Reviews of Ash: A Secret History (2000)
Review by darkgray (2003-09-06)
Fascinating read, this. As with Guy Gavriel Kay's "The Lions of Al-Rassan," this story takes place in an alternate history of the world. Except... not quite alternate, after all. It's basically a fictional published work of history, with a number of transcripts between the author and his editor, as the work progresses.
The writing is very good, though this is quite possibly the most violent book I've read so far. I never get used to people stomping around in brain matter. Reading about a nine-year-old girl telling the soldier behind her that he doesn't have to be so careful when taking her was also quite surprising.
The story starts out as a work of fantasy, with its share of mysterious powers, albeit very much more toned down than magic usually is, but as we close in on the ending, I have to think of it as science fiction. This is, however, perhaps too much of a spoiler to discuss farther.
All in all, it's a good read -- if you can stomach it.
Review by bayard (2003-03-08)
This is the first in a four-part series. It's a damn good read, a classic mix of real history and invented history which tends towards sci-fi as the series winds on.
Burgundy is one of histories forgotten nations, except as a footnote in charlemagne and then later in austrian/spanish histories, so it's also educational.
If you like this, immediately go and get the next three, Mary Gentle doesn't dissapoint with her gritty [don't you hate reviews with 'gritty' instead of 'she swears like a sailor'] representation of medieval mercenaries.