Review

Review: Camelot Burning (Metal & Lace #1) by Kathryn Rose

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

What’s not to like about an Arthurian steampunk novel? I was instantly intrigued by the premise of this story, and it didn’t let me down. I was so engrossed that I read half of the book on the train journey to and from London (three hours total). Weaving various characters of Arthurian legend into an original steampunk-based tale, as well as introducing some new, I thought it worked really well.

There are the familiar figures of legend such as King Arthur himself, Merlin (a bit of a drug-addled hippie, no surprise there), Guinevere, Lancelot and various other Knights of the Round Table. From the description of the knights with their dragon tattoos, leather outfits and bars through their ears, as well as kohl-rimmed eyes, I was constantly imagining them as bikers! Somehow this fit in pretty well with the steam and metal filled version of Camelot.

Vivienne, the main character, managed to fit into two sides of society: high society, as the queen’s handmaid, and a secret life as apprentice to Merlin. She was passionate about this secret side of her life, clever and inquisitive, and I just wanted her to completely step away from the court with its dresses and curtsies, embrace something that she obviously loved doing, and screw the consequences. She didn’t mope, she didn’t constantly fawn over her love interest and she just got things done. Talking of the romance, it was a blossoming interest, rather than insta-love (yay!), so much more enjoyable to watch develop – although it would be nice to learn a little more about Marcus.

Vivienne’s family were present but negligible – her parents a lord and lady, her brother a squire – and there is a nice twist in the story about three quarters of the way through that would have really benefited from knowing her family better. As it was, it just wasn’t shocking because I didn’t know anything about the family member in question.

One of my main issues with the book was the world building. Apart from Camelot and its immediate surroundings, the reader wasn’t really told much about the outside world. Jerusalem was mentioned, as was Lyonesse – but world felt so small. As as a result, Morgan le Fay’s threat didn’t seem too great, seeing as the whole ‘world’ pretty much just encompassed the castle of Camelot – how many people would it really affect if she took over? Another problem was magic – or more specifically, why magic was taboo. This wasn’t explained anywhere, so I never really got a sense of just how much danger Merlin or Vivienne were putting themselves in by practising. All I understood is that it was suddenly banned, not why or how, or even when. Magic could also be stolen, which was another thing that wasn’t explained.

A highly enjoyable take on Arthurian legend, recommended for steampunk fans or anyone interested in retellings/alternate tellings of mythology. Despite the lack of world-building, it has a fast-paced and thrilling conclusion, some great steampunk inventions and a clever interpretation of the mythology – the Metal & Lace series is definitely one I’ll be continuing.

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Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #17: Mythology in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: mythology in fantasy.

It’s no secret that I love mythology. I just find it absolutely fascinating, no matter the culture. One of my focuses at university was ancient Greek religion, and I also wrote my dissertation on the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis. So today I want to share some fantasy books that are based on or inspired by mythology. Some are set in their respective countries, others are more modern takes, and some invent their own mythology! I also plan on doing a post on various mythological creatures that appear in fantasy in the future.

I found LOADS of books based on Greek mythology, as well as Arthurian legend, but it was quite tricky finding ones based on Egyptian mythology, as most books based on Egypt were ‘historical’ fiction. I say ‘historical’ because the ancient sources and evidence from Ancient Egypt are a lot less concrete than say, the Tudor period.

I also found barely any books based on Roman mythology that weren’t, once again, historical fiction (this time without the speech marks, Romans wrote a lot more down!) – lots of Roman mysteries out there! – but I think that’s because Greek and Roman mythology are very closely entwined. The Romans took a lot of their myths and legends from the Greeks, albeit with different names – and when people talk about the gods they tend to use the Greek names. For example, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon but he would be the son of Neptune if we were talking about it in terms of Roman mythology. So for this reason, I’ve grouped them together.

Greek & Roman Mythology:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell Ilium by Dan Simmons King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Heroes of Olympus series and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan tell a modern day story of teenagers who discover they are demi-gods. The first focuses on the Roman gods, and the second Greek – implying that the pantheons are totally separate. I absolutely love Rick Riordan’s books, they’re just so much fun and are PERFECT for fans of mythology. David Gemmell’s Troy series is as it sounds – an account of the Trojan War, told from multiple viewpoints. I’ve had the trilogy for years and still haven’t gotten round to reading it… Ilium is the first book in a duology by Dan Simmons, a sci-fi/fantasy account of the Trojan War set on Mars. I loved Simmons’ Hyperion series, and The Iliad is one of my favourite classics, so I need to hurry up and read this one. King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe is the tale of Odysseus before the Trojan War – I read this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it. And oh, The Song of Achilles, you beautiful, beautiful book. Madeline Miller has written a haunting love story from the point of view of Patroclus, a Greek prince. Read it and cry.

Egyptian Mythology:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove

Yep, Rick Riordan has not only written about Greek and Roman mythology, but Egyptian too. His Kane Chronicles tell the story of two siblings with an archaeologist father, who discover that the Egyptian gods are real – and are pretty angry. I haven’t read this series but going on Riordan’s other writing, I really need to. Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White is a book that I spotted on another blog a while ago and promptly forgot about until researching books for this post. It follows a girl who is the human daughter of Isis and Osiris – and the cover is just gorgeous. The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove is another interesting sounding book – it works on the premise that all gods are real – or rather were, until the Egyptian pantheon defeated them all. They now have control over the Earth.

Arthurian Legend:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

A true Arthurian epic, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is told through the eyes of several women in Arthur’s court. There are actually seven books to the series, the last three finished by a different author, and the first book alone clocks in at just over one thousand pages. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell takes a slightly different take on the familiar story, told after Arthur has been banished from his own kingdom, and Merlin has disappeared. And finally, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is, unlike the other two books, a children’s tale about siblings who discover clues to finding the Holy Grail. I remember reading this when I was younger, but unfortunately I don’t remember a lot about it!

Norse Mythology:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson Ice Land by Betsu Tobin

Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki is a wonderful retelling of Norse legend, from the point of view of the trickster god Loki. With his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, he recounts many familiar tales of Scandinavian mythology. The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson follows not Loki, nor any of the other gods, but a human man named Scafloc who must make deals with the ice giants in order to save himself, others and the gods. Now I have to admit when looking for books to fit into with Norse mythology, I was immediately drawn to Ice Land by Betsy Tobin by its gorgeous cover. It’s an epic quest to save the land sort of story, infused with Icelandic history and mythology.

Other:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman The Alchemyst by Michael Scott Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene

By ‘other’, I mean completely made-up mythology for the sake of literature, not based on one particular pantheon. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one such example. I want to read this one so badly, Gaiman’s writing is just outstanding and it comes very highly recommended! Whilst the life of Nicholas Flamel is not one of mythology, there are many rumours of his being a legendary alchemist that many stories, including The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. I got this book as a freebie from BristolCon last year, and it has a pretty high Goodreads rating. Unfortunately the author’s name always reminds me of The Office and makes me giggle… And finally, Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene is a new release from Hodder (who ever so kindly sent me a copy!), and features a story of gods reborn as humans. I’m so excited to read this one, so I’m hoping to do so before I go off to university.

Do you have any recommendations for fantasy based on mythology? Do you have a particular favourite branch of mythology or legend? There are so many more books I could have listed, but I just didn’t have enough time!

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #8: BBC’s Merlin

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes. Today’s post comes a little late, thanks to some website errors that had me tearing my hair out, and also may have had me in tears at one point (even though everything is backed up, I’m kind of terrified of one and a half years of work just going down the drain). But now it seems to be okay… I really hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

The TV series this week is: BBC’s Merlin.

Merlin is a reimagining of the legend in which the future King Arthur and Merlin are young contemporaries, however Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon has banned magic in Camelot on pain of death. It shows the growth of King Arthur from a young, self-absorbed boy to the mighty king in the legends as well as Merlin’s colossal role in the creating the powerful Camelot.

This may not be a series I’ve watched myself (I’ve only occasionally caught bits of episodes, mostly when it first started), but I love Arthurian legend. Which kind of leads me to question just why I haven’t watched this…

The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Arthur: The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland Arthur: At the Crossing Places by Kevin Crossley-Holland Arthur: King of the Middle March by Kevin Crossley-Holland

I first read these books when I was about ten or eleven, and have read them many times since. I still have my original copies. They’re not a straight retelling of the Arthurian legend, and in fact don’t follow King Arthur himself but a young boy called Arthur, whose life is strangely linked with the monarch. Merlin is a prominent figure in the books, as the friend of his father, and who gives Arthur a piece of obsidian that seems to set off the course of events. It’s a picture of twelfth century life, as well as a look into the myths and legends of King Arthur and his court. And now I want to re-read the trilogy thanks to writing this… Just another re-read to add to the list!

The Pendragon Cycle series by Stephen R. Lawhead

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I spent the large majority of my time in sixth form (optional school years at the ages of seventeen and eighteen) in the school library, which is probably not much of a shock. I was always drawn to this series – but they NEVER had the first book. Always book three onwards, occasionally book two, which was really frustrating because I really wanted to read it. It is a six book series, using Arthurian legend and other myths like that of Atlantis, to create the story.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

A classic series of epic fantasy and legend, the first book being The Sword and the Stone, this is a massive retelling of the traditional story. A young boy named ‘Wart’ is tutored by Merlyn – and goes on to be crowned Arthur, King of the Britons. This is in fact the book that the Disney film of the same name was based on.

Are you a fan of Merlin? Do you have any recommendations to add?