The Crusades Through Arab Eyes – Review

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf

Published in 1983

John Rothschild Translation

Pages: 266

Genre: Nonfiction, history

“Baghdad, August, 1099

Wearing no turban, his head shaved as a sign of mourning, the venerable qadi Abu Saad al-Harawi burst with a loud cry into the spacious diwan of the caliph al-Mustazhir Billah, a throng of companions, young and old, trailing in his wake.”

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf, tells the story of the crusades through an Arabic perspective in a narrative format. Running the gamut of the initial invasions by Western crusaders, through the riposte of Saladin’s reign, the book covers all of the intrigue, civil wars, and truces that happened in over two centuries of conflict. The book explores not only the events, but the histories of some of the most interesting people of the age, their motivations, and the way in which people can come together despite differences. Continue reading “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes – Review”

Night Watch – Review

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Published in 1998

Andrew Bromfield Translation

Pages: 455

Genre: Supernatural

“The escalator crept along slowly, straining upward.”

So begins a tale of Others; supernatural beings that range from magicians and shape-shifters, to vampires and werewolves. Sergei Lukyanenko’s 1998 novel, Night Watch, tells the story of a member of the Night Watch; a secret society keeping the balance between Light and Darkness in the world of humans. What begins as a promising story with interesting world-building and moral dilemmas is eventually bogged down by a less-than-fulfilling ending in this first book of a series by the Russian author. Continue reading “Night Watch – Review”

Someone – Review

Someone: A Novel by Alice McDermott

Published in 2013

Pages: 232

Genre: Fiction

“Pegeen Chehab walked up from the subway in the evening light.”

Though she is the first character mentioned and plays an important part in the story, Pegeen Chehab is not the protagonist. Someone, by Alice McDermott, encompasses the events of an ordinary life. From a child playing among friends in the streets of Brooklyn, to a young woman working as the consoling angel of a funeral parlor and mother, we see how Marie’s life was formed and fashioned. Through intense imagery, strong prose, and memorable characters, Someone becomes far more specific in its splendor than its innocuous title suggests. Continue reading “Someone – Review”

I Am Legend – Review

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Illustrations by Dave McKean

Published in 1954; 2018 Edition by The Folio Society

Pages: 208

Genre: Horror, science fiction


Disclaimer: This review will be different from the norm in that it is split into two parts: a standard, albeit shorter, book review and a specific review of this Folio Society edition. I am endorsing this product through my own volition and belief in its high quality.


Part I: The Story

“On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.”

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, has become one of the most influential horror stories of the 20th century. Concerning the life of the last survivor of a world-wide vampire apocalypse, I Am Legend took the premise of a global, supernatural pandemic and asked the question: when the world is overtaken by vampires, who is their monster? The Folio Society created this new edition with stunning art by Dave McKean, and I was lucky enough to nab a copy. Continue reading “I Am Legend – Review”

East of the Sun and West of the Moon – Review

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales of the North by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

Illustrations by Kay Nielsen

Originally published in 1914; 1976 edition

Pages: 108

Genre: Mythology, folklore, Norwegian folklore

“Once upon a time there was a poor husbandman who had so many children that he hadn’t much food or clothing to give them.”

Like any good folk or fairy tale, the eponymous “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” begins with those four words we know so well and takes the reader from the world of the normal into a fantastic, northern landscape. Compiling six folk tales from Norway, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, focuses on the artwork of Kay Nielsen and its ability to bring these stories to life. Prepare to head north and remember your multiplication tables for the number three; in this realm tales of princesses, trolls, and triads abound. Continue reading “East of the Sun and West of the Moon – Review”

The Player of Games – Review

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

Published in 1988

Pages: 391

Genre: Science fiction

“This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game.”

If one ever wanted to boil down the plot of The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, into a single, succinct sentence, the quote above couldn’t be beat. This book, being the second in the Culture series, follows a player of games into an alien and dangerous empire built upon the structure of an intricate and difficult game. With information being spoon fed to the protagonist, it makes for a compelling story and thriller that builds up to the climax on a planet with a wave of fire that circles the globe. Not all is as it seems when the Culture’s Contact division gets involved, and the player must learn to either win the game or be consumed by it. Continue reading “The Player of Games – Review”

The Sirens of Titan – Review

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Published in 1959

Pages: 326

Genre: Science fiction

“Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself.”

This meaning is most likely less than one would hope after reading through the pages of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel, The Sirens of Titan. Taking a peak into the ridiculousness of self-imposed importance on the part of the human race, the novel asks the question: are humans as important as we believe we are, or are we simply a means to an end? The story travels around the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, pointing out the absurd and predestined in a sprawling tale that nearly loses sight of its ultimate goal. Continue reading “The Sirens of Titan – Review”

Fire from Heaven – Review

Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault

Published in 1969

Pages: 370

Genre: Historical fiction

“The child was wakened by the knotting of the snake’s coils about his waist.”

Those familiar with the myth of Heracles will notice its connection to the opening line of Fire from Heaven, by Mary Renault. Hera, jealous of Zeus’s infidelity, sent two snakes in Heracles’ crib in order to kill him. In this tale about the childhood of Alexander the Great, however, the snake is a friendly creature owned by his mother. Connections between the strongest of Greek heroes and Alexander abound in the novel and, as the young prince grows into his glory, the hero becomes a sort of patron god for the young conqueror whose greatness was apparent from childhood. Continue reading “Fire from Heaven – Review”

Mythology – Review

Mythology by Edith Hamilton

Illustrations by Steele Savage

Published in 1942

Pages: 465

Genre: Mythology

“Greek and Roman mythology is quite generally supposed to show us the way the human race thought and felt untold ages ago.”

This sentiment, which begins Mythology by Edith Hamilton, expresses the limited worldview of not only the author, but the book itself. Primarily concerning the Greek and Roman myths and gods, Mythology collects some of the most famous stories in one place. All the greatest hits are here, including Jason and the Golden Fleece, the Judgement of Paris and Fall of Troy, and Oedipus’s folly at trying to escape fate. Mythology also contains lesser myths and the histories of tragic families; the only kind that the Greeks had in their myths. Continue reading “Mythology – Review”