karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Island of Ghosts: a minimalist book review

Island of Ghosts: A Novel of Roman Britain
Tor Books, 1999
384 pages (I read the Kindle version, of course!)

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
I have gotten really lazy. This post is really just my Amazon review, reformatted for LJ.

If you have any fondness at all for historical fiction, this story is a wonderful read. Bradshaw manages to convey a wealth of detail without info dumping. And she does a fantastic job of setting the scene and then keeping all the characters true to their setting. You could say this book is written in first person, barbarian.

Ariantes, the first person narrator, is a Sarmation, a prince among his own people, but in his culture, even a prince lives in a wagon and roams the countryside, raiding for wealth and glory. The Sarmations were warlike and even took scalps as trophies, and yet Bradshaw makes Ariantes into a sympathetic character, a decent, honorable man.

In addition to a great protagonist, this book has it all: conflict, humor, action, battle scenes, and a love story. The conflict is built-in. The Romans have forced several thousand Samartians to leave their homeland (I think it's somewhere between the Danube and where Iran is now) and travel to Roman-occupied Britain. The Samartians were fierce, well trained fighters who fought on horseback, and the Romans may have looked down on them as barbarians (some Samartians wore their scalp trophies on their coats) but they respected their skill. Samartians customs were different enough from Roman that not a day goes by that doesn't have some new problem crop up that Ariantes must solve. I enjoyed every "page."

Which makes it a real shame that the formatting in the Kindle copy is such crap! There were typos, stray characters, an excess paragraph, and words missing. It looked liked they had scanned the paper copy with OCR and then not bothered to proof the results. Sometimes Ariantes is spelled Aliantes! For crying out loud! This is a crime. The book appears to be out of print so you have the choice of way overpaying for a print copy or paying a more than reasonable price for a crap copy. Not good!

I loved this book, but I hated the ebook formatting. Ariantes/Aliantes deserves better, and so does Gillian Bradshaw.

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Tags: book reviews, historical fiction

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