|The Divine Sacrifice, by Tony Hays
||[Apr. 11th, 2010|04:39 pm]
Review copy provided by Tor.
This is the sequel to The Killing Way, Hays's previous work of Arthurian mystery--the genre kind of mystery, not the religious kind of mystery, although religious discussion certainly plays a large role in this book considering how essentially secular its hero is. This is the continuation of the story of Malgwyn, King Arthur's one-armed detective. If you are a sucker for Arthurians, these books will be essential, because they have a fresh take on the original cast and a different plot. If you like historical mysteries from pre-modern evidentiary standards, this may also scratch your itch. I am a sucker for heresies, and this one has Pelagians in it. Pelagians interest me. I had not connected St. Patrick with the era of Pelagius and his heresy before.
I'm not sure how well the very ending--after the mystery plot is resolved, and also a tiny bit of the resolution--will work if you haven't read The Killing Way. If you have, I think it's grounded in the previous work; if you hadn't, it sort of comes out of nowhere, a "wait, what? who? he's mentioned these people, but how did we get here from there?" So this is one of the mystery series I'd advise reading in order if you're going to read them. Luckily it has only two volumes, so this should not be too great a burden.
I have many reasons for applying to the Magic MN Job. One of them is that I want to borrow your books.
If you were here, you would certainly be permitted.
Everything I think I know about Pelagians comes from Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma
mysteries. Good stuff, although I have not read the most recent ones yet.
Unfortunately, Tremayne and Caroline Roe lured me into thinking that medieval mysteries were by-and-large very good. Then I tripped over several disastrously under-researched, badly plotted... things. Authors' names withheld to protect the guilty. Glad to have a new set that I can plunge into with renewed confidence.
There are one or two things that do grate that way for me. Specifically Hays has a tendency to use italicized foreign words (Latin, mostly) for things we can say perfectly well in English. I suspect that he's trying to give a flavor for what would be foreign and Roman to the British people of the time in question, but I ended up thinking, "Well, just say monks already. We have the word for them!"
Dunno if that would bother me. Did the people whose perspective he's using have their own word for them yet? It probably helps that I still remember some of my Latin from college, and so don't find it obscure.
But in any case, nobody's addressing the monks as "my lord," are they? Not abbots or bishops, but just a random member of the order, of common birth. Cleric =/= nobility, people! And other errors of that level of "You have absolutely NO grasp of what this period was like, do you? You just want your heroine to live in a stone building with pretty arches!" Feh.
I' not sure whether they did or not. In any case, it wasn't that the Latin was obscure, it was that it was obtrusive for me.
As for the other: er, no.
2010-04-12 01:21 pm (UTC)
The Divine Sacrifice
I have to tell you that I enjoy your short reviews of my work. And although there are things that annoy you, as my editor would say, you get "it," what I'm doing. And that counts for a great deal. Just so you know, there will be, at a minimum, two more volumes in the series, maybe more. The next, coming next spring, is The Beloved Dead. Judging by your comments, I'm thinking that it will be one that you will like.
2010-04-12 05:00 pm (UTC)
Re: The Divine Sacrifice
Good deal! As long as you're "here," will you satisfy my curiosity on the choice of "monachus" etc. instead of "monk" and equivalent? Were you aiming at:
a) giving a flavor of which words/concepts would still be slightly foreign to the native British populations;
b) distinguishing in situations where the thing under discussion struck you as different enough from what we have now that the familiar English word would have actively wrong associations for the modern reader;
c) something else I haven't thought of yet?
2010-04-12 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: The Divine Sacrifice
It's actually a combination of all three. No one knows exactly what languages/dialects were spoken in 5th century Britain. Celtic, to be certain, but was that Celtic P or one of the variations? All that can be agreed upon is that Latin, particularly among the nobility (such as they were) and the clergy was still used. Abbeys or monasteries were still in their infancy in Britain, with some of the residents having only recently left their hermitages and gathered together. So, monks as we know them were not quite the same creature back then. Plus, they had sacerdotes and prebyters, who would equate to parish priests now but they didn't have parish priests back then. It was a world of wood huts and mud, of a nobility that still clung, somewhat, to old Roman conventions.
My editor likes the Latin words as well. We both have a bias against inserting contemporary vocabulary and concepts in an historical work. Occasionally, though, I slip up and use "monk" instead of monachus. And, indeed, I might just change to "monk" permanently. But some words and concepts still need to be in Latin for that "flavor" you mentioned.
Feel free to ask me anything you want. I'm not a prima donna at all.