Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Philippa Gregory - The Boleyn Inheritance

Title: The Boleyn Inheritance
Author: Philippa Gregory

ISBN # 0007190328

Publisher: Harper Collins

First Published: 2006

518 pages

Format: Hardback

Rating: 8/10

(Olympic Challenge - Kenya)

From the bestselling author of "The Other Boleyn Girl" comes a wonderfully atmospheric evocation of the court of Henry VIII, and the one woman who destroyed two of his queens. The year is 1539 and the court of Henry VIII is increasingly fearful at the moods of the ageing sick king. With only a baby in the cradle for an heir, Henry has to take another wife and the dangerous prize of the crown of
England is won by Anne of Cleves. She has her own good reasons for agreeing to marry a man old enough to be her father, in a country where to her both language and habits are foreign. Although fascinated by the glamour of her new surroundings, she senses a trap closing around her. Catherine is confident that she can follow in the steps of her cousin Anne Boleyn to dazzle her way to the throne but her kinswoman Jane Boleyn, haunted by the past, knows that Anne's path led to Tower Green and to an adulterer's death. The story of these three young women, trying to make their own way through the most volatile court in Europe at a time of religious upheaval and political uncertainty is Philippa Gregory's most intense novel yet.

From the outset, this was a very interesting prospect, as it's from the perspective of three very different women, each with their own agenda and each reliant on the whim of the King...

Although not much seemed to be happening for a good while, it was not-happening in an intriguing way, if you get my meaning. I loved getting to see things from multiple points of view, and getting the whole story where the characters are only seeing one side of things.

I already knew a fair amount about the fates of Henry's wives, but even though I knew what would be happening to both Anne and Katherine, it was wonderful to read about them both in such a lavishly rich way - Philippa Gregory really does have a way of completely immersing the reader in the lives of these people and giving them a very human face, where before they were just names and dates. If you enjoyed the likes of The Other Boleyn Girl, then you really must get hold of this one too.

Robert Finn - Adept

Title: Adept
Author: Robert Finn

ISBN # 0954575911

Publisher: Snowbooks

First Published: 2004

411 pages

Format: Paperback

Rating: 8/10

It's a strange kind of robbery: nothing is missing and the only damage done is to the criminals. David Braun, star investigator for an exclusive insurance firm, discovers the truth that the crime was intended to conceal. Behind it all, is a ruthless thief, who is intent on acquiring a priceless antique - an antique with a bloody history its owners would prefer to keep hidden. Susan Milton, an expert in exotic antiques, must unearth the object's past to make sense of the present. When she takes on the project she has no idea that her research will put her life in danger. As David and Susan learn to work together the pieces begin to fall into place, but the more they find out, the less they believe. Caught between powerful enemies and being hunted by a killer the police cannot catch, their only hope is to stay one step ahead. They know enough to put them in the worst danger of their lives. Will it also be enough to save them?

I came to this knowing next to nothing about it, so I had no expectations at all, which makes a nice change, as I often have a little background to books before reading, whether it's through reviews or recommendations. It's rather mysterious yet rather down-to-earth and realistic in a way that Dan Brown's Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code were perhaps lacking a little. It's also set in England, which makes rather a refreshing change for this kind of thing.

There's a lot of intrigue, suspense and general mystery throughout, as well as some interesting characters that are very well-written. I got the feeling I'd want to be friends with David and Susan if I met them. I was especially glad they didn’t just jump into bed together the first chance they got (as is often the case with this kind of book).

I had to laugh when I came across a passage where David and Susan discussed the fact that James Bond always had exactly the gadgets he needs and never has any left over, nor does he ever forget to bring one along so that it's missed later. Susan commented that she was sure she'd seen a comedy sketch along those lines. I know exactly what she's talking about - it's Eddie Izzard and I know it backwards. I almost spoke the lines out loud, "What are you doing Mr. Bond?" and "I will sit in the back where I can see you with my eyes" (all done in a preposterously unidentifiable accent). It was a nice nod towards a timeless piece of modern culture and cleverly done.

I will most certainly be getting hold of the sequel, Ex Machina when I get the chance.

J M Warwick – An Open Vein

Title: An Open Vein
Author: J M
ISBN # 1933963964

Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing

First Published: 2006

213 pages

Format: Paperback

Rating: 7/10

John discovers that Kane is really his father. Because he feels betrayed, he distances himself from his parents and willingly gravitates into a relationship with Kane he hopes will erase lost time. But the father-son bond takes a dark turn when Kane receives kidnapping threats against John. John suspects his parents are responsible. Kane just wants his son safe, and he tells John to stay inside the apartment. Then John gets sick and Kane must care for him. One night, John catches Kane adding drugs to his IV. John confronts Kane. When Kane spins out of control, John wonders how he will draw the line between reality and deception. John’s innocence is given up in a relentless need to prove to himself who he really is, how far he is willing to go to prove love and loyalty, and what he is willing to give up to discover the price of truth.

The writing feels very claustrophobic, which in this case is good, I think, as it adds to the atmosphere. I began to feel as trapped as poor John! It remained tense right to the very end, even after the "big reveal".

Throughout the book I felt incredibly uncomfortable reading it, almost as though I were being watched, which had a hand in increasing the tension. It’s an edgy novel aimed at the young adult market that will certainly appeal to those older teenagers looking for something harder and more adult to read.

Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Audio)

Title: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: Mark Twain

Narrator: Annie Coleman

Publisher: www.
First Published: 1884

Running time: 10 hrs 42 min 6 sec

Format: Audio Book

Rating: 6/10

'You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", but that ain't no matter.' So begins, in characteristic fashion, one of the greatest American novels. Narrated by a poor, illiterate white boy living in
America's Deep South before the Civil War, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the story of Huck's escape from his brutal father and the relationship that grows between him and Jim, the slave who is fleeing from an even more brutal oppression. As they journey down the Mississippi their adventures address some of the most profound human conundrums: the prejudices of class, age, and colour are pitted against the qualities of hope, courage, and moral character. Enormously influential in the development of American literature, Huckleberry Finn remains a controversial novel at the centre of impassioned critical debate.

I downloaded this one from Librivox and it's read by a regular punter called Annie Coleman, so it's not a professional recording, but she does a not-too-shoddy job of it, complete with the different dialects for the various characters. Obviously, Twain wrote it in such a way that the accents are written almost phonetically, but it certainly helps with the atmospherics if the reader can get them right too! I'd never
realised before that this is actually a children's book, and this is made very obvious from the tone of writing, but it was an engaging enough tale to keep me listening.

I found it quite disturbing that the main forms of entertainment for ordinary Americans in the South during this period included cruelty to animals, feuding, rubber-necking at folks who had been shot in the street, and hunting down runaway slaves to collect on the reward money. It also distresses me that there was ever a time and place where it was normal to believe that for a person of colour to be free and able to do as they pleased was just plain wrong - it made me sick to the stomach to hear of it! On a lighter note, Huck struck me as a very likeable, amiable character who just accepted everything that came his way, yet was smart enough to know when someone was taking him for a fool!

It all got a mite predictable by the end, almost like Twain realised he'd been going on forever and decided to wind things up as quickly as possible, but there were a few laughs in there too. All in all, it was fun to listen to, and although I realize I’ve come to it backwards, I’ve decided to try The Adventures of Tom Sawyer too.

Andreï Makine – A Life’s Music

Title: A Life’s Music
Author: Andreï Makine

ISBN # 0340820098

Publisher: Sceptre

First Published: 2001

106 pages

Format: Paperback

Rating: 6/10

(Olympic Challenge - Russia)

Alexei Berg's father is a well-known dramatist and his mother an opera singer, but in late 1930s
Russia both parents suffer constant suspicion and harassment under Stalin's reign of terror. So great is Alexei's musical talent that he is allowed to continue his studies, but two days before his first concert in May 1941, he arrives home to find his parents being arrested. He flees, abandoning his budding career as a concert pianist, and assumes the identity of a dead Russian conscript to fight against the advancing Germans. When the war is over he stays on as a general's driver, continuing to keep his real identity hidden until a moment of folly reveals the truth and earns him 10 years in a prison camp. But despite a life of misfortune, Alexei remains unbroken, and in a snowbound railway station in the middle of the Urals, he tells his story.

I'm not awfully sure about this one. It's only a very short book and by the time I was almost 1/3rd of the way through, I just wasn’t gelling with it. However, I persevered - I did go ahead and finish it, but only because it was such a short novella, not because it really grabbed me at all.

It felt like it had such potential, but even though it was set during WWII, it lacked much of the action you'd expect and also seemed devoid of any passion, which is surprising, considering it's about a musician who has to hide who he is to escape persecution and imprisonment. It certainly didn't inspire me to try any other of Makine's work, but it wasn't completely off-putting. I just felt that it paled considerably when compared with the likes of The Secret Purposes by David Baddiel. A very average read, but one that will keep you occupied over a lunch hour if you’re looking for something to fill the time.

Simon Scarrow – The Eagle in the Sand (Eagles 7)

Title: The Eagle in the Sand
Author: Simon Scarrow

ISBN # 0755327748

Publisher: Headline

First Published: 2006

312 pages

Format: Hardback

Rating: 8/10

Trouble is brewing in
Syria, on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. With the troops in a deplorable state, centurions Macro and Cato are despatched to restore the competence of the cohort. But another challenge faces them as, Bannus, a local tribesman, is brewing up trouble and preaching violent opposition to Rome. As the local revolt grows in scale, Macro and Cato must stamp out corruption in the cohort and restore it to fighting fitness to quash Bannus - before the eastern provinces are lost to the Empire forever!

This picks up where the last one finished up and this time takes our heroes to far-off Syria. Very soon, there was a mention of a religious martyr who was the "son of some local craftsman" and went by the name of Jehoshua, who was crucified a few years back (this is now 47AD), which piqued my interest considerably. There are also a few historical figures mentioned whose names I recognised (Herod the Great, for example) as well as a few more biblical characters presented in a realistic and down-to-earth way. I was instantly drawn right into the plot and enjoyed reading this as much as I did the others, from only a few short chapters into the action.

This is exciting stuff - Scarrow has such a way with words that one seemed to experience all the feelings of the legionaries - excitement, fear, anticipation, disgust - it's all there. And even though this is the 7th book in the series, it's every bit as fresh and inventive as the others, yet it all still feels incredibly real.

It's left nicely open for another to follow, but, even if there weren't another book (which I sincerely hope there is), it would still feel like the series had rounded out nicely without any pesky unresolved issues flapping about - very cleverly handled!

Ben Elton – Chart Throb

Title: Chart Throb
Author: Ben Elton

ISBN # 059305749X

Publisher: Bantam Press

First Published: 2006

427 pages

Format: Hardback

Rating: 8/10

"Chart Throb" is the ultimate pop quest. Ninety five thousand hopefuls. Three judges. Just one winner. And that's Colin Simms, the genius behind the show. Colin always wins because Colin writes the rules. But this year, as he sits smugly in
judgement upon the mingers, clingers and blingers whom he has pre-selected in his carefully scripted 'search' for a star, he has no idea that the rules are changing. The 'real' is about to be put back into 'reality' television and Colin and his fellow judges (the nation's favourite mum and the other bloke) are about to become ex-factors themselves. Ben Elton, author of "Popcorn and Dead Famous" returns to blistering comic satire with a savagely hilarious deconstruction of the world of modern television talent shows. "Chart Throb" is about one winner and a whole bunch of losers.

Elton is definitely at his comedy-best when he's having a crack at the media. He did it wonderfully well with Dead Famous (a poke in the eye of Big Brother) and does every bit as good a job with the likes of X-Factor and Pop Idol. All the crazy, weird, self-deluded ego-maniacs are well represented and the wit is laid on so thick that if it were toast, there'd be more butter than bread!

This was such fun to read! Not being a fan of reality TV shows, I can really appreciate the snide reminder that what you see on the television isn't the whole story, but is, instead, the story the viewer has been shown after the careful eye of the producer and the editor’s scissors have been at work, and in the case of shows where public voting is concerned, has been manipulated towards. That said, I think that even fans of such programmes will appreciate the humour behind the sentiment, in fact, I think it may even heighten the enjoyment of it! I especially love how Elton provides a "whatever happened to..." ending, in the way that many documentaries/reality shows do, just to let you know a little of the aftermath in the same "limit-the-story" way that has been prevalent throughout the plot. Very cleverly written, full of sparkling wit and spot-on caricatures.

Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray (Audio)

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde

Narrator: John Gonzalez

Publisher: www.
First Published: 1891

Running time: 6 hrs 19 min 46 sec

Format: Audio Book

Rating: 7/10

Dorian Gray, a young man of wealth and stature in late 1800’s
London, meets Lord Henry Wotton while posing for a portrait by his friend Basil Hallward. Once the painting is complete, Dorian realizes that it will always be young and attractive, while he will be forced to age and wither with the years. Carelessly, he wishes the opposite were true. What happens is a treatise on morals, self-indulgence and how crucial personal responsibility is towards one’s self. Note: This is a recording of the 1890, 13-Chapter edition.

I'd been meaning to read this book for as long as I can remember, but somehow never got round to it, so I thought I'd try an audio-book version. Only one chapter in, Wilde's trademark wit and
humour was already very apparent, along with his vivid descriptions of characters with just a few choice words.

I wonder how much of Dorian was Wilde's own beloved Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas) and how much of himself was in the tortured artist that adored him. Lord Henry seemed to personify Wilde's own ideas about the workings of society, yet the artist, Hallward, seemed to represent his more heartfelt romanticisms...

I think this is one book where I might have got more out of it for actually reading it myself. I found myself laughing at the narrator's mispronunciations as I was walking down the street, but over-all, he wasn't bad, despite being an American occasionally trying to adopt an upper-class English accent, and not quite making it, whenever a character was speaking. Also, his "voices" didn't really differ enough to distinguish who was speaking till he finished with "... said Dorian."

The story itself is fascinating, though - an exploration into the morals of the time, the belief that sin will show itself on the face of the sinner and that our sins will be found out however we try to hide them. I really rather enjoyed this, but wish I'd read it instead - I may well do at some point in the future. I also understand there is an extended version that was published after the original serialised publication of 13 chapters (which is the version I heard), so I would be interested in reading the parts not included in this version.

Simon Kernick – The Debt (Audio)

Title: The Debt

Author: Simon Kernick

Narrator: Burn Gorman

Publisher: with Random House

First Published: 2006

Running time: 36 min 28 sec

Format: Audio Book (short story)

Rating: 8/10

Boxer, Billy, needs to pay off his errant cousin’s vast gambling debts to local loan shark, Jim ‘The Crim’ Sneddon. However, he’s short and is forced at gunpoint to use his pride and joy, a brand new BMW 7 Series to make up the total. He is determined to get it back. But, to do so he has to fight his way past Jim ‘The Crim’s’ goons, an errant MP and a Slovakian hostess.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find this one narrated by Burn Gorman (none other than Torchwood's very own Owen Harper!) and his voice was perfectly suited to this tale of
London crime bosses. The writing was tight, the action came thick and fast, and there was a great deal of wit and dark humour - perfect for an audio short. This was definitely the best of the four I downloaded from BMW.

Don Winslow – Beautiful Ride (Audio)

Title: Beautiful Ride

Author: Don Winslow

Narrator: Kerry Shale

Publisher: with Random House

First Published: 2006

Running time: 51 min 9 sec

Format: Audio Book (short story)

Rating: 7/10

Back then he was looking at a fat IPO and a boat. Back then he was rich. Back then he had a condo overlooking the ocean, a wife, and had just bought the BMW Z4 convertible. Cobalt blue, like the ocean on a clean, clear day in early spring. Now what he has left is the car. Ted's a real estate investor in
Laguna Beach, California. He's been kicked out by his soon-to-be ex wife, his assets have been frozen by the IRS, he's holding on to his Beemer, but the car company's repo men want it back, and he's living in a tent. He's falling through the cracks of the 'Gold Coast' life, until he turns to money-laundering to get back in the game. Then things get worse...

The car theme continues (as expected, seeing as how these four short stories were sponsored by BMW). Although the character once had everything and has lost it all, it was all presented in such a way that I didn't envy his previous lifestyle, nor did I pity his current circumstances – it was more a case of empathising with him...

It was a non-stop affair - a classic case of misdirection that kept me guessing till I
realised I'd been handed the answer earlier on but it hadn't registered till the right moment. Very cleverly written and also well-read, with good voice characterisation that was very entertaining.

James Flint – Master of the Storm (Audio)

Title: Master of the Storm

Author: James Flint

Narrator: Forbes Masson

Publisher: with Random House

First Published: 2006

Running time: 1 hr 2 min 22 sec

Format: Audio Book (short story)

Rating: 7/10

This is the story of a man who finds himself arriving at exactly the same service station over and over again. He leaves, he drives away, but every time he tries to exit the motorway he discovers that he’s back in the same Happy Break. Who is he? Where has he come from? What is he running from? What exactly damaged the wing in his car while he was tuning the radio? And who is the hitchhiker he stops to pick up?

Narrated by Forbes Masson, who's delightfully animated Scottish burr is perfectly suited to storytelling! Master of the Storm has an odd approach - the listener is the protagonist ("You are driving along the highway..."), which is something I never would have thought I'd enjoy, but it really works with this story. I found I could hardly wait to find out what happened next as I felt so involved.

The end was pretty obvious, but that was part of the charm in this case, as the whole story has its roots in modern Urban Legends, so throughout the telling, you're working one step ahead of the character, taking things to the logical (or illogical) conclusion and giving yourself a little "high five" when you turn out to be right. This was a very enjoyable listening experience.

Karin Slaughter - Cold Cold Heart (Audio)

Title: Cold Cold Heart
hor: Karin Slaughter
Narrator: Megan Dodds
Publisher: with Random House
First Published:
Running time: 58 min 26 sec
Format: Audio Book (short story)
Rating: 5/10

For twenty years, Pam did her duty as loyal, compliant wife. She and John shared their friends, their careers, and a son - for richer for poorer, for better for worse. Until the day tragedy struck their family and John betrayed his wife in the most public of ways, walking away to a lucrative new life. For three years John becomes richer while Pam becomes poorer; John's life becomes increasingly
better while Pam's becomes worse. But then a reversal of fortune brings them back together, and Pam gets the chance for a revenge John could never have dreamt of...

When I started lis
tening to Cold Cold Heart, I suddenly remembered why I was put off audio books in the first place – the narration often sucks royally! In this instance, the narrator was someone called Megan Dodds and her voice is as flat as a pancake and as passionless as a squished passion fruit! I’ve only ever read one book by Karin Slaughter (Blindsighted) and I wasn’t overly impressed with that (I only rated it 6/10), but I thought I’d give her another chance with this short story, but it didn’t really change my opinion of her writing.

The plot was dull, the end was completely predictable and I was very disappointed by it as a whole. I don't think I'll be bothering with any other Karin Slaughter, which is a shame because I've heard some promising things, but I've been put right off her.

Christopher Priest – The Prestige

Title: The Prestige
Author: Christopher Priest

ISBN # 0575079061

Publisher: Orion

First Published: 1995

360 pages

Format: Paperback

Rating: 9/10

Two 19th century stage illusionists, the aristocratic Rupert Angier and the working-class Alfred Borden, engage in a bitter and deadly feud; the effects are still being felt by their respective families a hundred years later. Working in the gaslight-and-velvet world of Victorian music halls, they prowl edgily in the background of each other's shadowy life, driven to the extremes by a deadly combination of obsessive secrecy and insatiable curiosity. At the heart of the row is an amazing illusion they both perform during their stage acts. The secret of the magic is simple, and the reader is in on it almost from the start, but to the antagonists the real mystery lies deeper. Both have something more to hide than the mere workings of a trick.

I wasn’t expecting this to start in the present day, so that was a surprise. At first I thought I might be a little disappointed at not getting straight into the thick of the magic aspect (which I knew was set in the 19th Century), but it’s written in such a way that I was hooked from the start. It then quickly switched to the past in the second part, going from being narrated by Andrew Westley, to the personal memoirs of Alfred Borden himself.

It was all rather tantalising. Every time Borden seemed on the verge of making a revelation, he drew back, focusing on the back story and just touching on the beginnings of the feud between Borden and Angier...

The further I read, the better it got! The world of stage magic and illusion is fascinating at the best of times, but this was chock-full of mystery on top of that. I loved how the author kept coming back to the fact that the story was being related through Borden's notebook, throughout which Borden left little notes to himself, and even used the standard tricks of the illusionist (stating the whole "nothing up my sleeve" gambit when making a revelation, in order to relate that he's not hiding anything in the retelling).

In part three, the narrative was continued by a third character - this time one of Rupert Angier's descendants - who was also trying to fill in the blanks where The Great Dante (Angier's stage name) was concerned and who is also intrigued by Borden's descendent and her contemporary.

A fourth part, a fourth voice - now Rupert Angier's side of the story was told from his own diaries, revealing the reasons behind the old enmity between him and Borden that caused them both harm and spanned generations of both the families.

The plot twisted and turned like a twisty-turny thing. Strangely, despite being given every clue, I didn't work it out, which is rather unusual for me (if I say so myself) - I usually cotton onto things, whether it's early on or right before the "big reveal". The finale switched back to modern-day and wrapped up beautifully. I have to say this was quite an extraordinary read and now that I'm finished with it, I'm even more desperate to see the film!

(A big thank you to Marcus J who recommended this book to me – I’ve now found a new author to collect!)

Bernard Cornwell ~ The Winter King (A Novel of Arthur book 1)

Title: The Winter King
Author: Bernard Cornwell

ISBN # CN3111

Publisher: BCA

First Published: 1995

435 pages

Format: Hardback

Rating: 7/10

Derfel, once a captain in Arthur's
war band, recalls the days of Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and Bishop Sansum. But, above all, it tells the story of Arthur, the only man who can hold Uther's throne for its infant heir, and unite Britain's squabbling kingdoms against the enemy.

By the time I’d finished part one; I was in two minds about The Winter King. The unusual names didn’t give me a problem, as they were all Celtic in origin, so I was at least vaguely familiar with them and knew roughly how to pronounce them, but the place names confused me a bit, as they were all the old names and had to keep referring to the notes at the beginning of the book to find out where the action was taking place. I did, however, enjoy the subversion of the well-known Arthur legends, with Mordred being Arthur's half-nephew rather than his son, and Arthur being a warlord who was brought in to protect Mordred from warring factions in a fractured Britain that was already broken in two halves over religion (Christianity and the old, Pagan ways). The writing style is very easy to read - the dialogue is mostly in quite simple language, reflecting the status and/or intelligence of those speaking at any given time, as well as having a slightly "Olde Worlde" feel in places, which sets it firmly in its own time.

In part two, things start to be hot up a bit. We encounter a well-known Arthurian figure that has also been given a more "earthy" character (I prefer it when characters are made more "real" like this, instead of them being too-good-to-be-true heroes) in Guinevere. I also enjoyed the way the story was being told to Igraine, after the fact, by Derfel, as it all helped to draw me in as if the story is being told directly to me, as well as explaining a little how old stories would have been changed and
romanticised in the retelling as the storytellers wished things had been more magical and mystical in places.

Lancelot and Galahad were both introduced, adding a good bit of action and confrontation to the mix. And Merlin, well, let's just say his appearance was unexpected...

The developing friendship between Galahad and Derfel was particularly interesting, and also the distanced, yet respectful friendship between Merlin and Arthur. I found Merlin an especially intriguing character in that he seemed to have the attitude that everything that's supposed to happen will happen, whether or not he interferes, which is a different angle from the Merlin that is usually presented in Arthurian legends (i.e. the one who purposely bends fate, using his own magical abilities, in order to ensure the right person is in the right place at the right time to suit his own purpose.

Everything was happening all at once, and then it all suddenly stopped! I was expecting another dozen or so pages, but what I thought was the rest of the novel turned out to be the opening chapters of the sequel*, so it felt slightly abrupt, as I wasn't prepared for it. It also stopped just at quite an exciting part, which I suppose is good in a way, as it makes me want to get hold of the next one quickly, but it also left me staring at the page, inwardly shouting "Oh, come on! You can't finish now!"

I was very surprised that Morgan didn’t play a larger role in the story - her part seemed to have been usurped by Nimwe, who struck me as rather unpleasant, in stark contrast to Derfel, who has remained a very likeable, reasonable character throughout. Arthur seems slightly misguided; Guinevere is selfish; Lancelot is a preening coward; Merlin is as changeable as the British weather; and Galahad remains the only representative of the traditional chivalrous knight. All in all, this has been a very interesting exploration into part of the Arthurian legends and I'll be interested to see where it goes from here on in.

* It always annoys me slightly when the start of the next book is given at the end of the present one (a sort of “next time, in the series you’re reading…”) as when I finally do get hold of the sequel, I suffer a horrid sense of déjà vu when I start reading and it spoils the enjoyment a little for me, so I refuse point blank to read them any more!