Book Reviews, Reviews

The Secret History Review

A book review? On my book review blog? It’s more likely than you think.


This review contains spoilers, so be warned.

I realise I’m quite late to the party with this one (the book came out in 1992, but it’s recently done the rounds on all the book blogs in the past year or so), which honestly surprises me because this is totally up my alley; incredibly pretentious Classics students quoting literature at each other while wrapped up in a reverse murder-mystery? Yes please! I dove into this book expecting a sort of Riot-Club-meets-Dead-Poets-Society, which honestly sounds like the best thing ever and if it doesn’t exist it should.

Bunny Corcoran is dead, and the narrator Richard had a part in killing him. That’s not a spoiler – the book opens with this information. I’m not sure how I feel about being told this straight away; I don’t object to this style of backwards storytelling, but I do wonder what it might have been like if the murder had come as a surprise. We go into this novel knowing that Richard and the rest of the group are capable of murder, so we view all of their actions through this lens. That’s possibly part of the point, but I think it would be interesting to know what I would make of the characters based purely on their first impressions rather than pre-gained knowledge. That said, I did enjoy the premise of a  ‘why-dunnit’ in a sort of reverse murder mystery.

The book is split into two halves based around the killing. The first half is set pre-murder and introduces us to Julian, the enigmatic Classics teacher, who has handpicked an elite group of students The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie style. The students are hugely secretive and isolated from the rest of the school and Richard attempts to integrate himself into this group. The tight-knit group have complex relationship dynamics that are gradually teased out in a fascinating way. The narrative effectively and gradually builds the tension which eventually results in the killing of Bunny.

The second part explores what happens after the murder, both plot-wise – the police investigation and risk of discovery – and even more interestingly how the characters cope – or don’t cope – with what they did. This half was the more fascinating for me. I enjoyed seeing how Tartt explored the psyches of the members of the group, pulling apart the enigma surrounding the members of the group that she built during the first part of the book.

That’s what I enjoyed most about The Secret History. The characters are initially presented as aloof, mature and each one is more pretentious than the last (don’t even get me started on Henry). They smoke and drink whiskey and have discussions on the nature of beauty. All of them except Richard come from rich privileged families and the first half sees Richard lying desperately and trying to pretend to be one of them. But Tartt completely tears this facade apart in the second half. These are just children pretending to be adults but they’re all screwed up in some way and it’s tragic. Even before Bunny’s death their relationships are a mess, they’re anxious and needy, and they’re just self aware enough to see that it’s all falling apart but not aware enough to realise that they’re their own worst enemies. Tartt has created a Greek tragedy in a modern setting with teenagers and I love it. (This idea is explored in a much better way than I could ever explain it in this article.)

If I had one complaint about this book, it’s the character of Julian. Julian is a mystery, fiercely intelligent and the inspiration for the group’s desire for the divine and the hedonistic. In everything I saw before reading from reviews to the book’s own blurb he’s presented as the driving force behind everything. So I was a little surprised to read the book and realise that he doesn’t actually do anything. Sure, he introduces them to the concepts of the Bachannal, but Henry’s the one that leads them. He has no part in the murder or its subsequent cover up, and he disappears for large portions of the story. He mainly seems to be there as a reason for the group to be together and as isolated as they are and to provide exposition on the Classical concepts to the reader. It didn’t detract too much from the story, but it seemed a little odd that he was built up so much only for nothing to be done with that.

That said, I adored this book. It definitely has a place on my favourites shelf – I’m a sucker for dark academia – and I’m planning on picking up some more of Tartt’s writing very soon. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you have an interest in Classics.

Book Reviews, Reviews

The Sun and her Flowers Review


Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, was one of those books that took the Internet Book community by storm when it came out. It was a regular feature in Bookstagram posts, mainly for the gorgeous illustrations (also done by Kaur) that accompany the poems. So I was surprised that there hasn’t been more hype around the release of Kaur’s second book which is equally as vibrant and beautiful as the first.

Kaur’s poems are the kind I like best, with a lot of emotional heart and personal connection. She draws inspiration from throughout her life, splitting the poems into themes: “wilting” (moving on from a failed relationship), “falling” (depression), “rooting” (her mother’s experiences as an immigrant and in her marriage), “rising” (a new relationship and falling in love) and “blooming” (feminism and femininity). Sectioning her work like this does mean that reading chronologically can get slightly repetitive, but that just means that The Sun and her Flowers works best as a book to dip into.

Her poems range from a couple of pages to just one line, but she mostly works in short stanzas that focus on one emotion or thought at a time and it creates some beautiful ideas that float on the page but don’t linger too long. They’re accompanied by line drawings that are incredibly simple but somehow lyrical and sit alongside the poems to emphasise the themes and emotions.


It’s very difficult to write about or review poetry without either becoming too technical – clinical, even – or focusing too much on the emotions you felt while reading. I can only say therefore that anyone, but especially women, should absolutely go and find a copy of either this or Milk and Honey and just lose yourself in it.

Book Reviews, Reviews

Our Numbered Days Review


I was introduced to Neil Hilborn by a friend during my I Hate Poetry phase that I had in high school, and I credit him with providing the turning point when I realised just how stupid and stubborn I was being.

Hilborn writes mostly from his own experiences with a heavy focus on mental illness. He’s found a cult following amongst those with their own struggles and as one of their number I can absolutely see why. Hilborn is refreshingly honest throughout his poetry. It’s definitely not all sunshine and puppies because mental illness isn’t like that and it’s wonderful to hear someone expressing that instead of trying to paint over the painful moments. Our Numbered Days embodies one of my favourite quotes from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys:

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met […] And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

But he doesn’t fall into the very common trap – which I know I have – of writing about depression as though everything and everyone is terrible with the paradoxical sense of superiority that can only come from feeling worthless (for examples of this see The Catcher in the Rye, or literally anything ever written by a teenager). Hilborn comes across as a man who knows that the world is good even if he can’t feel it. His work is punctuated with moments of true hope and emotion, and many of his poems had me bawling. I would be interested to hear what someone without experience of mental illness makes of his work seeing as how deeply rooted a lot of his poems are.

Hilborn’s style manages to be sophisticated without seeming pretentious or overworked. Reading his work feels like talking to a friend, albeit one who has a wonderful way with metaphors (and boy does he have some beautiful ones. Plus there’ll always be a place in my heart for the “slutty chicken” simile.) His roots in slam poetry are evident in his writing, but this works to create a personal connection with the reader rather than being distracting. That said, if you have the chance to see him read his work I would absolutely recommend you leap at it. I had the pleasure of hearing him at the Bullingdon in Oxford at the end of August and he is a brilliant performer as well as one of the funniest people I’ve met.

To finish, here are two of Hilborn’s poems. The first is OCD, his most popular poem and the one that went viral to gain him his following. It’s based on his own experiences with the illness and is a captivating performance from him (and it’s just as spellbinding in real life):

The second is The Future, which isn’t in Our Numbered Days but is my absolute favourite of his. It’s another personal look at his struggles with Bipolar Disorder, and the final note of hope never fails to make me cry.

Book Reviews, Reviews

The Psychopath Test Review




Believe it or not, I’m actually reviewing a book on this book blog! Shocking, I know.

When I tell people I’m interested in true crime, I usually have to follow that up with the caveat that I’m not a serial-killer-in-training or one of those naïve weirdos who think they can change mass murderers through the Power of Love. My main fascination with the subject lies in the psychology behind it: what circumstances would drive someone to do something so abhorrent, how the police use profiling to catch a criminal, and how the justice system deals with people who have done awful things but might not be entirely accountable for their actions.

The Psychopath Test focuses, as the title suggests, on psychopaths i.e: people who feel little to no emotion or empathy. It’s a mental illness that has caused a lot of divide in the psychiatric community, and that’s just amongst those who believe it is a mental illness. Ronson approaches the subject very openly, talking to a wide range of sources from Robert Hare, the man who developed the list of criteria currently used to diagnose psychopaths, to CEOs he believes may have utilised their psychopathic tendencies to climb the corporate ladder, to Scientologists who believe that psychology and those who practice it are evil and corrupt. Possibly the most interesting is ‘Tony’, a man who claimed to have faked insanity to get out of prison for a GBH charge and ended up in Broadmoor diagnosed as a psychopath and desperately trying to prove his sanity. Tony’s story is an intriguing look into the nuances of the psychology, how difficult it is to really quantify mental illness with a series of boxes to check, and how terrifyingly easy it would be to get it wrong and ruin someone’s life. (As it turns out, Tony’s diagnosis may not have been so entirely wrong. Ronson revealed in an AMA on Reddit that Tony has been incarcerated at least three more times since he met him.)

It’s common for people writing about mental illness who don’t have experience of it to become hysterical and fall into the trap of fear-mongering, but Ronson thankfully has a much more sympathetic approach. He himself struggles with anxiety, so he’s aware of how mental illness can affect the way you think and act and doesn’t place blame with the sufferers. There are a few places where he clearly begins to think of psychopaths as ‘other’, especially when he’s in the presence of Emmanuel ‘Toto’ Constant (founder of the Hatian death squad FRAPH), but interestingly he catches himself doing this and turns it into a very interesting discussion point. It’s a much more sympathetic approach than many journalists would take to the mentally ill and criminals, and I find this open mind set much more enjoyable to explore the subject through.

I have a lot of love for Ronson’s style as he explores all of these issues. It’s light and friendly, and it doesn’t feel like he is trying to push an agenda; instead it feels more like he’s leading you on a treasure hunt for information, taking you on the same journey of discovery he went on because he found it fascinating and hopes you will too. There’s no opening statement telling you how you should be approaching the book, just the story of how Ronson himself was introduced to it and how that story progressed. It’s my favourite style of non-fiction and Ronson’s witty voice makes it a highly entertaining read.

There is a distinct lack of satisfying conclusion which I can see as being irritating for some people, like this reviewer for the Guardian comments, but for me the lack of certainty is part of the fascinating quality of the subject. It seems a little unfair to ask Ronson, a journalist, to answer questions that generations of trained professionals have failed to agree on. However, I can understand that this sort of open-ended investigation may not be for anyone, so if you want any kind of conclusive answers then this may be one to avoid.

This is the first I’ve read of Ronson’s work and I am absolutely going to be seeking out more. The Psychopath Test manages to balance information with effortlessly readable style and leaves you with a lot to think about, which for me is the mark of an excellent piece of journalism. There aren’t always easy answers, but investigation for the thrill of the chase will almost always provide an entertaining read.

Book Reviews, Reviews

The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls Review


Chances are you’ve never heard of Emilie Autumn unless you move in very particular musical circles; I very much stumbled across her when someone referenced her in a blog. Her style is self-described as ‘victoriandustrial’ with a bit of musical theatre thrown in, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but something I actually quite like (if you want to check her out I’d start with Opheliac, which is generally considered to be her best album). She’s bipolar and an outspoken feminist, both of which feed into pretty much everything she does. She’s occasionally a bit controversial in her comments and her aesthetic has garnered accusations of romanticising mental illness, but overall I like her and her music has actually helped me through some tough times.

In 2009 Autumn self-published The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls to accompany the tour she was on and is based on the time she spent in a mental institution. Part autobiography, part historical novel, part fantasy, AFWVG is an odd mish-mash of styles mixed in with handwritten notes, recipes and photographs including shots of Autumn herself and as a whole looks stunning.


I would definitely describe this as a Marmite book: either it works for you or it doesn’t.

The fictional half of the book is told in letters ‘received’ by Autumn during her time in the mental institution. Emily-with-a-Y, a Victorian violin prodigy who is condemned to life in The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, a place where vulnerable girls are mistreated and abused, and ultimately part of sinister dealings by the corrupt Asylum doctors. It’s fairly standard fare, but for the most part it’s executed reasonably well. Emily-with-a-Y is likeable and very human, although she does fall prey to the ‘Chosen One’ trope a little as the Asylum doctors find her a little too interesting for no apparent reason. There are also a few issues with overly-loquacious style and structure – there are places where the action begins to pick up pace only to be followed by a whole chapter describing the food at the Asylum – but I found it relatively enjoyable and, with a good editor (which will be happening now that Autumn has signed with a publishing house) it definitely has potential.

You do need to let historical accuracy go a little which people have complained about, but I don’t think that that was what Autumn was going for. Although her description can be a little clunky at times she does create a vivid, gritty world that holds genuine fear for the female characters and, although the villains are exaggerated, she draws parallels between their attitudes towards women and sentiments that are still held by some today that manage to cut close to the bone.

But it’s the autobiographical parts of the book that are by far the more interesting. Autumn bares her soul in these sections, drawing on things that she wrote around the time she was committed to create not just an account of her time in the mental institution, but a holistic look at what it means to be ‘crazy’. She’s definitely not always likeable in these parts, but she’s brutally honest about it and it’s both harrowing and beautiful. These parts aren’t for the faint hearted – the three diaries she includes sections of are very difficult to read – but I would honestly say it’s worth it. If you’ve ever been through anything similar then Emilie’s thoughts and experiences will probably speak very personally to you.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Autumn became more interested in the fictional world that she created than telling her own story because the autobiographical chapters become less and less frequent and don’t receive any proper conclusion. Instead she meshes the two worlds she’s written about together, which is fair enough, but I would have liked some closure or reflective thoughts on her time in the institution. I would definitely call this my main complaint because I enjoyed (although maybe that’s not the right word) the autobiographical parts much more than the fiction, although I realise that how much Autumn tells us is entirely up to her as it is very personal.

I’m not sure I could say that I recommend this book. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and I know that a lot of people didn’t like it, either because of the faults in the composition of the fiction or because the autobiography didn’t connect with them, and I can definitely understand why. I have to say that I’m glad I read it though because it spoke to me personally. I think it’s the kind of book each individual would have a different experience with, so if it sounds like your kind of thing then check it out. Just make sure you have a strong stomach.

Book Reviews, Reviews

The Disaster Artist Review

Apologies for the long hiatus from any content at all, let alone book related content! 


First of all, let me start by saying that if you haven’t seen Tommy Wiseau’s cult masterpiece The Room then you haven’t lived. It is one of the most beautiful messes ever to exist and everyone should see it at least once before they die.

Some context: long ago, in distant 2001, Thomas Wiseau decided to make a film. For those who haven’t seen it, The Room is an attempt at a serious romantic drama written, directed and starred in by Wiseau, who unfortunately has very little talent at any of those three things. The film is only still around because it reached cult status for its sheer awfulness. People attend screenings of The Room like they do Rocky Horror Picture Show, heckling the screen, throwing spoons and joining in with every iconic line (“You’re tearing me apart Lisa!”). It transcends all possible description with mere words, so I can only advise that you seek it out and watch it as soon as possible. You can thank me later. If you can’t watch it right now, all you really need to know can be summed up by this quote from Professor Ross Morin:

It is one of the most important films of the past decade…the Citizen Kane of bad movies.

What The Disaster Artist reveals is that the making of the film was just as painfully entertaining as the film itself. Written by Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s (possibly only) friend who was dragged into starring in the film, this book gives an enthralling insight into every aspect of the film and the genius(?) behind it.

Wiseau is a fascinating and often quite sinister character, both as a man and a filmmaker, and Sestero is perfectly situated to give us a reasonably in-depth look into both. The book alternates between ‘past’ (how Sestero met Wiseau, their friendship and how The Room was conceived) and ‘present’ (describing the making of the film), ending with the glorious premiere. It’s hard to say which chapters I enjoyed more; the filming chapters were great fun and full of hilarious anecdotes about Wiseau’s odd directing choices and his inability to read the lines he wrote himself, and if you’ve seen the film then you’ll find lots of explanation for some of the more…unusual…aspects of the film, such as why there are pictures of spoons everywhere or why there’s a scene where the characters play football in tuxedos for no discernable reason.

But Sestero goes beyond just writing a funny book about a terrible film in the ‘past’ chapters and actually gives some thoughtful insight into Wiseau’s past and how it affects his behaviour and motivations. In some ways this is even more interesting than the amusing anecdotes from the film set, and goes a long way to explain how The Room ended up the way it did. Somehow the film is all the more interesting when you have a glimpse into the psyche of the man who made it. Of course, there’s no way to confirm Sestero’s stories about Wiseau’s past – Wiseau is notorious for lying and avoiding questions about his history – but he makes some educated guesses that turn his friend into more than just a strange comedic caricature.

This is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s seen The Room, or even anyone with an interest in film-making because it gives such a unique and in-depth perspective of the process. It’s a light and engaging read that offers a little more than most books of its kind. I’ll be interested to see how the film adaptation that’s coming out later this year treats it (yes, they’re making a film about a book about making a film). It’s bound to be entertaining with a great cast, but I’ll like it all the more if it keeps some of the heart that makes this book so readable.

Book Reviews, Reviews

The Firebird Chronicles: Rise Of The Shadow Stealers Review


Apologies for the long unplanned hiatus. It turns out that moving cities and starting a new job takes up a lot of your time! Hopefully I’ll be able to start posting with more regularity. To kick us off again, a book I was sent for review by its author, Daniel Ingram-Brown, who may be the world’s most patient man and who you should definitely check out here or on his Twitter.

Rise of the Shadow Stealers is one of those books that you would never normally find but somehow stumble across – or in my case, get sent a copy after a Twitter connection – and reading it makes your week. The premise is charming, fanciful and wonderfully meta: set on an island where fictional characters are trained to fit their roles in their respective novels, Fletcher and Scoop team up for a quest to restore their lost memories of their lives before they were at Blotting’s Academy and to attend the wedding of the mysterious Storyteller.

I have to say I found Rise of the Shadow Stealers rather surprising, and not in a bad way. I came to it assuming from the cover and blurb that it would be children’s fiction (not that that’s a bad thing in the slightest. Critics sniffily dismissing something as children’s fiction irritates me no end). It’s actually quite sophisticated for that genre though, interweaving a delightfully whimsical fantasy plot with more mature themes, like maintaining morality in difficult times and finding your purpose, and drawing heavily on religious symbolism and metaphor throughout. This can get a little heavy-handed in places, particularly the religious parallels, but for the most part it’s skilfully interwoven with the fantasy narrative that means you can read it on whatever level you’d like: whimsical fantasy, Christian literature, good old fashioned morality tale and so on. A lot of reviews made comparison to the Narnia series and I can definitely see their point. Rise of the Shadow Stealers stands on its merits as a charming fantasy novel, but it really comes into its own when you delve deeper and think about the messages behind it all.

While the plot is technically about Fletcher and Scoop’s quest to reach the Storyteller’s wedding, it’s as much about their growth as characters as it is about getting from to B. This is a world inhabited by purposeful stereotypes (the infinitely wise but slightly batty old mentor, the outrageously evil witch, and even one character who proudly identifies herself as a Snob), who can at times feel a little 2-D by themselves, but this does help to emphasise the fact that the two protagonists develop naturally and realistically enough that I was really very fond of them by the end. Their flaws are what make them important as characters, and so they’re nicely fleshed out and allowed to make mistakes. Fletcher in particular undergoes some notable development, and his transformation is well handled and enjoyable to witness, because the characters, like the rest of the book, are charming and you find yourself really rooting for them as they undergo their quest.

The real triumph of the novel, however, is the world building. You can really tell that Ingram-Brown had great fun creating Fullstop Island (which is just the most adorable name ever) from the ground up to create a setting that lives beyond what we see in the story. It’s my favourite kind of world building too, where tiny details and minor characters are fleshed out beyond just filling their role to advance the plot, even if they just appear in once scene. Particular favourites of mine were the batty and slightly weird ladies who run the tea shop and one very special character who appears at the end, who you will have to read the book to find out about. If nothing else convinces you to give Rise of the Shadow Stealers a go, the joy of it’s construction should be all the persuasion you need.

You’ve probably noticed the common theme in this review: ‘charming’. You can’t help but enjoy yourself while reading this book, and I would recommend it to anyone out there who needed a little cheer to brighten their week. I’m definitely looking forwards to the sequel and what Daniel Ingram-Brown has up his sleeve for his characters next.

Book Reviews, Reviews

The Other Boleyn Girl Review

cover21My past experiences with Philippa Gregory haven’t exactly endeared her to me. I watched the first episode of the BBC adaptation of her novel The White Queen and got as far as the scene where Edward IV raped Elizabeth Woodville in the forest causing her to declare her undying love for him, at which point I promptly stopped watching. I also saw the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl, but was distracted the whole time by watching Natalie Portman chase her English accent around her face (how is it possible for her half-decent accent from V for Vendetta to have got so much worse in 3 years?)

I’d also heard things about her historical accuracy, or rather lack thereof. My A-Level History class watched a documentary where she was included in a panel of historians and historical novelists, and one of the theories she presented caused several of the others to break into hysterics and one old man looked like he was going to cry.

I therefore chose to ignore The Other Boleyn Girl during my A-Level years so I didn’t pick up any strange ideas that would make old men cry, but having finished my exams and having a historical itch to scratch (is that a thing, or am I just strange?) I decided to pick it up and have a read.

Pinning down my actual problems with this book was difficult. There’s no real overarching problems that make it a Bad Book, but a build up of small niggles just made me feel uncomfortable. And a book making you uncomfortable is possibly even worse than a Bad Book, because at least you can laugh at a Bad Book.

Setting aside the historical accuracy – and you have to, if you don’t want to spend the whole time hitting your head against a wall – Gregory sets out  to humanise these infamous historical figures. This is a lofty goal, with particularly Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn having been so analysed, counter-analysed and over-analysed throughout history that it’s hard to form an opinion without it being informed by some pre-existing social or political school of thought. What they were really like as people we shall never know (although meeting controversial historical figures would be the best use of time travel as far as I’m concerned), so Gregory’s aim to bring them to life is admirable.

Unfortunately she falls at the first hurdle by Characterising them (capital letter intentional) instead of characterising them. You can’t go two pages without being reminded that Anne is self-serving and ambitious, or that Mary is kind-hearted but easily manipulated, or that George is a bit of a slut. It works well enough to begin with, but after the twentieth time of being told that Anne has an enigmatic smile an enigmatic smile is what she becomes to a reader, which puts us straight back to square one on the humanising front.

This also, slightly ironically, causes a few problems for the main theme of the book, namely family. Mary is torn throughout between her own emotions and her loyalty to the Boleyns, but when Gregory makes it so clear that they’re greedy social climbers her protestations of ‘But family!’ only work for so long before they seem a bit unbelievable. It only becomes more strained when Mary gets her own family away from the scheming of court, and yet continues to serve Anne loyally until her arrest and defend Anne to her husband as if she is some kind of misunderstood saint.

In a novel apparently about the vicious rivalry between the two sisters the rivalry appears only in an abstract form in Mary’s head. She insists repeatedly throughout that Anne is both her greatest friend and her bitterest enemy, but the interactions between the two show merely reflect the need for tension in the plot and not any realistic reaction to events. Mary is bitter or loyal as the plot needs her to be; slights are forgotten within pages, even Anne effectively stealing Mary’s son, simply so Anne’s character can be developed. I understand that she is the most historically compelling, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your protagonist’s character for that of another you deem more interesting, especially if the reader is stuck with them as a narrator. To begin with this confusing loyalty can be passed off as self-sacrifice for the family, but, as discussed above, this excuse quickly gets stretched too far to be credible.

Gregory’s actual writing style is a bit wonky at times too. There’s no real consistent issues, but every so often something happens that completely threw me. A prime example of this would be the two pages where Mary describes in intricate details events that she never witnessed and never has described to her. This happens at a few points in the book and, while I guess you could claim that Mary is filling in the gaps with her imagination it just strikes me as clunky. The benefits of using Mary’s point of view is that, other than a few basic details, not much is known about her or her movements. She therefore makes an ideal narrator, being able to witness anything the author needs her to. It seems lazy not to use that to your advantage; in the bustling social world of the court that Gregory paints it would be easy to just write Mary into a corner to overhear the important conversations she needs to. Contrived it may be, but it at least prevents your narrator from being omniscient.

When all is said and done, however, I can’t deny that I found The Other Boleyn Girl a very compelling read. I kept picking it up whenever I could and, despite not setting aside any long periods of time to read it, practically raced through what is a reasonably hefty 529 pages in quite a small typeface. I think it’s due to the short ‘segments’ the book is divided into, as they break it up into manageable chunks you can just pick up easily without dedicating hours of reading time. It also means that Gregory can’t fall prey to the common issue in historical fiction, namely boring the reader to death with lovingly researched detail about what the walls are made of. Gregory’s style is quick and gets both plot details and historical fact across neatly and effectively, making it a good starting point for someone wanting an introduction to the genre, or even someone wanting a light but exciting read.

Just so long as you don’t think about it too hard.