Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Sunken by S.C. Green

I'm finally back in Japan and back to reviewing books. I've missed a lot (a few NetGalley items I was approved of has been archived -cries-), but well, there's not time to spare! Today, I'm here to review The Sunken by S C Green as part of Enchanted Books Blog Tour.

The Sunken is a fascinating read set in an Alternate Universe during the time of King George III. There are a few main characters - Nicholas Rose/Nicholas Thorne, a brilliant architect that's also running from something. Aaron, a Stoker and friend of Isambard Brunel. Isambard Brunel is a talented and ambitious engineer. And lastly, there's James Holman, a blind man who wishes to explore the world. There's also Brigitte, but her role is more of "love interest", and she only provides some information in the early parts of the book.

Now that I've introduced the characters in one sentence summaries that do no justice to their complexity (not to mention how their relationships develop), let me introduce the setting and plot. King George is a vampire, English people worship a pantheon of "Industrial Gods". As a result of the "Industrial Gods", England is cut off from the rest of Europe, which is supposed to be Christian. The book starts off with Nicholas, Isambard and James as boys, when a horrible accident happens and someone dies. Nicholas and James feel horror and guilt, while Isambard just marvels at the beauty of the machines. Fast forward a few years, and Nicholas smuggles himself back to England, where he becomes Isambard's architect. However, as Isambard wins royal favour, it's clear that something sinister is happening, and all the main characters react differently.

While the book is supposed to be about the approaching menace of The Sunken (it's in the title, it's not a spoiler, right?), I can't help but think that the real main character of the story is Isambard. While the story is told from multiple POVs (including a few from those of Joseph Banks, the physician to King George), Isambard's POV is noticeably absent. Why? I think it's because he's complex, and most people view him in a different light. There are many differing accounts about the type of person he is, and the contractions aren't resolved at the end of the book - in fact, they become even more divergent. Trying to make up my mind about him was almost more interesting than the plot (which was pretty interesting on its own).

All in all, this is a fascinating steampunk/alternate history/AU book. The plot is interesting, and the multiple voices are distinctive and help the reader to piece the bigger picture together. I see it's the first of a series, and I definitely look forward to seeing what the author does in the next book.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book to review as part of the Enchanted Books Blog Tour. The opinions in my review are my honest opinions.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Coin for the Ferryman by Rosemary Rowe

Note: This is my last week in Singapore and I have friends staying with me. So don't expect any updates until next week! Thanks :D 

So this is the last book of the Libertus series that I've been able to get my hands on in Singapore. Sigh, I really wish they had all the books, because I want to continue reading - it's definitely been getting more and more original.

A Coin for the Ferryman starts with a status change for Junio. Libertus has decided to make him a citizen and adopt him as a son! Junio is a really likable character, so I'm glad that something good is happening to him. He's even going to get engaged! Unfortunately, a corpse is found on the site of his future house (and the land of Marcus), which threatens to curse their new home if the spirit isn't appeased by Lemuria. Wanting the happiness of Junio and tasked to solve the mystery by Marcus, Libertus has to race against time to find out who the corpse is and why he was murdered. (And contrary to the blurb on the back, Junio doesn't play a significant role in this book - Libertus' temporary slaves play a bigger part)

This book reintroduced Kurso, who became Libertus' slave three books back. I'm only pointing it out because he completely wasn't mentioned in two books back (not sure about the previous book, because I haven't been able to get my hands on it). It makes me wonder if there's an inconsistency here.

I really liked the mystery in this book. Libertus engages in a lot of detective work, and I could almost follow along with his thought process this time. There wasn't much action (although there were a few deaths), but there was a hint of the family tension within Marcus' family. I would so dearly love to read a book that talked about Marcus' trip to Rome with Julia. His mother sounds insufferable, and the type of character you'll love to hate.

A lot of previously background characters take bigger roles here, as the characters mature and move into different roles. I like this change, and I'm hoping some of these 'new' stars will play a bigger role in the later books.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Enemies of the Empire by Rosemary Rowe

The 7th and second last book on this series that I've been able to get my hands on. That took much less time than expected - this books get finished very fast.

This story takes place in the outskirts of Britannia, where Libertus is accompanying Marcus on a trip. But, when one unfortunate night gets Libertus thrown in jail for suspicion of murder, the resulting investigations uncover not only a dead man walking, but a possible plot of rebellion.

The amount of investigative work in this story is higher than The Ghosts of Glevum, and the amount of action is probably roughly the same. After all the army is involved, even if a century of soldiers is only 80 people. Looks like we're moving towards a happy equilibrium here!

What I liked about this book was that it explored the tensions between the Roman conquerors and the conquered Celts. While Libertus is a Celt, he has a lot of vested interest in making sure that his Patron Marcus survives, and after that long period in captivity, he's pretty much integrated into Roman life. Same for his wife and slave Junio (Junio was even born in slavery, which means he's the most "Roman" of them all). So it was interesting for the book to go to a more rural area and look at the anti-Roman sentiment. I particularly enjoyed all the little pieces of history trivia.

It's a pity that I've run out of books and time to read. I'm hoping that because the later books are published later, I can get my hands on a physical copy. Either that, or it's really really time to get an Amazon gift card because it seems like all the books are on Kindle.

Love love loved this series. It especially picked up in the later half, because it deviated from the pattern of the first few books and got more and more original.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Ghosts of Glevum by Rosemary Rowe

Book 6 of the Libertus series, and it threw me for another surprise! I really think that Rosemary Rowe got more confident after book 4 and started taking more risks. Book 5 and Book 6 have been more original in terms of the mystery and the situations that Libertus gets in.

In book 6, Libertus gets to explore the underside of society. When the guest of honor dies, Marcus, Libertus' patron, is accused as the murderer. When the charges are escalated to conspiracy against the Emperor, Libertus has to find the real culprits before everything is too late. Oh, and at the same time, he's being hunted down, so he can't investigate as normal.

So why is the book called The Ghosts of Glevum? Because Libertus is thrown together with a group of beggars, thieves and the lowest of the low. Those are the people that he has to pay for any scrap of information.

And I'm not sure if that makes me a callous person, but I had absolutely no sympathy for the ghosts of Glevum. I know that they have to eke out a living any way they can, but their opportunism and lack of charm makes it awfully hard for me to sympathise with them. In fact, it's only at the very end of the book that one of them (only one) does something that we can call "generous".

Mystery-wise, it's a bit disappointing. Since Libertus spends most of the book on the run from the law, there's very little investigating going around. In fact, I re-read the ending a few times, and I still don't understand how Libertus managed to piece it all together.

Overall, this is a pretty good story. It's an interesting look at the darker side of Roman Britain (remember, read the introduction so you know how much of it is accurate). Mystery-wise, it was meh, and I'm hoping the next book ramps up the investigating and the deducing again.