Top Ten Sequels Looking Forward To:

This is a belated Top 10 Tuesday generated by The Broke and the Bookish: What are the top 10 sequels you’re looking forward to reading now? This one is hard for me, but I think I’ve managed:

1. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan, sequel to Unspoken (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/unspoken-the-lynburn-legacy/)
kami

2. Copperhead by Tina Connolly, sequel to Ironskin (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/ironskin/)
Ironskin-cover

3. Merlin by Jane Yolen, the last book in her Merlin trilogy.

4. xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths edited by Kate Bernheimer (http://www.amazon.com/xo-Orpheus-Fifty-New-Myths/dp/0143122428)
-I am counting this as a sequel/companion book to her anthology of new fairy tales called “My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me” which is fantastic.

5-9. The Prince’s Doom by David Blixt, sequel to Master of Verona (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/the-master-of-verona/), Voice of the Falconer (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/voice-of-the-falconer/), and Fortune’s Fool (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/fortunes-fool/)

-This counts as 5-9 because, while The Prince’s Doom is the only title of a sequel I know, David Blixt himself has assured me, in comments on the Master of Verona review, that the series will continue for at least 4 books after that and naturally, I am looking forward to all of them.

>10. The Four Emperors by David Blixt, sequel to Colossus: Stone and Steel (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/colossus-stone-and-steel/)
-Again, there are at least 2 more books after this in the series-that have titles already even!- because David Blixt is an outrageously prolific author, and I am just behind. Grad school will do that.

So, hah! I have made it to 10 AND BEYOND, thanks to Blixt’s complex plotlines which really deserve and need so many books to tell.
So, what’s in your reading queue?

Colossus: Stone and Steel-Quarrying Queries

In my review of David Blixt’s Colossus: Stone and Steel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/colossus-stone-and-steel/ I say that it “invites intellectual debate.”  Now I’m going to follow through on that by going through the cumbersome quarries of material within this book to chisel out some interesting queries.  (I’m sorry, I had to.)

 

I present to you, Colossus: Stone and Steel Discussion Questions! 

(Expect spoilers).

1. The question of Florus’s wife Cleopatra bothers me.  As the property of Florus, at the time of this novel it would’ve been seen as fitting that she share her husband’s fate.  Undoubtedly, as his wife, she shared in the spoils of his greed and mistreatment of the Judeans.  On the other hand, can any of the blame really fall on her?  The descriptions and inner thoughts of Florus hardly include Cleopatra, let alone giving any hint that he would have behaved differently if she wasn’t there.  None of the victims mention Cleopatra as having done anything offensive on her own.  Even Berenice speaks only of Florus, and surely she would have mentioned Cleopatra by name if this wife had also slighted her.  True, Cleopatra’s personality isn’t stellar-she’s obnoxious and selfish.  Still, is that any reason for her to share the tortuous end of Florus?  Shouldn’t someone have at least thought that Cleopatra might deserve a separate fate?

 

2. Speaking of Cleopatra, is there any way in which this portrayal of Queen Berenice is not reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra?

 

3. Colossus: Stone and Steel frequently refers to the worth of blood and ancestors.  One of the first ways this is set up is in the contrast between the businesses of Judah and Phannius.  While it’s natural to resent such differences now, particularly from the view of non-aristocrats like Judah, can all the blame really always be laid at the door of the “superior-blooded”?  Phannius is constantly described as a ‘lout’, largely because he doesn’t seem to work as hard to Judah and Asher.  He’s even indiscriminately punched in the face by Judah, for no immediate reason, only latent resentments against decisions that are not all, or even mostly, Phannius’ fault, but his mother’s.  Is it any easier for those on the upper side of the scale to overlook such attitudes concerning them?  Should it be?

-On that note, does the fact that Vespasian and Titus are allowed to flourish according to their military prowess in Rome, in spite of their lack of famous ancestors, demonstrate that Roman laws are more progressive than Judea’s?

 

4. Omens appear frequently in this book.  However, whereas Judean omens seem to derive from different interpretations of the same original texts or themes, Roman omens seem to leave more room for individuality.  Titus feels blessed because of something that happened when he was vowing over the Fifteenth’s eagle.  The eagle itself is an established historical symbol, but the wind event derives from the immediate stimulus of visual impact and shared feeling.  Titus does not need to recite other times this same event happened to other people to ensure its validity.    It is valid because he was there and it seemed propitious to those who saw it.  Nor does he need to become anything other than what he is.  Unlike Yosef, who tries to become the mahsiah, Titus’ omen is not so much about his place in society as about external events he will take part in.  Similarly, whereas Yosef’s new interpretation of Hebrew prophesies centers on Vespasian becoming an archetype in relation to others, the Roman prophesy about Vespasian’s family winning the war is purely about outside outside happenings.

-Are omens more powerful as foretellers of events or as declarations of a person’s destined place in the world?  Or more dangerous?  Titus and Vespasian may be less encumbered with deep thoughts about prophesies, but is that good or bad?  Is Yosef’s spiritual journey less genuine because it’s always tied to omens he wants to work himself into?  Or is that responsible for Yosef’s great power to adapt and therefore possibly a positive thing?

 

5. Sex appears over and over again as an underlying theme.  Yet, this too is represented very differently for the Romans and the Hebrews.  The potential for sex appears as something negative whenever the Judeans encounter it: the potential for shame if Judah and Deborah engage in it, the sexual threats to Perel, Edith, and Asher, derogatory comments about Queen Berenice, and the lesson that sexual activity removes the Lord’s presence.  On the other hand, sex is used to bolster the Roman egos-they will win the war like a seducer winning a fuck, they revel in the phallic nature of their weapons, individual men gain strength from their sexual partners.  What does this say about these culture’s views on sex?  Aside from that, which of these sexual attitudes is shown to lead to the healthiest attitudes about women?  Or is it all just foreshadowing of what side will win and which will be violated, and each character should be viewed as creating their own views on sexuality and women?

 

6. Was anyone else’s favorite scene Yosef’s mathematicide?  It was delightful in its inevitability, understated intensity, and flow!  What are some other favorite scenes and why?

 

7. The question of performance versus intention comes up a lot.  Is Deborah really who she seems to be around Judah, if she has to try to act this way?  Is Yosef really brave when fighting if he does it for the sake of those watching instead?  Are Judah and Asher really heroic for firing Roman weaponry, or is their deed tarnished by their desire to be seen as heroes like Atlas?

-Is the real difference between Yosef’s fighting and the twins’ that the twins were willing to die?  Yosef certainly believed he might die.  Was the difference that the twins truly believed it was worth it, while Yosef thought it was madness?  In that case, many of the zelotes’ deeds become noble because their doers truly thought they were needed.  Was it that Asher and Judah performed their fighting for the present moment, whereas Yosef is always thinking ahead?  If so, a lot of us are in trouble because it’s deemed wise and necessary to look ahead.  Is the difference that Asher and Judah respected the people who were watching them, while Yosef did not?

 

8. The question of whether death is greater than life offers a rich quarry, indeed.  Many people are remembered more for how they died than how they lived, the Romans believed that to die with honor was worth more than anything, is immortality granted by the living or by gods?  The side issue of whether suicide or homicide is better also plays a large role.  Is the willingness to die for a cause greater than themselves the true measure of honor?  Or is dying to prove something about yourself equally noble?  Or is either reason simply misguided?

 

9. Yosef gets a lot of flack for continually manipulating everything to try and prove who he thinks he should be.  Most notably, he kills people off to ensure he will live because he believes he’s a person who must.  However, Judah commits very similar acts.  Judah believes that his purpose in life is to be a warrior-that is who he is, the same way Yosef believes he’s a great priest.  Several times, Judah is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone else to partake in the feelings and actions of a warrior.  He rushes out of the shield wall, he wants to stay and die fighting, even if it dooms his twin and his friends, because a warrior’s who he believes he’s meant to be.  Does the fact that Judah is killing Romans instead of Judeans really excuse him from the same personality flaws as Yosef?  Judah’s actions are a more emotional response while Yosef’s are planned, but does that make them different?  Yosef’s belief can be as genuine as Judah’s and Judah’s lack of concern for others when opposed to his personal self-purpose is arguably equal to Yosef’s.  Is it just the end goal of dying (as a warrior) versus living (as a leader) that makes us more sympathetic to Judah?  If so, what does that say about current beliefs about death being greater than life?

 

10. Who betrayed Jotapata?  (Personally, I think the clues are quite clear, but it seems a fitting question to end on.)

 

 

Colossus: Stone and Steel

Colossus: Stone and Steel

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Ink (April 23, 2012)

An historical fiction review

Filled with factions and smarting from insults, ancient Judea rebels against Nero’s Rome.  With both sides sporting an injury, the insurrection sparks a war complete with heroes, poetry, and slaughter.  Through the eyes of twin masons, Judah the warrior and Asher the scholar, and the opportunistic leader Yosef, Blixt builds Colossus: Stone and Steel into a story where perceptions are paramount.  Where do you come from?  Who is your god?  What is your history?  Do you truly know your real purpose in life?  And above all, what would you sacrifice to prove your chosen answers real?

With broad strokes of suspense and meticulous details of authenticity, this novel asks a lot of its readers.  Blixt taxes memories and asks for tithes of understanding by refusing to create a simple narrative or reduce the questions brought up by dissension.  The conflicts in this work are myriad: cultural, political, religious, moral.  Even asking these difficult questions, Blixt’s writing assaults the emotions.  The reader gets entangled in the confusing mixture of attempted reason and subjective response that the characters experience.  It’s an absorbing work, driven by characters as much as ideas.  Tied to the fortunes of Judah, Asher, or any other noteworthy player, Colossus: Stone and Steel offers joy, relief, and thrills.  The historical reasons and horrifying barbarities of the war provide a different kind of appeal.  As usual, Blixt’s novel invites intellectual debate.

Like a Roman legion, Colossus: Stone and Steel attacks its subject thoroughly, aggressively, and with the full weight of history, symbolism, and authority behind it.  Only under Blixt’s command, destruction becomes a lens to study the world, as well as a call to comprehend its peoples.

Fortune’s Fool

Fortune’s Fool (sequel to Master of Verona and Voice of the Falconer)

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical fiction review

Blixt’s Star-Cross’d series has always been bursting with secrets, additional flavor for the action-filled plots.  Fortune’s Fool, however, allows secrets the place of prominence.  While plenty of incidents occur throughout this novel, the driving force behind this part of Blixt’s story is mystery.  Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s oldest son, finds his mission to the Avignon papacy opposed by a hidden foe.  Antonia Alighieri and Cangrande both face unknown malefactors.  Cesco encounters a mysterious assailant.  In the midst of grappling with religion, politics, and changing relationships, Blixt’s characters must deal with their personal puzzles and endure their separate trials.

This book differs from its predecessors in many ways.  The shift from action to mystery slows the pace, considerably where Pietro is concerned.  The overall isolation of the characters from each other for much of the story changes the personal dynamics not only for them, but for the readers.  The prior two novels highlighted a couple main characters, while this one’s focus is more spread out.  More significantly, this narrative brings a darker, more raw feel to the story.  While sex, malice, and the message that life is pain have always been a part of this story, Fortune’s Fool throws those elements front and center.  It feels like the middle of a story, where things get sticky and difficult to chew.  The discovery that Fortune’s Fool began as the middle of a longer sequel that had to be split up put this book in the frame I was comfortable with.  Blixt fleshed out this novel enough to hold my attention and build my intrigue, but it lacked that special luster I expect from finishing a Blixt book.  Knowing that there’s another installation to come in this arc explains everything.  The second part of any trilogy tends to offer more darkness and less gratification; if it holds up and builds the story then it works.  Fortune’s Fool certainly achieves that!       

This work contains many compelling pieces.  The verbal sparring remains brilliant, more side characters get a chance to shine, and we get a taste of new love.  The writing style is still excellent, if heavier.  The cast don’t get to play off each other as much, but their individual journeys keep them whole and emotionally connected to their audience.  In short, everything in this book works well.  As the second of a three-part installation, it works very well.  It would be even better if there had been something to chase that sticky, hard-to-chew, filling taste.  When you bite into that candy, you want the filling to be there, working with that sweet outer shell of chocolate.  Without that sliver of sweetness to encase it, the taste is missing an element of satisfaction.  Like a good filling, I enjoyed this book very much, but…now I want my chocolate shell.

Voice of the Falconer

Voice of the Falconer (sequel to Master of Verona)

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical adventure fiction review

 

Young Cesco is the hidden heir to Verona’s master, Cangrande della Scala, the foster child of Pietro Alaghieri and the rest of Dante’s family, and a mercurial eleven-year-old.  Voice of the Falconer brings Cesco to Verona with his entourage of protectors.  Through an onslaught of plots, surprises, and lessons, Cesco must make spectacular debuts, uncover secrets about his identity, and above all: survive.  Meanwhile, Pietro’s return finds him confronting both old friends and familiar demons.  With battles, intrigues, and references galore, this sequel retains all the momentum and excitement of its predecessor.

 

In Voice of the Falconer Blixt sets up all the players of “Romeo and Juliet,” enriching their characters and continuing to make them his own.  Entwining them with other Shakespearian tales like “Merchant of Venice” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” Blixt’s cleverness will delight fans and draw the Bard new ones.  Far from staying in Shakespeare’s shadow, these references spark seamlessly alongside history, prophecy, research, and philosophy.  Never less than an adventure, each aspect of Blixt’s novels carries multiple sides: passion, poetry, humor, mystery…Voice of the Falconer twists its cast through intriguing events without ever sacrificing depth of character.  This sequel’s ability to reintroduce readers to old friends after an eight year gap is impressive, but that pales to the achievement of showing such astute shifts in relationships and individuals through the novel.  Even laboring under the knowledge of many character’s deaths, Blixt’s portrayals give these people a marvelous wholeness and reality.

 

I’ve waited five years to read this sequel.  This book is worthy of that wait.  Its only problem is that I already care so deeply for many of these characters that remembering “Romeo and Juliet” grows painful.  Luckily, there is always one more quest for my heroes to follow, one more mystery needing to be solved, one more gorgeous sentence that I have to read twice.  Above all, there is so much of the plot left that I cannot foresee and that I absolutely need to know!

 

Blixt’s historical Italy was never a place for the faint of heart and this second book brings no relief, throwing readers through a gauntlet of anticipation, suspense, and wonder.  It’s a rough environment that not everyone will enjoy-definitely not a cozy, relaxing read.  For readers who thrive on challenging, intricate works, this is a gift for you.

The Master of Verona

David Blixt,
The Master of Verona
(St. Martin’s Press, 2007)

 

Finally, five years later, the two sequels to this book have been released!  It’s been so long they came out at the same time, together with the republishing of The Master of Verona as an ebook.  All are available and I cannot wait to dive, FINALLY, into the new material!  However, it has been five years, so first I reread this one.  I can not tell you that even knowing the ending and answers to the mystery, this book loses none of its power.  Best of all, now I can go straight on to Voice of the Falconer without waiting.  Hurrah!


The ambitions and fears of the Italian city-states of the 1300s have become so fierce and entangled that people look toward the stars and prophecies to find the man who can save Italy. Pietro Alighieri knows his father, Dante, believes that man to be Cangrande della Scala, the “Great Hound” who is The Master of Verona; and Pietro is about to meet him.

A wanderer with his exiled father, Pietro never felt the rigors of battle, or realized how far loyalty could push him. Yet, within days of his arrival in Verona he finds himself following others into war and making decisions that will keep him in the thick of it. Unbeknownst to Pietro, other choices will also place him in the midst of one of the most famous conflicts of all time: the feud behind the story of Romeo & Juliet.

Like Shakespeare, Blixt doesn’t just lay down his scenes, he masters them. The pacing is practically flawless, an amazing feat for a debut novel, but perhaps to be expected of a Shakespearian actor and director. Blixt offers each character a moment for sympathy, to be understood, but allows no one’s passion to overpower the momentum of his book. What readers need to know they find out with no confusion or overlong expositions, in defiance of the complicated details of the plot. Blixt also provides a level of intricacy in his combat scenes that gives them an intensity, a vibrancy that’s both rare and spectacular.

From envisioning his historical characters brilliantly and imbuing them with so much strength that readers can feel their presence even after the final page, to refashioning Shakespeare’s famed entities so cleverly that the details seem truly their own, Blixt’s cast demands both attention and emotion. It is not difficult to remember individual personalities in spite of the large number of characters and the varying titles accorded some of them. What is difficult is having to wait for the sequel, The Voice of the Falconer to arrive this fall.

Be wary of thinking a knowledge of Shakespeare will prepare you for all of the twists in store, as this story turns around mystery as well as fate. Moreover, the bard shares the page with Dante’s Inferno and its effects, which inevitably leads to literary analysis. Peppered with literary references, the historical stage of Verona’s golden age remains the prominent theme.  Here politics claim precedence even over love, where Blixt’s book treads rather lightly for a novel inspired by Shakespeare’s most renowned romantic tragedy. A genuine pleasure to read, The Master of Verona takes a city at the height of its power and breathes life through it from Hell to the stars.