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Review: Island of Ghosts, by Gillian Bradshaw

Pages: 319
Original date of publication: 1998
My edition: 1998 (Forge)
Why I decided to read: I’m a little deficient in ancient Roman historical fiction
How I acquired my copy: Ex library, January 2010

Island of Ghosts is the story of the clash of two cultures in 3rd century Britain. Ariantes is a prince of the Sarmatian nation, who made a deal with the Emperor to supply the Empire with troops.

As I’ve said before, I’m a little deficient in historical fiction set in ancient Rome or its colonies, and I was anxious to make up for that. It’s a fascinating time period, but I feel as though in this novel, the author takes an interesting subject matter and manages to make it uninteresting! I felt that the dialogue and the characters’ actions too modern to be believable. The novel is written in a very simplistic way; maybe this book was meant as YA? Maybe I’m just not in the demographic that this book was meant for.

Bradshaw is unlike any other author I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way—she manages to take her narrator and take him completely out of the story, so much so that you really don’t end up caring what happens him in the end. In fact, Ariantes’s character is a mess of contradictions, and what we see of him in this novel is totally at odds with the reputation he has. Ariantes also has an amazing skill, which I didn’t find believable: he instinctively understands and empathizes with both Sarmatian and Roman customs, which again is totally at odds with the back story he’s given us. After all, this is the warrior prince who is said to have turned an enemy’s head into a drinking cup! The author has clearly done her research on the period, but I felt that the book fell flat in many places, causing me to skim over several parts. If you’re looking for a really good, meaty historical novel about ancient Rome, then this book probably won’t be it.


Misfit said…
I agree, this was such a snoozer I couldn't even handle it while doing cardio. Glad I bailed.

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