Sunday, January 30, 2011

Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott

Twilight of AvalonTwilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anna Elliott's historical fantasy novel, Twilight of Avalon, is based upon the Arthurian legend of Trystan and Isolde.

The story begins with the death of the High King of Britain, Constantine. As High Queen, Isolde suddenly finds herself a widow in a world of uncertainty, danger and deceit, where everyone is out to better their own with little regard as to who they hurt along the way. Forced into marriage to King Marche, at whose hands she suffers greatly, Isolde makes the difficult decision to flee in order to save her country from destruction.

During her journey Isolde befriends a group of outlaws: An escaped prisoner named Trystan, a mute Saxon called Hereric, an ex-soldier named Kian, and a vivacious young boy called Bran. With the help of these unlikely heroes, Isolde sets out to uncover the truth of Marche's secret dealings with the Saxon invaders, and his involvement in the death of her husband. 
As the granddaughter of Morgan (sister to Arthur), Isolde is blessed with the gift of "the Sight", which enables her to foresee events about to take place, and discover the truth of events that have happened in the past, although she is often unsure as to how to decipher the messages she receives. Trapped in a confusing existence, she finds comfort and stability in Trystan, a stranger whose past reveals the hidden secrets and forgotten memories of her own.

Anna Elliott has pulled Trystan and Isolde out of the depths of legend and placed them in a historical context that makes the characters and events of this story appear real, tangible and believable, weaving through it just enough magic to maintain the element of mystique and intrigue that brought about the legend in the first place. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Australia Day (26.1.2011)

A good book and the cricket on TV: Not such a bad way to spend a Public Holiday! (Especially since the morning was spent cleaning the house of 1cm-thick dirt brought in by a dust storm the previous evening.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Master.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.
~ Richard Bach

We have a little bit of rain here today, which is a nice change from all the H-O-T we've had the last 3+ weeks. I'm hoping for at least 15mm to give my lawn and plants a bit of a pick-up, as after such a wet spring they've taken the sudden heat pretty badly. It's such a strange thought to think that to the NE they've got more water than they could have ever wanted, and yet here in the Flinders we could use just a little to bring everything back to life.

Mother Nature can seem a cruel Master sometimes. I guess what matters now is what happens next.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

The Queen's FoolThe Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Royal Reviews' Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010


"...he'll be remembered as a wife-killer," Will predicted. "And everything else about him that was so brave and loyal and true will be forgot. They will forget he brought peace and prosperity to the country, that he made an England that we could all love. All they will remember of him will be that he had six wives and beheaded two of them. And all they will remember of this queen is that she brought the country floods and famine and fire. She will be remembered as England's curse when she was to have been our virgin queen, England's saviour." - The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

Hannah Verde is a Jew who escapes the Spanish Inquisition with her book-seller father to begin a new life masquerading as Christians in England. Hannah is begged as a fool to the young king, Edward Tudor, and not just any fool, but a Holy Fool: Blessed with the gift of premonition, she is brought to the court by Robert Dudley to be a companion to the boy-king, and then when it becomes apparent that Edward will die, she is sent off to spy on the heir to the throne, Princess Mary.

During the years that follow, Hannah is used by Robert Dudley to spy on Queen Mary, and by Queen Mary to spy on the Princess Elizabeth. Unsure of where her loyalties should lie, Hannah tries to be as honourable in her tasks as she possibly can, and when pressed about her motives never denies them.

Hannah's gift of "the sight" proves a useful tool to Robert Dudley, John Dee and the Princess Elizabeth as she scries for them to predict the future. However, Gregory has not allowed her character's "special talent" to get in the way of the historical events that unfold during Queen Mary's tumultuous reign. Rather, packed with historical detail, Gregory creates a fascinating insight into the turmoil that England suffered after the death of King Henry VIII.

Set during a time of religious upheaval and confusion, The Inquisition and the burning of heretics, famine, war between England and France and the loss of Calais, The Queen's Fool is a dark, brooding novel that reflects these dark and dangerous times. However, this novel is as much about England as it is about Gregory's fictional main character: Throughout the story the reader experiences Hannah's progression from a timid, selfish child into a strong-willed, selfless woman, determined to find happiness in a sad world.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beautiful Bunyeroo: 03.01.2011

[Pete Dobre's famous photograph of Bunyeroo Valley from Razorback Lookout, in the Flinders Ranges] 

[My photograph of the same scene] 

Pete Dobre's photograph of Bunyeroo Valley in the Flinders Ranges is one of my favourites. When I was working at a picture framers and art gallery around ten years ago, it was one of the most popular panoramics we sold.

Although only just over an hour drive from where we now live, I'd not had the opportunity to visit Bunyeroo Valley for myself until this week: SJ and I took my sister T, visiting from West Australia, on a sight-seeing drive to Wilpena Pound, Bunyeroo Valley, and through Brachina Gorge, a trip that took around 4 hours to complete.

 [Bunyeroo Valley with the Razorback, the large hill to left]

Bunyeroo Valley is just north of Wilpena Pound, a long, narrow dirt track that takes you through deep valleys and to the top of mountains. The landscape, particularly in the middle of summer as it is now, is spotted with trees, and giant, menancing hills seemingly pop up out of nowhere.

The views from Razorback Lookout, where these photographs were taken, are stunning: On a clear day you can see for miles the amazing green-brown-purple hues that the Flinders Ranges are famous for.

[Creek bed, Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges] 

Bunyeroo Valley continues on into Brachina Gorge, a that drive takes you through deep creek beds with ridges either side looming overhead. The gorge is a geologist's wonderland: The colours of the different layers of stone are a constant reminder that Brachina Gorge is at least 500 million years old.

[Sandstone & siltstone cliffs, Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges]

A truly beautiful way to pass a day.