“Burning Times” by Jeanne Kalogridis (Simon & Schuster, 2001)

Burning Timesstarstarstar

From Jeanne Kalogridis, author of the Vlad the Impaler trilogy, comes a novel of medieval France, Burning Time.  In this book many issues come to play: pagan ritual, magic, the Black Death, as well as an appearance from Edward the Black Prince during the Hundred Years War.

Sybille is one of the Race, an embodiment of the pagan goddess Diana, who came into existence years before God, ad the two beliefs that exist in a world fighting for the belief in only one of them.  Sybille has now been captured by the Inquisition and she is supposed to confess her sins (conducting magic against the Pope) to Brother Michel.  Instead she is going to tell him her life story, from birth to present, of how she came to be a real-life embodiment of the Goddess, of thee powers and wars and plague that fight against her, and how Brother Michel is the key to it all, even though he does not know this.

While at certain points the story become  confusing and overly complex with the magic and the ritual, as well as Kalogridis employing cheap clichés to make the plot work better (the use of bewitchment, where Brother Michel dreams of Sybille’s past), the book on the whole represents an interesting insight into the life and strife during the fourteenth century.

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Originally published on December 3rd 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages” by Norman F. Cantor (Viking, 1999)

Encyclopedia of the Middle Agesstarstarstar

Have you ever wondered how the English Parliament started, or when William the Conqueror (or William the Bastard as he was also known) was born and died, or how about when writing tools were invented?  For once all these answers and so many more are contained within one impressive, colorful book.

The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages works just like any other encyclopedia or dictionary: if you want to look something up, just turn to the corresponding letter.  This book has it all, as well as facts and figures up the wazoo.  And if you’ve ever thought about competing on Jeopardy and didn’t know which source to turn to and study for the Middle Ages, well here’s your answer.

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Originally published on November 12th 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World: 3000 BC – AD 1603” by Simon Schama (Hyperion, 2000)

A History of Britainstarstarstarstar

In this vast compendium of British history, renowned author Simon Schama has a strong theme running throughout.  Just as the subtitle suggests, so does the book cover of a solitary lighthouse in a rough, whitewash sea that Britain is an island: it always was and it always will be.  And because of that, it was often cut off from the rest of continental Europe, advancing on its own and without the aid of a unified continent (even if there was never such a thing!).

A History of Britain is one of those books that, if you like anything about Britain or history, you just have to have it sitting on your shelf in your great library.  It is the kind of book that you can either sit down and slowly read through, savoring over Schama’s precisely chosen words; or use an incomparable reference tool when studying up on ancient Britain – this book is full of fact, details and figures, not to mention wonderful pictures of the past.

Good news: Simon Schama has recently released the second volume of the History of Britain series, The Wars of the British 1603-1776 .

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Originally published on November 12th 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.