The Burning Shadow

B1849

 

The Bronze Age is full of mystery. We really do not know how people of the period recorded their own history because only scattered fragments have survived and been much interpreted by archaeologists. That interpretation may be very seriously flawed. What we do know is that some very sophisticated societies developed at least 10,000 years ago. Many were inundated by the seas, some are known to have been destroyed suddenly by earthquakes and dramatic volcanic activity. The author has set her story three and a half thousand years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean. The story feels real and grounded firmly in know facts, but that is the job of the author to provide an environment that wraps around the reader.

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Firetrench Directory

NAME: The Burning Shadow
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
FILE: R1849
DATE: 210713
AUTHOR: Michelle Paver
PUBLISHER: Penguin, Puffin
BINDING: eBook, POD, hard back, softback
PAGES: 282
PRICE: £
GENRE: Fiction
SUBJECT: Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, Bronze Age, Clan wars, Greece, Minoan, Thera, Santorini, earthquake, volcanic eruption, volcanic explosion
ISBN: 978-0-141-33928-3
IMAGE: B1849.jpg
BUYNOW: Amazon
LINKS: Bronze Age Military Equipment
DESCRIPTION: An historical novel should be plausible, whether aimed at young readers or at readers of any age. This new book from Michelle Paver achieves that and holds the attention of the reader to the final page. As part of a series that will run to at least three volumes, but possibly more, the book stands alone but raises questions for the reader about the first volume and expectations for the declared third volume. As for the readership demographics, the publisher is aiming at the young reader but this is a story that will be read by a much wider readership. It is interesting that the Harry Potter stories, that were turned into very successful films, were also aimed at young readers but probably achieved more sales to adults.

In the end, a good story is a good story. If it is readily available it will be read on its own merits and the combination of fable, history, archaeology, natural disasters, magic and mystery should result in very strong sales. The only confusion is provided by a very comprehensive choice of formats. The electronic book has now been with us for three decades. Initially it proved a highly viable format for technical manuals that could be updated frequently and held on a computer disk rather than occupying several inches of bookshelf. It also introduced huge savings for readers and publishers, but it was a special interest format that may have rapidly become popular within the computer industry but had little visibility beyond. By the turn of the millennium, the eBook had developed technically and was achieving a much more diverse following, but was most popular with new and small publishers who could free themselves from the Spanish customs of the printing industry and book repositories.

The eBook has really taken off with the availability of eBook readers with eInk display screens that reflect light just like a printed page and require very little power, lasting for days or even weeks on a battery charge. A book like this new Paver story works very well with an eInk screen because if is a single colour throughout, mainly text, but with some pen sketches and two imaginative maps. Books requiring colour illustration require a different screen display and although eBook readers with colour screens are now widely available, much of the growth of colour eBooks has been for reading on smart phones and tablets, with a back-lit colour screen, and an ability to combine communications with most of the functionality of computer workstations. These general factors apply to all eBooks and make life very complex for a publisher who now cannot rely exclusively on the printed page and a choice of hard back and soft back binding, to be sold through traditional bookshops. The result is that traditional and long established publishers like the Penguin Group have to make many new decisions before launching a new book. In this case, they seem to have taken every available option and that means a clutch of ISBNs to cover each of the edition formats. For the purposes of this review, the ISBN allocated for the hard back edition has been shown above, but the reviewer has worked with an edition that may be a PrintOnDemand hardcopy, having a plain card back page, a front cover with a full colour printed image, preceded by a clear plastic sheet, and with the main body provided as cut pages secured by multiple wire rings. That has advantages and disadvantages. It is very easy to handle while reading because the pages can be folded over flat. The disadvantage is that it has no flat bound section to display a title when placed on a bookshelf. A reviewer can of course only comment on what has been provided. It is assumed that that the hard back edition will provide a traditional hard cover binding and dust jacket, whilst the soft back edition will feature a traditional Perfect Binding with squared spine to display title and author from the bookshelf. Electronic versions may be available in several formats because the Amazon version is probably using the proprietary Kindle/Mobi format but other distributors may offer a PDF or other alternative format.

Formats aside, the story can be described as a cracking read. It follows fortunes of a boy and girl, set against the clan wars that preceded Greek city states. It is based on a volcanic island and the mining of copper ore and the processes of turning it into bronze weapons and tools. There is a generous helping of the mystic and the fable in an age when gods were more literal beings where the spirit world met and mingled with the physical world of mortals. The author has researched the historical and physical elements that are included within the story, by visiting the area, entering a Bronze Age copper mine and working through available archaeology. The result is that the story is credible I the context of the period it has been set in. The characters are nicely drawn and interact well. The style of writing is involving, drawing the reader into the world of the story. There is suspense and changes of pace and direction that holds the reader’s attention. It is an excellent book for the younger reader because it does not patronize or avoid the more sophisticated constructs and words. That also makes it a book that will appeal to a much wider age range and it is a family book. It deserves to sell well and it will.

The historical environment through which the story flows is not a period of history that is well known or well documented. Then again, no period of history is adequately recorded as a impartial and factual account. History is written by the victors and records the version of events they would have the student believe. Even in very modern history the weight of documentation by historians leans to the favour of the victor. Uncomfortable facts are still hidden and sometimes destroyed. It has generally be accepted that a written history is superior to an oral history but this is not necessarily true. It becomes less true as we journey back through time. Written history is often recorded long after an event and by people who are attempting to please a contemporary ruler. Shakespeare was writing plays where the story favoured Elizabeth Tudor and her family. Richard III was dead and there was no one who would risk writing in his favour. With the union of the crowns looming, and Scottish history little known in England, Shakespeare produced story lines that favoured the Stuarts.

The Bronze Age is full of mystery. We really do not know how people of the period recorded their own history because only scattered fragments have survived and been much interpreted by archaeologists. That interpretation may be very seriously flawed. What we do know is that some very sophisticated societies developed at least 10,000 years ago. Many were inundated by the seas, some are known to have been destroyed suddenly by earthquakes and dramatic volcanic activity. The author has set her story three and a half thousand years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean. The story feels real and grounded firmly in know facts, but that is the job of the author to provide an environment that wraps around the reader.

Having read this story, the reader will find it very difficult to avoid purchasing the preceding tale, and will look forward to the third book in the series

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