ETA: Another +1 to Ruth Downie's Ruso series. I really enjoyed them when I read the lot earlier this year. High recommend.
Finished two new "historical real person in fictionalized situation" novels from the library's New Books shelf.
1) Roman Games: A Plinius Secundus Mystery
by Bruce Macbain
is just what it says in the title.
This may or may not be a one-off, starring the not-so-famous nephew of the famous historian who died recording Vesuvius
, who has to untangle the murder of one of the paranoid demented emperor Domitian's cronies and also figure out whether it's just a plain old revenge-killing (the victim was that kind of guy) or if the paranoid demented emperor Domitian is right about it also being a plot against himself.
Back cover said that Macbain is some sort of Classics professor at one of the university/colleges down in the States, and there's some nifty background info and glossary and historical notes after the story. Apparently this was written around a real-life incident during Domitian's reign, changed in a couple of places which the author thoughtfully notes. It also says that it's the author's first book, and he does a pretty good job of it. It's not exceptionally good, but it's very readable.
Moderate-to-medium-high recommend if you like historical Roman Empire murder mysteries that are basically decently-done Real Person Fic surrounding actual events with actual historical personages. I liked it, but I think you kind of have to like these sorts of things to begin with.
2) The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer
by Lucy Weston
which again, is exactly what it says in the title.
Fun fact: onomastically speaking, the name "Buffy" is actually supposed to be derived from being a nickname for "Elizabeth".
And that's really the most interesting thing I can say about this novel, which otherwise involves Queen Elizabeth I discovering a hidden heritage as a prophesied vampire slayer and confronting a leftover legacy from Arthurian times as apparently Camelot fell in part due to vampiric plotting.
It's not actually a bad
novel, and the writing is decent enough, but it's really just another cheesy cash-in attempt on a fad that doesn't do anything particularly imaginative or noteworthy with the setting or the characters, which is a shame, because I like the Tudors and I kind of like Arthuriana, and it's usually cool to see them combined.
If your library also has it and you like these things, maybe an okay read for the novelty value. But definitely not worth the $17 CAD asking price that the publisher listed on the back of the paper version.
As an aside, the book's author seems to be even more fictionalized than her novel, as "Lucy Weston" seems to be an entirely made-up persona complete with fake Twitter and blog accounts to visit online, who claims to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Lucy Westenra" in Dracula
and to have found this hidden manuscript diary which she turned into the novel in a special interview in the back of the book, which also has a seriously for serious reading group guide question set which acts like it's all Very Deep Literature You Should Discuss.
I give it a minor bonus point for the hilarity of that last alone.
In between, also re-read Connie Willis
' Oxford time-travel set, this time using the Kindle*. There's a noticeable drop in the competence of the historians going from Doomsday Book
to All Clear
, especially when it comes to Wardrobe.
You'd think that having nearly lost at least one historian and almost messing up the timeline on at least one other occasion, they'd have better safety/tracking/emergency retrieval protocols in place, like arranging a long-term drop box for messages from the past and implanting locators and making sure that their people are properly prepped for their drops†.
But no, they don't, and all the competent people seem to have disappeared. Maybe everyone decent's been sent to the past on another Lady Schrapnell whim and all that's left over is the hastily hired replacements she harangued people to slot into place?
* Doomsday Book
was pretty decently formatted and clean, but To Say Nothing of the Dog
suffered from a mild percentage of weird scannos that obviously nobody bothered to check. And I strongly suspect that both e-books de-italicized nearly all of the "thought" phrases, given how they're usually italicized throughout my paper copy and the PDF of Blackout
that I got from the Hugo Voter Packet.
† As the narration keeps reminding us throughout, it's time travel
, and they should remember that they have all the time in the world to do it, rather than keeping on rushing through to get to their assignments with inadequate resources.