Bedlam is a book I had to have two goes at reading. The first time, I put it down after the first chapter. I had just finished an extremely harrowing story and couldn’t face more blood, death and spooks.
The second time, feeling stronger, I let it grip me in its nasty talons and read it through to the end. This is a strange story, a nightmare of a story where reality and illusion are blurred. Everything about it is blurred, the landscapes hidden under snow, the half-drunk perceptions of McNeill the main character, night and day, life and death. It’s how I imagine Limbo.
Bedlam gave me the horrors, made my flesh creep, invaded my dreams. The writing is tremendous, the tension is sustained, the characters are real and complex. The only (very minor) niggle I had was with McNeill’s fuzzy brain. I know he had to have only one foot in reality, but I felt on occasion that it would have been interesting to have his reactions as a fully compos mentis policeman, but circumstances always seemed to conspire to have him fuddled by alcohol, drugs, or blows to the head.
I don’t pretend to understand everything that was going on—I’m particularly useless at following the plots of thrillers—and the ending left me a little perplexed. But it didn’t matter. In this book atmosphere is all. I didn’t really care who was alive or dead, what was true, what was a lie, and what was complete make-believe. If you enjoy the paranormal, police thrillers, mysteries, or horror; if you like your reading to put up its fists and refuse to give up its meaning without a fight; if you don’t want the predictable, Bedlam is a novel made for you.
Wildewood Revenge by B.A. Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a book I highly recommend for lovers of historical romance who like their romance to fit into a story of adventure, action, mystery and…time travel.
This was a good read, more in the style of historical romance than fantasy adventure, which is what I imagined it would be. I mistakenly thought Grace was a teenager to begin with, and found her relationship with Miles a little bit disturbing until I realised she was in fact much older. Once that point was cleared up I found Grace a great character, strong, but not brainlessly spunky. She is consistent in the way she behaves and sticks to her guns throughout.
Miles is a perfect mate, good to look at and with an air of mystery about him that keeps him from being a cardboard cut out knight in shining armour. The descriptions of the wintry forest are very convincing, and I had no difficulty visualising the scenes. The action is circumscribed and the cast of characters is limited so the reader’s attention is concentrated on a small area, more like a theatre production than a film. Put me in mind of Robert Bolt’s The Lion in Winter.
The period details are well researched creating a convincing slice of life in Norman England. The language is well chosen and the dialogues are convincing, even though the one flaw for me in this piece of writing was the language. It was always going to be a problem, the moment you have a woman from the 21st century landing in 13th century England—Miles and Grace wouldn’t have been able to understand one another. Miles would have spoken Norman French, quite different from modern French, and Edmund and the English characters would have spoken Early Middle English.
That said, language is a hobbyhorse of mine, so my problem, and who wants to read a story written in Middle English anyway? I probably wouldn’t have even thought of it if Grace hadn’t drawn attention to the fact in her first efforts at conversation with Miles and Edmund.
The story ends in a cliff hanger, it’s true, but I didn’t find that a let-down. It’s obvious there’s a sequel, and the final chapters of the story create quite enough drama and leave quite enough loose ends to make the reader immediately start searching the Internet for the next installment.
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