Marius's Mules by SJA Turney
If I wasn’t a fantasy writer, I should dearly love to write historical fiction. And as a reader, this year I have tried to read mostly hist.fict. which includes those I listed in my shopping spree last night as well as a re-visit of the unparalleled Dorothy Dunnett. To me, these top rated authors are paying an enormous compliment to time past, to our ancestors, to the breadth of experience that has brought us to this point in our existence. None more so than those who write of ancient Rome. I have read Marius’ Mules this year and below is my review of it for Amazon.com:
My favourite bookshop had their pre-Christmas sale tonight with wine and cheeses and lots of laughs. I went with the best intentions to shop for others and I did . . . truly. I bought my brother the latest Michael Connolly and I bought my daughter two wonderful books as well. But then there was The Complete Annotated Book of Fairytales and Felicity Pulman’s Rosemary for Remembrance Rue for Repentance, Kim Wilkin’s The Autumn Castle and Sharon Penman’s Time and Chance. And most specially Mr.Bliss . . . beautifully printed and in a dark green cloth-covered slip cover. My altruism went out the window. I had shopped for myself. Hardly the spirit of giving. But then I paid for it all with my mother’s birthday gift to me, so guilt doesn’t weigh quite so heavily.
Jon Evans in 2008 talked on Tor.com about a spectrum with surreal fantasy at the far left, categorized by Marquez and Allende and systematic fantasy moving to the right categorized by books like ‘Little Big’. He went on to say that the far left uses magic to illuminate and explore their characters and their struggles in our real world.
‘She crawled on her knees through the thicket. Prickles began nibbling at her clothes, to be replaced by the unkind tug of cluster of sharp twigs. Across her back, a waft of air caused her to turn and she saw the edge of her jacket caught on a black thorn, lifting away from her as she crawled forward. She tried to reach back to slash at the branch, but in moving her arm another thorn dragged at her sleeve, piercing the skin beneath. She thought she heard a sound, a hissing – some wretched creature bent on enjoying her misfortune. She could imagine the basilisk eyes and the sinuous body just staring, waiting. To drag her away to a lair where it would send her into some deadly sleep and then when its fangs had pierced her skin, to turn her into a creature like itself. She couldn’t retreat, the branches were converging and twisting to form a fedge-like thicket. But she would not be trapped, could not be trapped – there was too much at stake. She thrust against the thorn in her arm, feeling it rip through her skin and she bit her lip at the pain, watching the bright red blood pool drop by drop near her knee. She thrust with her small weapon again, slashing a thick bract, then another, each time inching forward through the dirt . . .’