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January 29th, 2013

Book #5: "Insurrection" by Robyn Young


“At the negotiations in Irvine, it became clear to me that there was no side I could stand on. The English despise me and my countrymen don’t trust me. Wallace and the others are rebelling in the name of Balliol. I cannot fight with them. It would be as much a betrayal of my oath as when I was fighting for England. I know what I must do. What I should have done months ago.’
Robert felt embarrassed, about to say the words. Inside, his father’s voice berated him, but he silenced it. ‘I want you to weave my destiny,’ he finished. ‘As you did for my grandfather.’
When she spoke, her voice was low. ‘And what is your destiny?’
He met her eyes now, all hesitation and embarrassment gone. ‘To be King of Scotland.’
A smile appeared at the corners of her mouth. It wasn’t a soft smile. It was hard and dangerous. ‘I will need something of yours,’ she said, rising.”

The first one in a trilogy, this is the beginning of the story of Robert Bruce, the man who would unite Scotland against the English invaders and take the throne.
"Insurrection" tells the story of Robert's youth, from his days as 11 years old boy, training to become a knight, to his time in King Edward's court, where he befriends a group of young men known as The Knights of the Dragon, to the choice he makes to break with his English friends and patrons, to go against his father and take part in the rebellion led by a young warrior, a son of a knight, named William Wallace.
This is also the story of Edward, exiled in his youth, he returns to England to become a king, but his ambitions are far greater - following the prophecies of Merlin, translated by Geoffrey of Monmouth, he wishes to unite all the British kingdoms under one king - himself. To do that, he needs 4 relics, belonging to Brutus, the founder of Britain - the staff of St. Malachy from Ireland, the Stone of Destiny from Scotland, the Crown of Artur from Wales and the Sword of Mercy from England.

This is a brilliant book, very well written, with a well defined plot and a sense of time and place, telling the age-old story of growing up and making one's own path in the world.


Book 3: The First Man in Rome

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 3: The First Man in Rome
3 THE FIRST MAN IN ROME Colleen McCullough (Australia, 1990)

This is the first volume in the historical fiction series The Masters of Rome. It focuses on Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, their ambitions and successes. 

This novel is over 900 pages long and I cannot describe the relief I feel now that I'm done with it. Not because I do not like long books, but because it's one of the most boring books I've read in the last few years.
I'd read two novels by McCullough prior to this one. The Thorn Birds was cheesy but epic, and Morgan's Run was overlong and boring, though well-researched. I should have learnt my lesson.
The First Man in Rome is very well researched as well, and it's what drew me to the book in the first place. McCullough is regularly praised for the extent of her knowledge in Roman history. Does it make this book worth reading? Absolutely not.
The First Man is poorly written. At times it was so repetitive, both stylistically and in terms of content, that it would make me cringe. The most promising scenes and plot-twists were told retrospectively, thus robbing them of their energy. The most striking example is when Sulla spends a year with an enemy German tribe. Instead of allowing the reader to "live" these incredible experiences with him, the author tells us the story through a stiff dialogue and some after-thoughts. 
Let's talk a bit more about Sulla. According to a lot of reviewers Sulla, his ambitions, charm and homosexuality are the star of the book. Unfortunately there is no depth to them. All the complexities are laid out from the beginning and never truly develop as the story unfolds.

Next time I'll take the Roman History textbook, thank you.



Off Beat: Uncollected Stories by Richard Matheson

More short stories! Some sci-fi, some just plain ol' fiction. A few I had a hard time following and didn't think flowed well. But overall I enjoyed this collection.

Now I think I will give short stories a break and finish The Kings to the Kingdom series, book #7.

Anyhow, I give Off Beat 4/5 stars on Goodreads. =)



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