubt the history of English queenship is a fascinating subject and the stories of the queens, both those who were married to kings and those who ruled in their own right (though the latter category is a lot smaller than the former, only three women fall into it) are interesting. However, I thought the explanations by the author was not always satisfactory. On the one hand, E. Norton tells us these women were criticised and demonised for being active in a world where women were expected (at least by those who wrote the history books) to be passive, on the other she informs the reader that they were pushed into action and it was not their fault. In my opinion at least, the result is that the explanation comes across as somewhat self-contradictory and a bit old-fashioned. The repeated assertion that this criticism are still levelled against the queens 'to the present day' is also simply not true. Several of the queens have a pretty good reputation today or, if they are still regarded as 'bad' queens, they are criticised less for behaving 'unwomanly' than because their behaviour had negative consequences on their own or their husbands' rule. Personally I also thought that the description of the development of queenship was too simplistic, but then the book is not a study of queenship but a brief introduction to a number of fascinating women who often broke out - sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not - of the role model of the time.

As usual, the expectations of the readers as well as their previous knowledge determines whether or not they enjoy a book. 'She Wolves. The Notorious Queens of England' is an interesting over-view over the lives of a number of fascinating women, the interpretation is, to me at least, not entirely satisfactory.


The Boleyn Wife
The Boleyn Wife
von Brandy Purdy
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,33

2.0 von 5 Sternen Diary of an Obsessive Wife, 25. April 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Boleyn Wife (Taschenbuch)
Jane Parker, Lady Rochford, the "Boleyn Wife" in question, was married to George Boleyn, brother of Anne Boleyn. Jane's claim to fame, or rather notoriety, rests on the fact that she is generally believed to have been instrumental in the fall of both her husband and her sister-in-law. That Jane herself came to a sticky end only adds to her fame or infamy. Brandy Purdy's novel presents the story from Jane's point of view.

Unsurprisingly a large part of the book focuses on Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second and most famous queen. The tale of Jane Parker's unhappy life is seen mainly through her relationship with Anne Boleyn and with her husband George. The latter part of the book also deals more often with Henry VIII's marital shenanigans than with the live of the central character of the book.

Personally, I could not really enjoy this book. For one, there is so little character development that it frankly becomes boring. To have to read Jane expressing the same feelings for over 200 pages is very monotonous. The author also seems to be either unwilling or unable to create likeable characters or characters interesting enough for the reader to relate to. I find it somewhat irritating to read a book with a cast that is with almost no exception unpleasant and unlikeable. (The one exception is Katherine of Aragorn.) Additionally, there are just some major factual errors. My expectations are probably higher than those of many other readers, but I am really not complaining about details here. Some fundamental facts ought to be researched by an author of a historic novel including whether or not the central character of one's tale was an only child or not. (Which is also hardly difficult to find out.)

For the fan of historical fiction who enjoys reading everything about Anne Boleyn, the Tudor court, frocks and festivities, may find this book entertaining enough. Without a special interest in this subject the reader might find the book rather dull.


One Foot in the Grave: A Night Huntress Novel
One Foot in the Grave: A Night Huntress Novel
von Jeaniene Frost
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 5,60

4.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining Romp, 10. März 2011
The second volume of Jeaniene Frost's "Night Huntress Novels" starts, unusually for this kind of books, a considerable period after the end of Halfway to the Grave: A Night Huntress Novel. The heroine, half-vampire Cat Crawfield is now working professionally as a vampire hunter and has put her old life behind her. But, naturally, neither is it possible to her keep her old life (in the form of her former lover Bones) away, nor to avoid new adventures and a deeper entanglement with the vampire world.

"One Foot in the Grave" is an entertaining, amusing and gripping adventure story that basically ticks all the boxes of the urban fantasy genre: a feisty heroine, several supernatural foes and friends, the sexy love-interest, and a number of dangerous situations the heroine has to face. Perhaps because I already knew exactly what to expect, I enjoyed this second book more than the first instalment of the series. While it does not exactly break new ground, the story is well-written, and some of the characters - especially Cat's really annoying mother - quite entertaining.

An entertaining and readable urban fantasy novel and can be recommended to friends of the genre.


Curse the Dawn: A Cassie Palmer Novel
Curse the Dawn: A Cassie Palmer Novel
von Karen Chance
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,00

3.0 von 5 Sternen A Whirlwind of Action, 6. März 2011
The fourth instalment of Karen Chance's Cassie Palmer novels continues the adventures of the new pythia and her supernatural friends. Once more our heroine is thrown into a wild ride of high adventure, fast action and hair-raising brushes with death. Cassie continues to struggle with her new powers and the complications of her romantic life.

"Curse the Dawn" is fairly typical for an urban fantasy novel: a feisty heroine, vampires, werewolves, demons and other mythical folk, all thrown together in a whirlwind of action with some romance and a good dollop of humour. The book delivers what the friend of the genre expects. The series is definitely among the more entertaining ones and continues strongly. I have to admit that while I enjoyed reading the book I also got a bit tired of the fact that it is all so predicable. Not the details perhaps, but the general tone, the overall structure of the story and its outcome. A little less whirlwind action and a bit more, well, character development or exploration of the world would, in my opinion, not go amiss.

In the end, this is a highly entertaining urban fantasy novel and can be recommended to fans of the genre.


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