Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston

     I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review Judith Starkston's debut novel, Hand of Fire. This novel focuses on Briseis, a queen who is often no more than a footnote in the beautiful story of the Trojan War. I absolutely adore books that really flesh out otherwise minor characters since it is imperative for world-building. In Hand of Fire Briseis is given a beautifully woven back story. We see her spring to life as a young healing priestess who is taken captive by the Greeks.
     Leading the Greeks in their attacks is strong, handsome demi-god Achilles. Unlike many portrayals of Achilles in other works, Ms. Starkston's Achilles is well rounded and more complex. He is shown not as a mindless war machine, but as a young man who is aware of destiny and capable of being tender. Even after all the grief Achilles has caused for Briseis their relationship feels believable and real. 
      This story is so incredibly well researched, but not at all textbook-like that any reader, from the casual reader looking for a strong story to die hard history buffs, will find this book a pleasure. I really loved how this book made the ancient world come to life and be relatable to audiences while not losing its authenticity. It is evident Starkston felt such an attachment to her characters, because they are just so real! 
      All in all, I give this novel 4.5 out of 5 stars! If you are looking for an except of Hand of Fire, please click here, or if you are interested in purchasing it click here.
Judith Starkston

Find Q&A, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community on Starkston’s website www.JudithStarkston.com
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Real Life Game of Thrones


   The number-one reason I am loving George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire book series, is the hardcore political action. The second reason, is all the similarities between the fictional characters and real-life historical figures. The third reason, Jon Snow.

I mean c'mon...
But back to reason number two...

Martin's book series is the inspiration behind HBO's hit television show, Game of Thrones. The series is set in the land of Westeros, or the Seven Kingdoms. Martin has said he used The Wars of the Roses, which was a series of wars fought in England in the 15th century between warring families the York's and the Lancaster's. One of the most obvious relationships between the fictional and the factional are the names: two of the major families in Westeros are the Stark's and the Lannister's. However, more in depth, individual characters seem to be very similar to historical figures.

  • Robert Baratheon, king of the Seven Kingdoms seems to have a lot in common with the infamous King Henry VIII. Both kings were very athletic in their youth but as they aged declined into obesity and drunkenness. Kings Henry and Robert also both left the governing of their kingdoms to others.
  • Cersei Lannister, queen of the Seven Kingdoms and wife to Robert Baratheon. To me, Cersei is a character who seems to be based on pseudo-history. Cersei shares traits with the much maligned Queen Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn was accused of high treason and incest with her brother, much like the character, Cersei. However, Cersei was guilty... and there is still tons of debate over Anne's innocence.
  • Robb Stark, is the son of Eddard Stark, best friend to Robert Baratheon. In the chaos after the death of King Robert, Robb declares himself King in the North and fights many battles trying to win governance over Westeros. He gets so caught up in battle victory and love that marries a girl of little wealth and of little political gain. Much like King Edward VI. King Edward was a young King who fought hard to declare his place on the throne, but jeopardized the whole thing by marrying Elizabeth Woodville.
  • Daenerys Targaryen- The Targaryen family ruled Westeros long before Robert Baratheon fought his way to the Iron Throne. Daenerys is the only heir to the Targaryen family. Like the future King Henry VII, Daenerys was raised in exile, where she is plotting to regain her family's throne.
The Wall which stands to separate the known world from the wilderness is very similar to Hadrian's Wall. Hadrian's wall was built along the borders of the Roman Empire to keep out any outsiders. Imagine who scary a wall such as that would be.

Anybody see any different similarities to characters? And would like to see more Game of Thrones/ historical figures or events articles? I am very open to suggestions!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Real Richard III

Posthumously edited portrait of King Richard
  Wrongly portrayed as one of the nastiest villains on the English stage, King Richard III needs to be looked upon once more in brighter light. In Shakespeare's play he is depicted as a malformed tyrant, incapable of any humane act. While it is possible that Richard suffered from scoliosis, chances are it was not obvious under his clothes. In what is probably the most famous portrait of Richard, X-Ray has been used to show that Richard's humped back was added many years after his death. King Richard's remains were recently discovered under a parking lot in Leicester. His skeleton shows many postmortem wounds, which verifies many contemporary accounts. Richard's body was mutilated and abused after his defeat at Bosworth Field (which I will discuss more next post!)
   Born on October 2, 1452, Richard was the youngest of the Duke of York's sons. After his father's death, Richard and his brothers George and Edward, the future King Edward IV, were taken into the guardianship of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was often called 'the Kingmaker'. Richard's brother Edward had to fight to gain his throne, and Richard was always at his side. Richard was there through thick and thin. He fled with Edward to exile and returned to see him crowned King of England. 
  When Edward was crowned he rewarded his brother with the title of Duke of Gloucester. Along with the prestigious title Richard was given Anne Neville, daughter of his former guardian, the Earl of Warwick, in marriage. To the marriage Anne brought with her the extensive Neville estates located in northern England. 
  Now is when we see Richard's life become much more exciting. Upon the death of his brother the king, Richard was given guardianship of his nephew, the heir to the throne, and temporary control of the kingdom. Richard had agreed to rule until his nephew prince Edward could be crowned king. 
   And here is where Richard gets his shady reputation: On his way into London Richard had his young nephew thrown into the Tower of London. At first, Richard claimed it was for his safety, but only a short time later Richard declared the prince and his siblings illegitimate, making Richard, Duke of Gloucester, heir to the throne. His coronation took place the following month. 
Facial Reconstruction of King Richard
   However, Richard did not feel safe with only one of his nephews in the Tower. He also placed Edward's younger brother Prince Richard in the Tower, too. Soon after joining his brother in the Tower both boys disappeared. The boys were both presumed dead- murdered on Richard's orders. What we know now, however, is many people had the opportunity and the motive to kill the two boys. Sir Richard Brackenbury, the constable of the Tower, Henry Tudor, who needed the boys dead in order to seize the throne for himself, or even Henry Tudor's ambitious mother, Margaret Beaufort. Even after many excavations in the Tower of London no skeletons have been found that fit the boy's ages.

          Look Forward to my next article The Real Richard III Part Two:                                                           Bosworth and Beyond

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The New World

    Upon my recent fascination of the nature of the relationship between John Smith and Pocahontasd I allowed myself to break down and watch the 2 hour plus movie, The New World. The movie is centered around a romantic relationship that involves handsome Captain John Smith and Powhatan Princess Pocahontas. What I discovered was although the story is not mainly told through dialog the viewer knows at all times what is going on. The love between the main characters is so sweet, natural, and lacking in any ulterior motives. It was just love.
    This a movie that people love or hate. It is filled with random shots of nature thrown in the middle of a scene. However, one has only to know the title of the movie to know the true star, The New World. Shot on location at Jamestown with actors of Native American descent to play the Powhatans, even speaking Algonquian, you feel as if what you are seeing is happening right then and there not on a film set. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Even though John Smith and Pocahontas may not have been actually romantically involved I found myself wishing it so. I plan on doing an upcoming post that goes more in depth about their relationship.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Michelangelo's David

    This is not an art blog. I am not an artist, and I don’t claim to be. But, Michelangelo’s statue of the Biblical King David makes one take not only a look into the artists mind but also into one of the most interesting places during one of the most intriguing time periods, Florence, Italy, during the high Italian Renaissance. David is a statue of King David before the slaying of the giant, Goliath.

   The political state of Florence, Italy during the age of Michelangelo was very precarious. Florentines were split politically between those who felt that the Medici family should be rulers and those that felt that the de Medici were tyrants who should never again set foot into Florence. The names of these political parties were the 'frateschi', which means followers of the monk, and 'arrabbiati', which means the enraged ones.

   The frateschi party were followers of Savonarola, a monk who preached against the outrageousness in which the wealthy lived thier lives. Savanarola ordered huge burnings of these decadensies that included art and especially books. The members of thr arrabbiati were typically the wealthy citizens of Florence who enjoyed the decidence in which their wealth enabled them to live.

   These political parties were at each others throats, literraly. The political disputes of the Renaissance are not comparable to what is considered harsh by today's standards. People were killed on the streets due to the warring factions. If one wanted to survive they kept their political alliegence to themself.

   One may ask what all of this has to do with a statue. Well, it has everything to do with Michelangelo's David. At the time of it's creation David made quite a political statement. As mentioned earlier the statue depicts King David before the defeat of Golith. David, at the time of the battle, was just a sheppard armed with nothing more than a slingshot against an heavily outnumbered army.

   David was seen as a huge frateschi monument. To them this now instantly recignizable piece of art was political propaganda. David was the victor against an army of far supiror forces. The statue's arm was even broken in three places during a political fight that broke out while the statue was being moved from the workshop where it was made to the Piazza della Signoria where it was housed until 1873.

"All art is pollitical. Otherwise, it would just be decoration"

   -Anonyomous, movie 2011


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

     Changeling is the first young adult novel by critically acclaimed historical-fiction by Philippa Gregory. Changeling is set in 1453 when every unexplainable thing is seen as the coming of the end of the world. I think that the best way to describe this book without giving it all away is to just introduce the major characters:
Luca Vero

Luca Vero- Luca is a handsome and intelligent young monk in training who is sent to investigate the oddities occurring all over Europe after being arrested for heresy.
Freize- Kitchen boy at the monastery where Luca lived. He is Luca's friend and constant companion.
Isolde- Is the daughter of a wealthy lord raised to believe that she will inherit her father's lands and castles. However, on her father's death her inheritance is usurped by her brother who demands she a marry a man of his choice, or become a nun. There is a growing bond between Luca and Isolde (Gasp!)
Ishraq- Is Isolde's companion having been raised alongside her. Ishraq is a Moor and so is therefore Muslim, being brought back by Isolde's father from his travels.

Changeling is the first book to be released in an upcoming quartet.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Real Elsinore Castle

      Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is perhaps the greatest play in the English language. Set in Denmark, the play tells the story of revenge as Hamlet fights to avenge his father's murder. The setting for all of the action is Elsinore Castle.

But did you know Elsinore Castle really exists?

Kronborg Castle
Called Kronborg Castle in the town of Helsingor or Elsinore, Denmark the castle is one of the most important Renaissance castles of Northern Europe and is one of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Built in the 1420's by the Danish king, Eric of Pomerania, it was created as a fortress to collect dues on all boats that were passing through the sound that the fortress is located on.

From 1574 to 1585 King Frederick II had the fortress rebuilt into one of the most unique castles in all of Europe for it's surprising size and shape. King Frederick was a patron of the theater and players performed often when he held his court there in 1579.

In 1629 two momentarily reckless workmen accidentally caused the castle to go up in flames. All but the chapel was lost. King Christian IV put a great deal of effort into restoring the castle. The exterior was rebuilt without much change in design and was once again magnificent, yet the interior never regained it's former glory. During the Dano-Swedish War of 1658-1660 many of the castles most precious works of art were stolen during a Swedish occupation. 

Statue of Ogir has been placed
in the castle
This castle however interesting it's actual history may be will forever be remembered for it's fictional inhabitants and the tragic dual that took place there. Hamlet is performed at the castle often.

The castle is also home to an Arthurian legend. Ogir the Dane was taken by Morgan La Fay to Avalon. Ogir returned to save France from danger and later returned to Kronborg, where he sleeps until needed to save his homeland


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