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urbwar

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I read Odyssey a few years back. I thought it was ok.

There is an annual that, iirc, had stories from all 3 series
 

Lofgeornost

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Hoopla, as it turns out, carries titles by Wildside Press, so over the weekend I read The Shattered Goddess, by Darrell Schweitzer. I'd seen it referenced in lists of dark fantasy and sword & sorcery, but never read it, although it came out in 1982. I really enjoyed it. Schweitzer's style is a pleasure and the story itself was gripping. It begins looking like an epic fantasy--the main character seems from the beginning to be a 'chosen one,' though for good or evil is up for grabs--but it veers more towards horror. The protagonist actually does relatively little, at least of his own choice, though what he does do is very consequential in the end. The writing and the setting reminded me of Clark Ashton Smith, though it was less Baroque than his Zothique.
 

E-Rocker

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After taking a long break from it, I've once again picked up Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal by David Konow. It's not very good, which is why I put it down for several years. It takes a sensationalist tone, while I would have preferred a more matter-of-fact one, reports some things as facts which other, better-sourced tomes have confirmed are legends, etc.

But the subject is of interest to me and the book was a gift from my brother, so I'm going to finish reading it before I give it away. I almost always give away books when I'm done with them, since it's quite rare for me to re-read the same book (RPG rulebooks notwithstanding, of course, haha).
 

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I just read the fellow Canuck Derek McCormack's latest book (not sure most would call it a novel) Castle Faggot and was kinda fascinated by its comic book style and mash-up of childhood cereal mascots and extreme Sadian scatology.

Imagine W.S. Burroughs crossed with a Saturday morning cartoon commerical break but it surprisingly deepens emotionally as it progresses over its short length. Probably the first book in a long while that made me think 'wtf am I reading?'

_collid=books_covers_0&isbn=9781635901375&type=.jpg

But I kept thinking about it. So I ordered an earlier McCormack book, Haunted Hillbilly, about Hank Williams being preyed upon by a vampire Nudie suit designer.

I'm not sure what to make of McCormack, pretty much the definition of 'not for everybody' but I can't deny he has grabbed my attention.

81MqWJ9UwML.jpg
 

David Johansen

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I'm reading Gormeghast for the second time, twenty years later. The description of the headmaster's job is priceless. I have a brother who's the accountant for a rural school division and I had to call him up and read it to him and he said, "I work with her." :grin:

The headmaster does so little that even his signature is forged when it it is wanted.
 

Voros

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I'm reading Gormeghast for the second time, twenty years later. The description of the headmaster's job is priceless. I have a brother who's the accountant for a rural school division and I had to call him up and read it to him and he said, "I work with her." :grin:

The headmaster does so little that even his signature is forged when it it is wanted.

The first book is a masterpiece for sure. Several pages describing a wall and I was riveted.
 

Lofgeornost

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I recently read Echoes of the Goddess, by Darrell Schweitzer. It's a collection of stories--almost a story cycle, really--with the same setting as his novel The Shattered Goddess. All are worth reading and I thought some were outstanding, like the initial "Story of a Dadar."

When reading fantasy, I often find myself thinking, 'is this gameable?' that is, could I adapt this to an RPG? The plots of Schweitzer's stories are not, from my point of view, since they usually involve a major alteration that changes and really defines the protagonist's life. Some of the stories in fact cover their whole lives, albeit in very sparse detail. You certainly could do that in an RPG, one designed to tell a character's entire saga in one session, but I tend towards games that are more episodic.

On the other hand, there is a lot of material here one could steal, or riff on, for a dark fantasy campaign:
  • The whole idea that the world is in a liminal state, between the death of the old divine power and the emergence of a new one, with Dark and Light supernatural powers that are echoes of the departed godhead
  • The very creepy magician Etash Wesa and his lengthy sorcerous duel with his brother, Emdo Wesa
  • The concept and handling of dadars, magical constructs made out of sorcerer's own flesh which is then lost
  • The specific use of the 'Dying Earth' concept, where echoes of the cities of the past and their inhabitants persist in the present, visible only at night or in special circumstances
  • Several of the 'pocket dimensions' or bubbles in the cosmos that the characters visit
  • And so on
 

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The Berzerk Manga. Wow. Some super dramatic stuff, some interesting twists, some cheesy cliches, but fantastic artwork.

most of the big fights are too abstract for me. I really hope that the “power levels” don’t get too crazy (“Nani?!, Guts has trained hard, he cut that entire castle down in one stroke, what a technique!”) but otherwise nifty.

It is an interesting telephone game of inspiration: obviously the author took stuff from Hellraiser and Evil Dead, and the Kingdom Death author took from Berzerk in turn. Fascinating.
 

Mankcam

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This collection of Howard's CONAN novellas is keeping me going with some light reads, not to mention my collection of Savage Sword comic reprints and the Dark Horse graphic novels :thumbsup:

conanL.jpg s-l1600.jpg conan-volumes-2-4-dark-horse-comics_1_95ea6e2afb825b9f96eaca7e672c88c6.jpg
 
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TristramEvans

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The Berzerk Manga. Wow. Some super dramatic stuff, some interesting twists, some cheesy cliches, but fantastic artwork.

most of the big fights are too abstract for me. I really hope that the “power levels” don’t get too crazy (“Nani?!, Guts has trained hard, he cut that entire castle down in one stroke, what a technique!”) but otherwise nifty.

It is an interesting telephone game of inspiration: obviously the author took stuff from Hellraiser and Evil Dead, and the Kingdom Death author took from Berzerk in turn. Fascinating.

How far have you gotten?

Power level never gets to that extreme. Once Guts acquires the Berserk Armour he's basically at his strongest, which is enough to cut a few guys in half at a time, but mainly it just allows him to take more punishment - temporarily.

Berserk also inspired Dark Souls which in turn inspired Kingdom Death, and even Final Fantasy 7 onwards shows ispiration fro Berserk, especially once you get to the Fantasia arc. Berserk has a lot of interesting other influences as well - each of the Archangels is named after a classic Science Fiction novel.
 

Necrozius

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How far have you gotten?

Power level never gets to that extreme. Once Guts acquires the Berserk Armour he's basically at his strongest, which is enough to cut a few guys in half at a time, but mainly it just allows him to take more punishment - temporarily.

Berserk also inspired Dark Souls which in turn inspired Kingdom Death, and even Final Fantasy 7 onwards shows ispiration fro Berserk, especially once you get to the Fantasia arc. Berserk has a lot of interesting other influences as well - each of the Archangels is named after a classic Science Fiction novel.
I got to the part where they meet the mage girl in the Troll forest. Crazy posse he’s formed.
 

TristramEvans

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I got to the part where they meet the mage girl in the Troll forest. Crazy posse he’s formed.

OK yeah, I don't think power is going to change at all from that point, it's more the internal struggle with the Berserker armour wearing away his soul.

At least you don't have to wait for the releases in real time ...holy fuck, ten years on that goddamn boat!
 

Giganotosaurus

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When I was a dull-eyed Anthropology student about 4 years ago I took a class titled "Witchcraft, Sorcery and Magic" and one of the required readings was a book titled "In Sorcery's Shadow" by Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes. Well after dropping out of university, completely changing education paths and having too much free time due to the pandemic I finally read the book.
In Sorcery's Shadow is a non-fiction book about Paul Stoller's experiences studying and eventually becoming a Songhay Sorcerer in Niger during the 70's and 80's. It's a somewhat controversial book, as he describes attacks of sorcery and other semi-supernatural incidents that he has no rational explanation for. I remember my professor and another classmate at the time discussing the idea that by believing in magic you can make magic real in the sense that if someone says you are cursed you stat to see all misfortune as being because of the curse. This book illustrates that mindset very well I would say.
Overall the book is absolutely fascinating, and reads almost like a fictional book at times. Other times it reads like the author copy pasted his field notes, but these can be quite amusing as well.
It's not a dense read so even if you're not particularly in to Anthropology and are interested in learning about Sahelian Magic practices I would recommend it. I know I've gotten a couple of ideas for implementing them into an RPG setting or two.
 

Lofgeornost

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This weekend, I read Avram Davidson’s The Island Under the Earth on Kindle. It was first published in 1969, but was reissued as part of the Prologue Science Fiction line in 2000. It’s actually fantasy, not SF.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s a brief book—less than 200 pages in the original paperback—but it seems longer, because Davidson packs so much in. It is set in, well, a mythical ‘island under the Earth,’ a fragment of reality spun off when the cosmos was formed. The background is Greek Archaic Age in terms of the society and some of the mythos (there are harpies and centaurs), with some elements of Hebrew lore thrown in. But this world is quite odd and fantastic. For example, the stars appear at night as lines across the sky—some of them intersecting—rather than points, and denizens are familiar with sudden slips in location and time, known as ‘gathering up of the ways/days.’

The story at first appears to be a straightforward adventure tale, as sea-captain Stag, on the run after a raid at sea, decides to rent a house in the hills from his partner, the merchant Tabnath Lo. But the narrative soon branches out from this premise, to focus also on Tabnath Lo’s competitor the eunuch Delantidintilla and his dwarfs, Atom and Mote, the master thief Zorbinand, a nameless homophage, various centaurs, a mysterious otherworldly city and its inhabitants, and more. It’s a rich concoction, made more so by Davidson’s prose, which is often intentionally oblique.

From a gaming perspective, the setting struck me as tailor-made for Runequest. It has the same ‘feel,’ the same combination of down-to-earth details of premodern societies (the issue of pudding barley and its relationship to having a bakery in town plays a small but notable role in the book), thick descriptions of rites and bits of everyday magic (like the augury that Stag commissions before setting out on his journey), anthropological treatments of non-humans (we learn that, because centaur blood is very poisonous, humans typically ambush them from a distance with missiles, leading centaurs to view humans as cowardly and sneaking), and full-on weirdness (I won’t give examples as they would be spoilers). Things like the ‘gathering up of days/ways’ could be hard to handle in a gaming context, though—or not, depending on your group, I guess.

The book ends quite suddenly, though in a striking image and sequence, with much left unexplained. Poking around, I’ve found that it was intended to be the first in a trilogy, but the other books were apparently never written. A shame, but this one is still well worth reading. A bit from its prologue gives a good idea of its charms, though not its contents:

But all this and similar is comparable to reconstructing an anatomy from the shreds of broken grammars, or an economy from a single page of arithmetic. Todros Podrosi has summed the subject up: Whoever wishes to learn of the Helm Wind and the Cap of Grace, whoever wishes to know what occurred in the Year of Ro between the times of Starflux and Earthflux and where to find the traces of the blood shed then (which is the blood that has never dried), whoever desires to discover why there is seldom true thunder on the land, how the thunder heard upon the sea is really the noise of Rahab roaring forth her love for Leviathan, whoever looks to find the Far High Glades where the centaurs resort in their heats and seasons lest the sons of men mock their lusts or the wild asses envy them, whoever yearns to sit beneath the cedars and listen to the sound of silver and gold growing beneath the soil: the accounts of all these and all other doings and designs and places and persons of the Island Under the Earth must be sought for in The Book Bound in Black Hide.

And this seeking is of certain peril.
 

Voros

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This weekend, I read Avram Davidson’s The Island Under the Earth on Kindle. It was first published in 1969, but was reissued as part of the Prologue Science Fiction line in 2000. It’s actually fantasy, not SF.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s a brief book—less than 200 pages in the original paperback—but it seems longer, because Davidson packs so much in. It is set in, well, a mythical ‘island under the Earth,’ a fragment of reality spun off when the cosmos was formed. The background is Greek Archaic Age in terms of the society and some of the mythos (there are harpies and centaurs), with some elements of Hebrew lore thrown in. But this world is quite odd and fantastic. For example, the stars appear at night as lines across the sky—some of them intersecting—rather than points, and denizens are familiar with sudden slips in location and time, known as ‘gathering up of the ways/days.’

The story at first appears to be a straightforward adventure tale, as sea-captain Stag, on the run after a raid at sea, decides to rent a house in the hills from his partner, the merchant Tabnath Lo. But the narrative soon branches out from this premise, to focus also on Tabnath Lo’s competitor the eunuch Delantidintilla and his dwarfs, Atom and Mote, the master thief Zorbinand, a nameless homophage, various centaurs, a mysterious otherworldly city and its inhabitants, and more. It’s a rich concoction, made more so by Davidson’s prose, which is often intentionally oblique.

From a gaming perspective, the setting struck me as tailor-made for Runequest. It has the same ‘feel,’ the same combination of down-to-earth details of premodern societies (the issue of pudding barley and its relationship to having a bakery in town plays a small but notable role in the book), thick descriptions of rites and bits of everyday magic (like the augury that Stag commissions before setting out on his journey), anthropological treatments of non-humans (we learn that, because centaur blood is very poisonous, humans typically ambush them from a distance with missiles, leading centaurs to view humans as cowardly and sneaking), and full-on weirdness (I won’t give examples as they would be spoilers). Things like the ‘gathering up of days/ways’ could be hard to handle in a gaming context, though—or not, depending on your group, I guess.

The book ends quite suddenly, though in a striking image and sequence, with much left unexplained. Poking around, I’ve found that it was intended to be the first in a trilogy, but the other books were apparently never written. A shame, but this one is still well worth reading. A bit from its prologue gives a good idea of its charms, though not its contents:

Davidson is an amazing writer, I've read many of his short stories which is a form he is considered a master of but not his novels although I do have one or two and intend to read them. Your summary certainly inspires me to dig them out and give them a read.

His literay reputation has certainly been on the rise for a number of years and he is one of the few sf authors whose reputation outside of sf/fantasy circles may be greater than within genre circles. He was a mentor to many important Jewish American writers.
 

spittingimage

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Over the last couple of weekends I read Dennis E. Taylor's Bobiverse books. Taylor is a gigantic nerd, and so are his protagonist(s). I've discovered it doesn't take me long to have my fill of Star Trek puns.

In the books, the human race has access to a lot of nearby biologically compatible planets and colonises them all. The author frequently quotes from a scifi convention panel (maybe a real one he attended?) which posits compatible planets will be more common than not, because all planetary environments are seeded by comets that contain organic precursors, DNA is the simplest possible molecule that can carry complex bodyplans, etc. I've been to a similar panel that argues other planets might be too similar to colonise. Eg. estrogen is a fairly simple molecule and on Earth it functions as a developmental hormone for female animals and a sex hormone for males. But on other planets it might function as a chemical messenger used by plants to communicate, causing the environment to be saturated with it - in which any colony would be unable to raise a healthy second generation.

On Sunday I read one of Lyn McConchie's Sherlock Holmes pastiches. She's a local author who happens to be a friend of my wife's, and her Sherlock Holmes writing is the closest to the original I've come across yet. I'm fussy about my Sherlockian fiction - I want it as similar as possible to Arthur Conan Doyle's. Lyn has been best at that.
 

Lofgeornost

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Davidson is an amazing writer, I've read many of his short stories which is a form he is considered a master of but not his novels although I do have one or two and intend to read them. Your summary certainly inspires me to dig them out and give them a read.

His literay reputation has certainly been on the rise for a number of years and he is one of the few sf authors whose reputation outside of sf/fantasy circles may be greater than within genre circles. He was a mentor to many important Jewish American writers.

I didn't know that Davidson was well-known outside of a genre audience. I guess that puts him in rarefied company.

I've not read many of his novels, but The Phoenix and the Mirror is one of my favorite fantasies. I ought to dig it out and re-read it sometime.
 

woodcutgames

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How is it so far? Is this a must-have for cultural anthropology enthusiasts (like me)?

I enjoyed it. I have read most of the books in that series, so I knew what to expect. Though I read it as part of the research for my "Other Magic" zine, I also read that type of thing for fun and general edification, since I'm a research geek and have a longstanding interest in ideas about magic across various cultures.
 

urbwar

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I just finished the second digital trade of Copperhead from Image comics. Decent sci-fi western series on a frontier planet
 

Voros

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Heard good things about this late period (96') Vance novel.

3422205.jpg
 

Lofgeornost

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Silverlion

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I read Fiddler's Rose, which is a strange book, its format is odd--fantasy, magic, but it's mostly told in a conversation between the ghost of a dead unicorn and one of his living "lovers" (all in dream space.)
I was surprised I liked it but it has some stuff I find problematic (shapeshifting requires getting parts of a creature, blood works, other things work, but eating parts of the creature works--and most of them are sapient/self-aware.) But in spite of that, I enjoyed it. It's kind of a sweet romance if you accept that the two leads are going to sleep around, a lot.

Trying to get the chap some help on cover art, and good tag lines, since it's been out since 2019, and not sold well. Not a lot of description, but it was fun>
Right now I'm rereading the D-list supervillain novels. Which I do as a palate cleanser and comfort book. I've got to get some new books read, that are on my kindle.
 

Lofgeornost

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Thanks to Hoopla, over the last weeks I've read some more comics set in Nero's reign. I've finished the French (well, Belgian) comic Murena up through book 9: The Thorns, which is the last to be drawn by the original artist, I think. In these later issues, the book becomes less a kind of Neronian 'I Claudius' to focus more on its invented characters, like Murena himself. Ultimately that made it a bit more interesting, I think, and more like its inspiration in Dumas, though it does mean that Poppaea, who seemed likely to be a major villain in the story, fades somewhat into the background. The story has reached the Great Fire of Rome in 64 C.E. and the persecution of Christians in its aftermath.

The series put a lot of effort into depicting the Fire, in which the characters are deeply implicated. One thing I found a bit odd about that section of story was the use of modern names for parts of Rome. So the Jewish quarter is described as being in Trastevere, rather than Transtiberina. They are roughly the same region of Rome, but the old name makes it clear the quarter is on the other side of the Tiber River--which removes any mystery about why it might not have suffered as greatly from the Fire.

I've also read the first three volumes of a comic titled Britannia, written by Peter Milligan. The title is a little misleading, because only the first volume is set in Britain. The title character is one Antonius Axia, a Roman soldier sent by the Vestal Virgins to stop a rather Cthulhu-ish human sacrifice in Tuscany and then groomed (by reading sacred texts) into an investigator. That's not a spoiler, since it all happens in the start of the first issue. In the first book, Axia is sent to Britain to deal with incipient revolt there; in the later volumes he deals with a semi-magical conspiracy in Rome and an attempted power-grab based on the annihilation of Roman legions in the 'Tottenburg Forest' in Germany. In the second volume, he picks up a partner (sort-of) in a female gladiator named Achillia, who is a better fighter than he is.

I enjoyed reading the comic, though it has a very different tone than Murena.The first volume reads rather like a Cthulhu Invictus campaign, with lots of otherworldly elements, while in the later ones the supernatural tends to be explained away and the series becomes Roman detective fiction, a bit like Lindsay Davis though more pulpy. The picture of Nero is much more the typical self-absorbed tyrant than in Murena, which tries to complicate and humanize him. There's also a lot less concern with historical accuracy--much of the background for the third volume is lifted entirely from the Varus disaster in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 C.E., with a few changes.

By chance, the Vestal Virgin Rubria plays a role in both comics. In Murena, she is presented as one of his friends, and she suffers the fate that Suetonius assigns her: she is raped by Nero. In Britannia, she is one of Axia's patrons and controllers and presented as very much Nero's equal.
 

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I am re-reading the Eleventh Son by Gu Long because I Will be talking about the movie Swordsman and the Enchantress on a podcast. I re-read this book every couple of years. But the translation, I believe, is just one book in a bigger series. And the film has a twist which definitely isn't in the book, so I was always curious if the other book (s) in the series include this twist (if anyone knows, would welcome the info).
 

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Read The Last Duel by Eric Jager. Didn't think much of it. It's pretty short, the edition I got was 209 pages, and still felt like mostly filler. I guess Ridley Scott is going to do a movie of it, so that'll probably be awful, but at least I won't care.
 

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I've fallen out of the habit of reading over the last few years (I blame my job) so I'm having to force myself to read.
I've just demolished the first two Merchant Princes books by Charles Stross. Imagine the inter-family politics of Dallas crossed with Amber but with less powerful (than Amber) protagonists.
 

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I've fallen out of the habit of reading over the last few years (I blame my job) so I'm having to force myself to read.
I've just demolished the first two Merchant Princes books by Charles Stross. Imagine the inter-family politics of Dallas crossed with Amber but with less powerful (than Amber) protagonists.
I read those a while back. I think there are more books in the series but I never got around to getting them. One of the days I should reread the first two and continue with the series. I remember the first book getting badly panned by a number of online reviewers when it came out but don't remember why.
 

Voros

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This blog post actually made me read Ultimates 3 because I'm a masochist and it sounded like such a carwreck I had to look. I dipped into the Ultimates when it started and it was trashy fun at first even if the art didn't do much for me but seemed pointless after the initial shock wore off.

I didn't realize just how bad things had got. I thought Image was the nadir of 'dark, badass' comics for supposed adults but this may just top it.
 
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Stumpydave

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I read those a while back. I think there are more books in the series but I never got around to getting them. One of the days I should reread the first two and continue with the series. I remember the first book getting badly panned by a number of online reviewers when it came out but don't remember why.
I remember reading a review and thinking it sounded awesome (but I'm a sucker for parallel dimensions and alternate realities) but never tracking down the books at the time. Don't know why.
 

Lofgeornost

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Read The Last Duel by Eric Jager. Didn't think much of it. It's pretty short, the edition I got was 209 pages, and still felt like mostly filler. I guess Ridley Scott is going to do a movie of it, so that'll probably be awful, but at least I won't care.

Sorry to hear that--I've had that book for some time but never got around to reading it. We don't know a great deal about its main event, I think, which might explain the filler issue.
 

under_score

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Sorry to hear that--I've had that book for some time but never got around to reading it. We don't know a great deal about its main event, I think, which might explain the filler issue.
Yeah, the book would really benefit from more firsthand accounts from any of the participants. There are a few minor quotes from the accused's lawyer, but otherwise we don't get any insight on any of the major characters. The filler is often explaining just basics of medieval life that anyone who reads much medieval history would already be familiar with. And it kind of reads like the author is just pointing at a time and place and saying 'this is weird' rather than having any fascination for the subject.
 

Lofgeornost

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Yeah, the book would really benefit from more firsthand accounts from any of the participants... The filler is often explaining just basics of medieval life that anyone who reads much medieval history would already be familiar with. And it kind of reads like the author is just pointing at a time and place and saying 'this is weird' rather than having any fascination for the subject.

I also have his Blood Royal : A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris, about the murder of Louis of Orleans in 1407, sitting in my 'to be read' stack. I guess it may be moving towards the bottom now...
 
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