It's Book Review Wednesday, and boy do I have a treat for you! This is one of the VERY FEW books I've ever rated as 5 stars, and it's a wonderful historical fiction/fantasy novel that's absolutely worth the read.
The Sons of Brabant
Europe is on fire. Fuelled by religion, politics and power, war rages across the continent, pitting father against son, and brother against brother.
In the wake of such conflict come horrific famine and deadly plagues. Rumours begin to surface of the End of Days, of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the violent Renaissance of Mankind.
As Europe burns, betrayal and feuding rages in the Brabant family. Why does Reinald, the powerful yet dishonest Duke fear his younger siblings so? How will headstrong Leo and noble Willem outsmart their older brother, and take back what is rightfully theirs? And what of Isabella, their troublesome younger sister, whose fiery temper lands her in love and in trouble...
Vowing to put right the wrongs of their family and bring an end to their brother's deadly plans, Willem, Leo and Isabella must chart a course through war, famine and pestilence.
Meanwhile Reinald forms an unlikely and deadly alliance with a megalomaniac, a warmonger, and a deranged yet brilliant scientist, hell-bent on seeing their holy mission through to its grisly conclusion.
Can the Sons of the King of Brabant survive? Help appears from the most unlikely of places...
My Review: 5 Stars
Yes, I'm giving this book a five-star review because it's just that good. I don't hand them out easily, so you can know this was worth the read.
Let's start with the good:
A great setting.
Set in post-Renaissance Europe, the continent is a powder keg of battles and violence. Definitely a get setting for the story!
The two main male characters (Willem and Leo) are excellent, though the sister is a bit of a two-dimensional character. The Irish character Conor is also a bit two-dimensional, but he's interesting enough to make it worth the read. Reinald is a mish-mash of sociopath, psychopath, and villain trying to do the right things in the wrong way.
Though it took A LONG time to get through this book, I never lost interest. It was no easy reading, but it was a great story overall. A wonderful blend of military fiction, fantasy, and Irish mythology thrown in.
Now for the bad:
The occasional grammar mistake,
usually no more than two or three per chapter. Also, there is occasional misuse of a large or complicated word.
shifting from character to character's POV. Not so easy to read, as it's always shifting perspectives.
Odd time jump,
between the first and second chapter. It had nothing to indicate the passage of time, but just barreled right on.
The book has scene breaks at random and confusing places.
Flashbacks done poorly.
Not only were they out of place, but there was nothing to indicate that they were flashbacks. They didn't further the story much, and they could have been left out.
All in all, a book that I found absolutely awesome, and I'm totally looking forward to Book 2!
Here's a Taste:
As Vitruvius, his heavy-shouldered horse, picked up speed, he was aware of the others following him, struggling to catch up. Soon his attention was fully consumed by the onrushing hedge, requiring him to judge both speed and distance, and trust that his steed would heed his judgement. Just when it seemed too late and they would crash into the rough branches at full tilt, he drew back on the reins and lifted Vitruvius’ head, the horse’s body straining as it drove its rear hooves into the ground, lifting man and beast over the obstacle with ease.
Landing safely, Willem allowed his steed to continue its gallop, but drew it in a lazy circle so that he could observe the others as they jumped. Leo and Reinald cleared simultaneously, their voices raised in whoops as they sailed through the air. Moments later, Bella’s dun mare crested the hedge. Immediately Willem could see that something was amiss, as the horse’s trailing leg clipped a solid cross-branch and its body twisted in mid-air. Time slowed and he heard his own voice cry out for his sister as he raced his horse back towards the fence. While Duke Henry loved all of his children, Isabella reminded him of the fire and spark of their dead mother, and the Duke was fiercely protective of her wellbeing. The thought of bringing her home injured terrified Willem.
His cry had alerted the others, who reined in their horses and tried to turn back to help. Vitruvius’ momentum meant that Willem was the only brother close when Bella leapt from her saddle, half sprawling as she tried to distance herself from the falling mare. Willem watched with amazement as his sister landed on the soft earth and rolled as skilfully as one of the acrobats that sometimes visited court as entertainers.
Triskell, Isabella’s mare, was less lucky. Willem watched as the horse landed heavily on its right foreleg, his gaze aghast as he saw the leg concertina, bone pieces twisting and rupturing out of the skin. An almost human shriek accompanied the fall, which left the horse thrashing in agony, unable to right itself. Willem threw himself from the saddle before his horse had come to a stop, dropping to his knees beside the crumpled form of his younger sister.
“Triskell!” gasped Isabella, her voice clouded with pain, “is she all right?”
Willem ran his hands over his sister’s arms and legs and straightened her neck gently. “I don’t know. Are you well? Nothing seems broken, but lie still and let me see.”
“A plague on you, you dung-for-brains goat! How fares my horse?” Bella shouted angrily, as she struggled to sit up.
Listening to the beast’s agonised screams would have told anyone that her horse was mortally wounded and a cursory glance confirmed that for Willem. He looked down at his sister sadly. “She’s done for, Bell. There’s nothing to be done, except put her out of her misery. I’m so sorry.”
Bella screamed madly, pushing herself to her feet and staggering over to the fallen horse, whose struggles calmed somewhat in her presence.
Reinald and Leo dropped to the ground beside them, concerned for Isabella’s well-being. They both immediately realised the nature of Triskell’s injuries. Reinald, in command as ever, stepped forward, drawing his belt knife. “I will put her out of her misery. It’s all that can be done and we need to run to stay ahead of the storm. You can ride with Willem – Vitruvius is strong enough to carry you both at a gallop.”
“Leave her alone,” screamed Isabella. She rose to her knees and looked into her brothers’ faces, seeing the same answer in all three. Tears streaming down her face, her natural practicality took over. “Very well, but I will do it myself.”
The boys nodded, expecting no less, as she took the knife from Reinald’s outstretched hand. She knelt again, looking into Triskell’s eyes and raised a shaky hand with the knife poised to fall. Her hand shook as sobs racked her body and she dropped her arm to her side once more. Between cries, she mumbled, “I can’t. I’m so sorry, Tris, I just can’t.”
Reinald stepped forward again. “Get out of the way, then. This needs to be done – it’s the right thing. If you don’t have the strength to do it, I will. Stop your tears, girl, it’s only a horse.”
Both Willem and Leo turned to stare at their older brother, horrified at his statement, but their reaction was nothing in comparison to that of their sister. From her crouch, Isabella launched herself straight up at Reinald, knocking him over, beating and scratching at his face, fury written large across her features. With her knee on Reinald’s chest, she remembered the knife in her hand. With no warning, just a manic gleam in her eyes, she made to drive the knife into his chest.
“I should kill you, you brute,” she snarled, before jumping to her feet and throwing herself to the ground beside her horse once more. With a quick slash, she drew the blade across the beast’s throat, spilling its lifeblood into the soil.
About the Author:
It took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realise that all he actually did was tell stories.
There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, "The Sons of Brabant". An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.
Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.
Now living in Prague (for the second time), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.
Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the thirty Years War raged around him.
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sons-Brabant-Book-Devils-Bible-ebook/dp/B00SWWIWPI/
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Read his thoughts on his website: www.michaelbolan.org