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ANVIL OF GOD

BOOK ONE OF THE CAROLINGIAN CHRONICLES

An enticing read, sure to please lovers of historical fiction and political and religious intrigue.

In this debut fictionalized account of Francia in the 740s, the death of a Dark Age ruler pits religions, and brothers, against each other.

The novel opens in the last year of the life of mayor of the palace Charles Martel, who, although not technically a king, has ruled the Frankish empire for decades. His military prowess has allowed him to take over a good portion of western Europe (including what is now Germany and France), but now he’s dying. He breaks his kingdom into three parts, making each of his three sons a mayor of one. One portion goes to his eldest son, Carloman, a Christian zealot; another goes to his middle child, the great warrior Pippin. The final third, which includes the prized city of Paris, goes to his youngest son, Gripho, the half brother of Pippin and Carloman and the product of Charles’s marriage to the pagan Sunni. Martel also has a strong-willed daughter, Trudi, who defiantly opposes her arranged marriage to a Lombardy prince and subsequently falls in love with a Bavarian—and pagan—lord. Although Gripho does his best to act like a good Christian, Carloman suspects that Gripho follows the pagan religion. What follows is political intrigue straight out of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, except that Gleason’s novel is based on stories of real people, and this historical “game of thrones” is engrossing, with fast-paced, crisp prose and smart dialogue. The tale’s real antagonists are religion and the conflicts it breeds; however, at times, the author’s disdain for Christianity comes close to undermining the story’s credulity, as Christian leaders too often come off as cartoonish villains. For example, at one point, the elder bishop, who has Machiavellian designs for power, nonchalantly has sex with a 20-year-old male “acolyte” as he speaks to another member of the church. Gripho desecrates a Christian church and Carloman turns from a principled if overly religious man into a kind of evil Christian crusader. That said, the story is strong enough for readers to overlook these flaws, which, fortunately, are few indeed.

An enticing read, sure to please lovers of historical fiction and political and religious intrigue.

Pub Date: July 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475990201

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2013

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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