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||Double Dragon ebooks
||Nov 1 2000
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Joan of Arc and an alien sorcerer, time travel and a centuries-old mystery, Gilles de Rais on a modern city street, why?
The much-acclaimed A Circle of Arcs, is a unique blend of time travel, actual historical figures and speculative fiction. The sequel to A Circle of Arcs, A Distant Bell is in the works and is anxiously awaited by Kate's readers.
Plucked from the stake at the moment of his death, a 15th century knight is brought forward in time and awakens in a 20th century American hospital room with a black nurse bending over him and an IV in his arm. Was Gilles de Rais the monster historians have made him out to be, or was he instead a judicially murdered innocent who's been even more demonized than Richard III? The businesswoman who rescues him decides to find out for herself, even if it means going back to the time and place where he was originally condemned.
Incredibly, that damnable monk had followed them up the ladder. While the executioner was chaining him to the stake, the friar once again waved his crucifix. Exhorting him at the top of his lungs to confess his sins, he ordered him to make his peace with God and plead for his immortal soul. Once again, he cursed the insistent cleric and spat in his face.
If he could have found a way to save his wondrous beloved fool from herself and those damnable voices only she could hear, he would have surely done so. Jeanne had been no more witch or heretic than he, and, the day those incense-swinging bastards condemned the Maid of Orleans, he'd forsworn his ancient faith and any belief he'd had in an afterlife.
Looking across the teeming square and surrounding streets, he wondered if Charles was watching. It was said the King had taken to his bed after Jeanne's execution and hadn't been seen again for three days. Doubting that His Majesty would display any such grief for him, he glanced up at the sky. A perfect day for a burning with nary a rain cloud in sight.
Judging by the sudden roar, he guessed the executioner had thrust the first brand between the pitch-soaked faggots beneath his feet.
An acrid sweet smell drifting past his nose told him he was right.
Closing his eyes for the last time, he focused his thoughts firmly on Jeanne and prepared to die as stoically as he'd lived.
Under the covers
I was captured by the first sentence. By the end of the Prologue, I was Kate Saundby’s fan. At the moment of his death, the still unnamed protagonist has sprung to vivid life for me. Being also a writer of historical fiction, I can instantly appreciate the research that must have backed Saundby’s writing. Everything about this man’s thoughts rings true.
Chapter 1 was almost a shock: suddenly we have jumped some 500 years, to a modern airport. Now the style is lively and brisk -- appropriate to the subject matter. And the connection is made by Chapter 2. At first it’s mystifying: the times of Jeanne D’Arc are somehow mixed up with the present. Without giving the storyline away, I can say that slowly it starts to make sense. Well, a certain kind of sense.
The book that started as historical fiction and turned into a contemporary mainstream transmutates into a fantasy, but my such small steps that the reader is carried along unknowing. This is the best way to make someone believe the unbelievable, and Saundby uses it well.
This is a fun book, an excellent read, and carried through with near-faultless writing technique. I certainly want to read more from this talented author.
That is not to say it was perfect, but what is? In a couple of places, I was a little lost as to who said what, or the sudden switches between times and places left me behind. I felt that the end could have been given more extensive treatment. Everything came to a head too fast so that some of the sections were more summaries than guided tours as they should have been. And after all, this is not a long book.
Having said this, I still return to my previous statement: this is an excellent book, well worth reading and enjoying.
About the Reviewer
Dr Bob Rich is an Australian writer, mudsmith and psychologist. He offers a book editing service from his ‘writing’ web site: http://bobswriting.com/, internet counseling at http://anxietyanddepression-help.com/ and advice and information about conservation and owner building at http://mudsmith.net/. Bob is the author of several paper and e-books. He has had a psychology self-help book, a short story collection and a science fiction novel which won the EPPIE 2001 SF Award.
Reproduced by permission
© Dr Bob Rich, 2001
Dal van Coger
A Circle of Arts is in part a historical novel, though revisionist, in part science fiction and above all a delightful love story. The major historical character is Gilles de Rais, Marshall of France, and military aide to the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. Joan appears only in de Rais's dreams in this account. The accepted account of Gilles de Rais, who was executed after Joan's death, is that he was a loathsome monster who enjoyed torturing children and killing them after first molesting them sexually. This account has been questioned by a revisionist historian, Kathleen Lehman, who finds the evidence less than convincing. Kate Saundby accepts this revisionist view, adds a few twists of her own, and has Giles appearing in modern America, desperately ill, courtesy of time travel. He is clearly the second most important character in the novel - a novel crowded with fascinating characters.
The heroine and protagonist of the book is a self-made wealthy business woman,
Darcey Norris, with a quick tongue and a vocabulary that bristles: She is not one to be put upon. It is she who sponsors the dreadfully tortured medieval Giles de Reitz, at a local charity clinic. The means by which Giles traveled to the 20th century, to arrive in Minneapolis-St. Paul, was provided it turns out by Charles Ferrault, a boy/man of mystery. He is an accomplished artist and, though only sixteen, has the air of a man of the world. Darcy ends up as his legal guardian, mostly as a favor to a friend, multimillionaire and former college classmate, Baird McEvoy.
Baird inherited a fortune from his family, who owned some of the largest mills in the grain producing northwest. He earned another fortune as a hard working lawyer.
Also important in the St. Paul area is Raymon da Silva. Father da Silva had been in college with Darcy, a roomate of a man she married. The priest had the energy of a tornado and had founded first one hospice in St. Paul and then a string of such institutions around the world. Darcy had increased her support of him and his charities as her income increased. The good man had ended up as Time Magazine's Man of the Year, and as a Nobel Laureate. When in town from his globe-trotting to push the development of his hospices, he drives a red Porsche--courtesy of an admirer--and occasionally takes Darcy to lunch. It is at his hospice at that Giles de Reitz finally finds temporary shelter.
The action moves from St. Paul to the planet Artemesia, which has an interesting social system. The intricacies of the system are incredibly Byzantine, with most people not what they seem and motivations well disguised. The Princess Ylia is the romantic target of Charles, who on this planet is a Tertiary by the name of Achir. As a Tertiary, he is made for love. To earn his beloved's hand he was required to journey to Earth and ...
But that would spoil the story.
The action is fast paced, the characters are well drawn, and, most important of all, the story has a happy ending. Who could want more from an entertaining fantasy?
Reproduced by permission
A Circle of Arcs is a time-travel-paranormal-romance with religious motifs. The Artemesians were charged by the mysterious lake-of-fire-dwelling N'Prvi to keep the spiritual and mortal entities of the universe in balance, but instead fell into bored degeneracy, giving themselves to elaborate entertainments. Their tertiaries exist only to provide sexual gratification, and their primes meddle with dark magic. Achir, a tertiary, runs afoul of the Emperor whose daughter he covets, and travels to our earth to rescue Jeanne D'Arc and her compatriot Gilles de Rais just prior to their respective deaths at the stake to be his stars in a new diversion. Thwarted by de Rais, who bribes the Maid's executioner to strangle her, Achir searches for a replacement star, tossing the unsuspecting Gilles centuries forward in time, where he meets descendent/analog Darcey Norris, who is no Maid, despite the resemblance. She, the lecherous tertiary advises, will complete de Rais' redemption and ensure the Horned One remains bound by Jeanne's powers.
Author Kate Saundby never tells us what entertainment Achir planned, for once he has ensnared Darcey in Giles' fate, his own agenda is diverted by his Artemesian co-conspirators, by the N'Prvi, by the Horned One whom Giles' relatives worshipped, and by the Maid herself, who hangs about in a nether dimension making sure the Artemesians don't release the Horned One from her centuries-old binding. Treachery and duplicity abound, and Achir is not only himself not who he thought, but is also the target of others' manipulation. The plot jumps about rapidly from fifteenth to twentieth century locales, steamy sex to occult scenes, earth to Artemesia, and back again before leaping to implicit resolution/conclusion. A suitably grand conceit for the paranormal romance fan.
Rick Sutcliffe firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduced by permission
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