Decided to re-read this one on a whim and there was so much I didn't remember. Just a really, all-around fun novel. It's particularly interesting to see this more lavish version of Peters' prose, which she refines but also streamlines through the later books in the series. Here, she's willing to make more comical asides and revel in setting the scene a little more.
A floating orb in a forgotten tower.
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I picked this up at the recommendation of another Bookwyrm user just a few days ago and tore through it in just two sittings. I very much enjoyed Clarke's first novel, but its difficult language and enormous size made it difficult to grasp the whole story. Piranesi is fast, almost breezy, but still has Clarke's incredible world building. The House—an infinite collection of halls and vestibules populated with unending statues, with a sea sloshing around the lower floor and clouds filling the upper—is an incredibly potent concept, and one I know will stick with me. If you love Borges, you'll love this book.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi's house is no ordinary building; its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon …
Library Orb finished reading The Confession of Brother Haluin (Brother Cadfael Mysteries) by Edith Pargeter
This is one of my favorite Cadfael books I've read so far. Unlike Summer of the Danes, the journey of Haluin and Cadfael is much more meaningful and interesting, propelling the plot as they go. Like a fable, Cadfael and Haluin blunder into what feels like another world, and discover secrets, mystery, and the miraculous. It's a keeper.
Peters' Peak, Perhaps
Content warning Very Mild Plot Information
St. Peter's Fair is different from most other Cadfael novels. The entire book is bounded by the fair itself, and divided into sections accordingly. This sets an unusual pace for the books, where you're more away of the time passing, and I found it quite immersive. We see so much more of the town, the people in it, how they pass their time, what they eat, drink, and buy.
The setting of the fair (of course) is a great opportunity to introduce several new and colorful characters, but also creates some compelling tension between the abbey and the town. Although a happy ending is assured, the abbey is cast as somewhat uncaring and inflexible, which is quite different.
My favorite bit, however, is this big Welsh guy who keeps showing up and is very obviously a spy--but Cadfael seems oblivious to it. The guy keeps saying things like "boy, if I were a spy, this is what I would do" and Cadfael says, "gee, isn't that interesting!" Perhaps I'm misreading it, but I enjoy it as a fun running gag.
A Strong Second Helping
The second Cadfael novel iterates smartly on the first one, playing with points of view and obscuring the actual crime amongst a casual attrocity. The introduction of Hugh Beringar is a crucial addition to the series and his antagonistic debut solidly entertaining.
A Debut That's Hard to Beat
The first outing for medieval mystery monk Brother Cadfael has everything: religious tensions, vying vendettas, and a murder that can only be solved in a truly bizarre fashion.
A Viking Snooze
Content warning Plot Spoilers!
I was very excited to finally get my hands on this one. The mashup of Cadfael and a group of marauding vikings seemed as if it would be an absurd romp. Astonishingly, it's one of the least engaging of the Cadfael novels I've read.
The book starts very slowly, with Cadfael moving at Tolkienian pace deep into Wales on an errand with his old apprentice. Things seem to start getting interesting when, on arrival at the Welsh prince's court, we're introduced to a series characters each with conflicting allegiances and vendettas. Suddenly, the tension is broken by news of betrayal, a viking attack, and a corpse discovered amongst the party.
Just as the plot seems like it's coming into focus, Cadfael gets pulled away from the murder, then captured and held for ransom by the Vikings. All the while there's a weird romance bubbling and some secondary characters are making their own schemes, but ultimately nothing comes of it. A disastrous midnight battle breaks up the monotony, but most of the book is monotonous. Worse, this is another story where Cadfael does precisely zero detecting and is merely present when the murderer presents himself, with the mystery's solution as a complete afterthought.
The Danes are the most fun of this book, but they take a long time to appear, and spend much of the book sitting around not doing much of anything. We get some sleek serpent boats, and hints at medieval political maneuvering, but it all feels like half-measures. I wonder if, perhaps, the story would be stronger if taken out of the series entirely so that its own characters could stand on their own and not be shoe-horned into an existing world and format.
Even if you love Vikings, you can skip this one.
A Brief Collection
This short package of stories is mostly forgettable, with much of it reading like b-plots from other novels. The notable exception is the story that tells how Cadfael left his soldiering life and joined the Benedictine order. This one definitely delivers the best and most complete tale of the collection, and the peak at young(ish) Cadfael is exciting, he's strangely distant as a younger man, and keeps his thoughts hidden even from the reader. I'm still unsure if it's clever characterization, or just weirdly flat. Still, a fun little read.
Absolutely Skip This One
Content warning Plot Spoilers and Bad Handling of Queer Characters
Everything about this book feels half-baked, from its phoned in title to its reprise of the girl-disguised-as-a-man trope. But what takes this from ho-hum to infuriating is how the author approaches queerness.
I've enjoyed the vast majority of the Cadfael books I've read, and was curious about this one because the blurb seemed to hint at a queer romance between two monks. Unfortunately, the author cannot bring herself to actually write gay characters, and when she tries the results are offensive and bewildering.
The two central characters of the book--the old and ailing Brother Humilis and the young, handsome Brother Fidelis--appear to share a deeply emotional connection that goes beyond mere caretaking. It's a bond that is strongly implied to be gay relationship. Except (surprise!) Fidelis is a woman and (double surprise!) the woman he was betrothed to before he became a monk, so basically his wife.
Meanwhile, the book's labored and tacked-on b-plot features a Brother who is tortured by homosexual lust, and very creepily attempts to extort sexual favors from some of the characters around him. And yet even his lust is always expressed by referring to the objects of his attentions in female terms, in some cases overlaying the face of the woman who wronged him on the men he desires.
It's so many layers of gross , and clearly subject matter the author is completely ill-equipped to handle.
At this point I have read more than half of the Cadfael series, and the others have been inoffensive at the worst. The failures of this one are impossible to ignore, so skip and continue happily to other monastic mystery adventures. You won't miss anything from this one.
The Parable for the Great Resignation
A short work delivered with wit, insight, and a hopeful vision of the future. Sibling Dex and Mosscap are characters that bounce off each other wonderfully, as the book peddles along at an easy clip.
If ever a work felt like a breath of fresh air, this is it.