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Friday, December 28, 2018

This Week's Reviews Of. . .


The Retreat to Avalon

Our story follows the life of someone barely into manhood; Gawain, the younger son of a tribal chieftain in what would now be called Scotland. Although well thought of, Gawain struggles to find his place in life. The culture he belongs to pride themselves on honor and prowess in battle, qualities that he aspires to. The trouble is, things have been peaceful for some time now, and Gawain has little chance to prove himself. Until events take a turn that is, and the legendary figure – Arthur – calls for volunteers to help stem the tide of a rising threat.

Coming from the UK, and living extensively throughout the Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wales at one time or another, I could instantly relate to the places Poage depicts. Legends abound regarding Arthur’s exploits. The thing is, there’s no one canonical version regarding those exploits, so it was refreshing to read a tale that concentrated on the antics of a charismatic leader and a canny, celebrated military commander for a change, someone with flaws doing his level best to unite a divided people in the face of treachery and politicking on a grand scale.

Seeing things through the eyes of Gawain was also rather enjoyable. At the outset, you are presented with an accurate representation of the way life must have been during the 5th century and the pressures facing people as they set out to make a place for themselves in a fragile, barely balanced society. His own personal adventures are remarkable, revealing how quickly fortunes can rise or fall. The battle scenes are well written; they engage you and ease you along at a steady pace without losing track of what’s happening and where. Above all, you can see Poage strove to keep things real, while presenting a touch of mysticism that strikes just the right balance.

I liked it a great deal, and look forward to the continuing story.



Outlander


This is a series I started by accident. (Think of it as a wife request – something to watch together) on cold winter nights.

Based upon author Diana Gabaldon’s historical time travel book of the same name, it stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married WWII nurse who, on returning home from the war, travels to Scotland with her husband to spend some time together to get reacquainted.
While there, she happens upon some standing stones and is transported back to 1743 Scotland where she encounters a gallant Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings.

I have to say, although the events it portrays start out slowly – and do have a tendency to drag in places – Outlander manages to weave a magic that gradually spellbinds you to Claire’s plight, and the uphill struggle she endures in adjusting to the times, the people and their suspicions, and of course, how to get back home.
It never goes over the top, trying to ram home the fact this is a paranormal/fantasy story, concentrating instead on the swashbuckling romance and injustice of the times. I think the thing that made season one work for me was Claire’s slow realization that she’s been put into a situation where the brooding, ever building chemistry between her and Jamie will lead to trouble. Trouble she knows she should avoid . . . yet can’t.

Give this a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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