Tag Archives: alternate history

A brother’s price

A brother’s price / Wen Spencer

A brother’s price is a novel that seems to be intended to defy genre categorization. Part fantasy, part western, and part romance, it comes from Wen Spencer, more frequently a writer of urban fantasy/paranormal romance with an sf twist.

Despite the fact that I’ve read about 10 urban fantasy novels in a row, this is the only book I’ve read by this author.

I usually try to avoid talking about other reviews when I write these, but I have totally failed this time.

Brief plot summary

Jerin is a young man being raised by his sisters. About to come of age in a world where men are treated as property due to their extreme scarcity, he is not exactly looking forward to an arranged marriage. After rescuing a mysterious woman, Jerin finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens to overthrow the government.

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Lord of the silver bow


Lord of the silver bow is the first book in David Gemmell’s Troy series, which is more of an alternate history version of the Trojan war than it is a reimagining of the Iliad, which is how I frequently see the series portrayed.

Brief plot summary

Tensions are rising between the Greeks and Trojans.

Aeneas and Odysseus  are close friends, despite being allied with opposing poweres. Aeneas is in love with Hector’s fiancée, Andromache. There’s a lot of complicated interpersonal relationship drama, coupled with the fact that the heroes on both sides of the conflict are basically pirates.

The actual plot is fairly convoluted and there are enough surprises that it’s hard to reveal much else here.

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Books I gave up on: part 1

While I normally try to finish novels once I’ve started them, there are occasional books that, for one reason or another, I just can’t get through. I don’t like to give up on books, but if I’m really not feeling a book I’ll occasionally decide that it’s not worth finishing.

Pavane / Keith Roberts. Originally published 1968.

Pavane had two strikes against it, really. First, it’s a fix-up, which is not a format that I typically enjoy. I prefer my short stories to be short stories and my novels to be novels. With a few exceptions (see my review of The right mistake) it’s not something that appeals to me. Secondly, it’s an alternative history novel which, despite my love of both historical fiction and sf/fantasy, is not a genre I typically enjoy.

I gave up on Pavane fairly early on, partway through the first section. I just didn’t find the story compelling, and it wasn’t sufficiently character-focused for me. I’d certainly recommend it to fans of the alternative history or steampunk genres, but it just wasn’t for me.

The difference engine / William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Originally published 1990.

Can you sense a theme here? The difference engine is another alternate history novel  that didn’t really appeal to me. I made it about 2/3 of the way through before giving up on this one. I lasted longer than I did in Pavane because it did have more of a character-driven plot. I gave up after the first major conflict was resolved, the revolt by Captain Swing. The prototypical steampunk novel, the setting is a world where Babbage successfully built his analytical engine, resulting in a society controlled by steam-driven “difference engines
. It follows a set of mysterious punch-cards from owner to owner as various factions compete over them. Most of my criticisms of Pavane apply here. It just wasn’t my thing, but I’d recommend it to cyberpunk fans looking for something a bit different, alternate history aficionados, and steampunk-types.

The conqueror’s shadow / Ari Marmell. Originally published 2010.

I was given this book by a friend who read it and enjoyed it. It certainly wasn’t terrible, but it was incredibly stupid. The conqueror’s shadow is a dark fantasy novel that takes more than a little inspiration from both the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven and the Warhammer Fantasy universe. The hero is essentially a fantasy warlord version of Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven, who comes out of retirement after his daughter is attacked. I actually nearly finished this book before being distracted by more interesting fare. I was reading it at night before bed and it was certainly effective at putting me to sleep.

I have no opposition to “dark” stories, but this was so obnoxiously dark it came out the other side and ended up being silly instead. The reviews on Amazon are fairly positive, so it’s possible I’m missing something, but it really wasn’t for me. It is a book I’m likely to recommend to others though. Fans of Brent Weeks and Joe Abercrombie will probably find plenty to like here, although Marmell’s writing lacks the style of Weeks and the philosophical depth of Abercrombie. It’s a good book for fans of dark fantasy in general who are looking for something unchallenging and “fun”. It might be worth checking out for horror fans who are looking for something different as well.