Something different for historical fiction fans.

SPARTANS AT THE GATES

From the Warrior Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In the second volume of his Warrior Trilogy (Sons of Zeus, 2013), Smith’s young warrior, Nikias, makes a perilous journey to seek aid from Athens to help defend the city-state of Plataea from the Spartans.

Nikias carries gold, treasure he purloined from a traitor when Thebes besieged Plataea. Now he’s set off to hire mercenaries, a journey he’s making without the approval of his powerful grandfather, Menesarkus, the Arkon of Plataea. As Nikias rides across the Oxland countryside, he’s attacked by Dog Raiders, anarchic rogues with the habit of skinning the faces of their victims. Whatever else is to be had from this Greek swashbuckling adventure, there’s plenty of gore—swords lopping limbs and skin peeled by "sticking fire." Much of the story covers Nikias’ adventures along the way to Athens; the schemes and perils he faces in the city; and then his journey home via oar-powered galley. Characters are archetypes—hero on a quest, back-stabbing blackguard—but Smith employs excellent research skills to populate the narrative with entertaining historical factoids about food, sex, dress—some of the best centering on Spartan life and ethos—not to mention the assorted duplicities and fragile political alliances among the city-states. While not quite herculean, Nikias is a hero extraordinaire, adept at hand-to-hand combat and able to pluck out an eye with a long, braided leather whip. Nikias loves Kallisto, a traitor’s daughter whose father’s perfidy stands in the way of their marriage, but he’s also easily seduced by Helena, a hetaera, or courtesan. While this second of the trilogy is a formulaic action story overlaid on an era more recognized for art, philosophy and science, it’s easy to follow for readers unfamiliar with the previous volume. 

Something different for historical fiction fans.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-02558-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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