Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday Review: Bad Bishop

Author: Irene Soldatos
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $14.53 paperback or $3.50 Kindle
Publisher: Safkhet Fantasy
ISBN: 1908208171
Available from: Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Book description

History is not something that happened to other people. History is a memory. August A.D. 1120 Dijon. A headless corpse is found in a room with shuttered windows and the door locked from the inside. The man's name was Salonius and he was the Duke. His young heir's grasp on the throne is precarious, yet a new alliance is made to safeguard his position. November A.D. 1120 Barcelona. Alexander, the Prince, learns that the emperor Enmerkar is looking to add Barcelona to his territories. January A.D. 1121 London. Julian, the Governor, finds that Enmerkar has turned his hungry gaze toward England. April A.D. 1121 York. Medb, the Queen, discovers that Enmerkar hungers for the whole Isle. Many now recognize the threat posed by Enmerkar's continued expansion, so a game of politics begins to spin a web of alliances and treaties that will thwart Enmerkar. But this is not a web of humankind. These men and women are Algul, a race that lives, unseen, alongside humanity. They are rulers and warriors, storytellers and shapeshifters, magicians and politicians. Each was human once. None is human now. Their learning is far deeper than that of humans, their strength far greater, their lives not curtailed by illness or by age - the price a life lived in the shadows and sustained by blood. Yet while all others are entangled in their political machinations, only one man can see that Salonius's murder was but the first move in a deeper plot, one that even he cannot fully piece together. For, in a world where history is a memory, the greatest danger comes from what has been forgotten.

Good morning! It's Cybelle here again with my second book review on HoF. This week, I enjoyed reading Irene Soldatos' novel, Bad Bishop. The main characters are essentially a vampiric race, the Algul, whose elders carry memories of more enlightened times and bemoan the ignorance of the medieval world. The main heroine, Amarante, an erudite young widow, is offered the chance to live forever as a member of the House of Atreus. Each Algul has unique powers, and Amarante discovers that hers include power over the weather, the same talent her ancient progenitor, Atreus, possesses.  Her "father," Kyrus, also selected for his scholarly acumen, has power over the land and other physical elements. For the most part, members of this Genus are content to devote themselves to solitary, academic pursuits, but the murder of the Duke draws all of them into a dangerous intrigue, which plays out like a chess game.

As a classicist, I found many things to love about Bad Bishop, not the least of which was the use of Latin, Greek, medieval French, and Celtic languages interspersed throughout the book. The author does an excellent job of creating an alternate medieval world, inhabited by a variety of peoples whose languages and culture are in a state of flux. The amount of research that Soldatos must have put into this work is admirable. She also creates some wonderful female characters, both human and Algul, who find find ways around societal constraints placed on women. The scholarly interests of the main characters also remind the reader how precarious the survival of ancient literature was during that time. Books were costly and time consuming to produce; only a handful of individuals had access to the knowledge they contained.

On the negative side, the first few chapters could have been a little more engaging. The back story, while interesting, felt distant, and the language was rather repetitive. In a few places, the grammar was also a bit off, which broke the spell of the narrative from time to time. However, the overall concept is brilliant, and a few chapters in, I was hooked. It's well worth reading but does require concentration!


Terri-Lynne said...

Another good, honest review. Thanks Cybelle!

IreneSoldatos said...

Indeed! Thank you ever so much! That you enjoyed it truly made my day! :)

David Hunter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thank you for submitting it, Irene!