polutrope: (Default)
Blood for a Borgia is quite awful. This awfulness resides mainly in the prose, since the plot, although it starts a little more than halfway through the book, is quite good, and there are no egregious mistakes in characterization. (Although Giovanni Sforza goes from limp-wristed to killing Giovanni Borgia pretty quickly.) So yeah, quotes:

“The heavy dews of passion drowned all else in her as she thrilled to him.” From, what else, a sex scene. A sex scene that starts the book and in which Giovanni Borgia tells his lover all about contemporary politics.

“That’s the trouble with Italy. There’s no national army.” Man, that is possibly the most anachronistic sentence I have ever read. It’s like “And then Caesar disposed of the assassins with his laser gun.”

“He was fabulously wealthy, ambitious, well-connected, powerful…and now he was dead.” Because really. That sentence happened.

“You daren’t trust yourself. You live the life of a zombi.” Did they even know about zombies in renaissance Italy? Or does zombi mean something else that Google and I know nothing of?

“There’s enough circumstantial evidence against him.” Evidently renaissance Italian justice systems worked exactly the same as 20th century American ones.

"Amazed, he confronted her, surprise in every feature of his face."

Also, pet peeve alert! Italian thrown in to "make it more authentic" or something. As in "Diavolo! I must now say some stilted exposition!"

And Iago Lanuto is referred to as Giovanni Borgia's "evil genius" more times than you can shake a lamb's tail at. Further "ugh": Iago Lanuto is not a historical character. Real subtle there, Mr. Gaunt.

I also disapprove of Lucrezia showing up very briefly and being characterized as a silly child. Of course. Because I like Lucrezia as a schemer, because it's cool.
polutrope: (Default)
I'm going to justify this by saying that I need something to read while I'm on the bike, but really that's a lie. Anyway, I read "The Sword of Attila," whose tagline is "He feared no man, no god, and no nation - and now Rome itself would know his wrath." And it's pretty much as melodramatic as that makes it seem. Nonetheless, by the end I was really non-ironically into it.

There were problems, yes: I wish he had better female characters. Honoria is a hilariously terrible person in history - she proposes to Attila because her brother imprisoned her!* And so you could and probably should do a lot more with her than having her be defined by sleeping with/wanting to sleep with people. Aetius' wife, while not important to the story historically, could be fleshed out in a novel, and, well, I forget her name. I think it's Priscilla. Also there's a developmentally delayed man who can barely manage one word at a time, and of course he sacrifices himself heroically for our hero.

But Our Hero is pretty damn heroic (it really should have been called "The Story of Aetius' Awesome or something. I am not good at names, but the point is it's less about Attila and more about Aetius.). And likable, or maybe that's just because he's my type, to a tee. I mean, he's 1. fiercely loyal to a doomed cause 2. he's a great man who is surrounded and subordinate to lesser men 3. he's lean and dark-haired. And he goes and learns Hunnic fighting! and one of the Huns has a life-debt to him! In short, Aetius is awesome and makes the book. Attila, tbh, is kind of boring, although there is a pretty awesome scene at the end in which he begs Aetius to kill him after being defeated at Châlons.

Even the prose wasn't too bad. Not great, and with a certain tendency to purple when it was aiming for lyrical, but not awful, the way too many historical novels are.

So as a whole, I'd recommend it, if you're looking for a quick read and like awesome Roman generals.
__
*NB: Facts may well be drawn from the Huns Age of Empires II campaign.**
**fun story about that campaign: there's one scenario where you get gold for destroying minor settlements. I always ran out and ended up having to attack Byzantium.*** So Byzantium totally got destroyed by the Huns in my alternate history.
***Attacking Byzantium is a pain. I can see why it didn't fall till 1453.
polutrope: (aeneid)
The current trend toward 'creative' historical writing is incredibly annoying. If you are going to write things like 'the gravel of [whatever town Boudica was attacking] should have crunched under the feet of its happy inhabitants,' or 'Theodora might have felt X way when she saw/heard about Y,' write historical fiction, dammit!


Similarly, if one of the sources you repeatedly quote is the sketchy "secret history" of a people with not much of a literary tradition about their semi-legendary founder, write historical fiction, dammit!


I mean, really. I thought we'd evolved past Herodotus.
polutrope: (Default)
Because it's summer and I have nothing better to do, I've been fixing some of the gaping hole in my knowledge of history. Admittedly, the way I'm going about it involves reading the first book at the library with an interesting title, but it's better than nothing.
Historical Thoughts )
polutrope: (aeneid)
I have come to the conclusion that people before nineteen hundred didn't know anything about the Year of Four Emperors. (Of course, neither do most people after that year.)

For some reason, the Emperor Titus Vespasianus has been invading my reading and listening material. I have La Clemenza di Tito and Bérénéce, who may have the right number of accents in her name, and neither Caterino Mazzolà nor Racine seems to grasp the fact that the Titus Vespasianus that came after Vitellius is not the same Titus Vespasianus who had an illict love affair with Queen Berenice.

I know because I've read far too much Lindsay Davis, but they have no excuse for not knowing.

By the way, the Racine is very good - I think I prefer it to Phèdre in some ways, like actually liking the characters - as is Le gout des autres, in which it is quoted.
polutrope: (the bells)
It's 3:33 AM, and I just finished my history paper and it's only a week late and oh God it's finally DONE. I am so happy. Now I don't have to think for the rest of the school year, especially since the SATs are over.


And the papacy should have been at Rome. Duh.


Damn French.

But the English were wrong in the Hundred Years' War. Damn English.

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