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Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Romeo Montague, known for his ruthless, cutthroat ways and cursed to live out eternity in his rotted corpse, is being given the chance to redeem himself. Ariel Dragland doesn’t know it, but she holds the fate of the world in her hands. She is at the center of a power struggle between the Mercenaries, who fight to destroy love, and the Ambassadors, who try to keep it alive. If Romeo can win Ariel’s heart and make her believe in true love, she will turn from her darker side once and for all and will no longer be a threat to the Ambassadors or to the world – and Romeo will be guaranteed protection from the wrath of the Mercenaries. The seduction begins as a lie, but just when Romeo starts to realise he’s in love with Ariel, Ariel begins to suspect that Romeo’s love is a deception. As Ariel becomes vulnerable to Mercenary manipulations, her inner darkness might just tear them apart.”

REVIEW: After reading the first book in this pairing, Juliet Immortal,¬†I was really intrigued to see where Jay would take the story from that point onwards, especially when using Romeo as her protagonist. In the first novel, the reader has an unquestionable hatred for Romeo, and therefore I was unsure whether or not I would be able to see him as a sympathetic character in ¬†this second book. The character transformation Romeo goes through in this book, however, is at once both dramatic and believable as he becomes a protagonist that the reader can truly sympathise with and like. The return of Ariel as a main character and as a possible catalyst for Mercenary evil is a brilliant twist – the reader got to know Ariel in the first book and, unlike with Romeo, was already fond of her. The relationship that blossoms between Romeo and Ariel, although originally a ruse, is a believable one and the reader soon begins to hope that they could be happy together, despite the ongoing war between the Mercenaries and Ambassadors to gain control of Ariel’s mind. It is difficult to say more without spoiling the many twists and turns that evolve throughout the novel, particularly when the reader is not sure whether or not Ariel has finally been won over by the Ambassadors. Overall, however, I enjoyed this sequel much more than I was expecting too and am impressed at how Jay managed to completely revolutionise my concept of Romeo’s character. I also thoroughly enjoyed how all the loose ends were tied up at the end of the novel, with Juliet’s story as well as Romeo’s reaching a satisfying conclusion. I look forward to reading any of Jay’s other works.

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Zero Point by Neal Asher

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Earth’s Zero Asset citizens no longer face extermination from orbit. Thanks to Alan Saul, the Committee’s network of control is a smoking ruin and its robotic enforcers lie dormant. But power abhors a vacuum and, scrambling from the wreckage, comes the ruthless Serene Galahad. She must act while the last vestiges of committee infrastructure remain intact – and she has the means to ensure command is hers.

On Mars, Var Delex fights for the survival of Antares base, while the Argus space station hurls towards the red planet. And she knows whomever, or whatever, trashed Earth is still aboard. Var must save the base, while also dealing with the first signs of rebellion.

And aboard Argus station, Alan Saul’s mind has expanded into the local computer network. In the process, he uncovers the ghastly experiments of the Humanoid Unit Development, the possibility of eternal life, and a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight. But Earth’s agents are closer than Saul thinks, and the killing will soon begin.”

REVIEW: This second book in ‘The Owner’ series picks up right where the last book left off, with Saul’s takeover of the Argus space station and his simultaneous destruction of the power of the Committee. The helpful sections of background information that were present in the last novel are still present throughout this one, and enable the reading to continue to gain a deeper understanding of this new, apocalyptic world despite the fast-pace of the current plotline. As the blurb suggests, the book is divided into three main strands – the stories of the psychopathic Serene Galahad, the new leader Varalia Delex, and ‘The Owner’ himself, Alan Saul. The action kicks off instantly, with this book instantly gripping the reader just as the first did and taking them on a whirlwind journey of rebellion through space and time. Within the first hundred pages of the book, Saul is fatally wounded and, as he falls deeper and deeper into unconsciousness, it is up to Hannah Neumann to not only keep Saul alive, but also to assume command of the ship using the instructions that the only living part of Saul – his computerised and vastly expanding brain – are giving her. At the same time as Hannah struggles with her vaguely directed leadership, Var is also struggling to maintain her position on the Antares base as the seeds of dissent begin to be sown among her crew, leaving her with no-one to turn to and no-one she can trust. Finally, there is Serene Galahad, a ruthless tyrant who plans to purge the Earth of its excess population using the terrible Scour disease (which resembles something similar to the Ebola virus) and is harsh towards anyone who opposes her. We are also introduced to the perspectives of two other characters; Clay, Serene’s right-hand man who is beginning to feel the urge for rebellion himself, and Alex, whose dangerous mission aboard Argus lead him into all kinds of trouble. This characters both add an interesting extra dimension to the book, and it is also nice to see previous characters, like the twins Brigitta and Angela, who bring both intelligence and wit to the crew of Argus. The book ends on a touching note with the reunion of siblings Saul and Var, but with Serene still on the loose, many questions remain unanswered. I look forward to finding out where the next book will take Saul and Var as they begin to grow in both strength and ruthlessness.

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Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens by Lisa Hilton

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “In an age where all politics were family politics, dynastic marriages placed English queens at the very centre of power – the king’s bed. In the mercurial, often violent world of medieval statecraft, English queens had to negotiate a role that combined tremendous influence with terrifying vulnerability. Between 1066 and 1503, twenty women were crowned Queen of England. War, adultery, witchcraft, child abuse, murder – and occasionally even love – formed English queenship, but so too did patronage, learning and fashion. Lisa Hilton dispels the myth that medieval brides were no more than diplomatic pawns.”

REVIEW: My knowledge of English Queens begins with Eleanor of Aquitaine, disappears for over a century and returns during the Wars of the Roses, where from then onwards I tend to be pretty good or at least average in remembering who they were and what factors marked their queenships. Therefore this book was really useful in giving me an insight into the lives of all of England’s medieval Queen consorts with mini biographies that explore the characters of these Queens, as well as their relationships with their husbands, the political circumstances surrounding them, and the nature of their queenship. The book was engaging and interesting, and went into a surprising amount of depth given the sparse number of pages given to the analysis of each Queen and their reign. I found several historical figures that were new to me and greatly captured my imagination, particularly Isabella of France, who I knew nothing of before reading this book. I was also pleased to read more on Anne Neville, who I have a great interest in but who is often neglected in works on medieval history. The only thing that spoilt this book slightly for me, however, was the fact that Hilton and I have extremely different opinions on Richard III – she sees him as the undisputed murderer of the Princes in the Tower and cites evidence of deformity and cruelty to prove her point, some of which has since been disproven since the books publication in 2008 due to the discovery of Richard’s skeleton in a Leicester car park. Other than this, however, I found the book absolutely fascinating and was glad to be given the chance to explore new historical figures, as well as being reacquainted with some of my own favourite Queen consorts. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for an introduction to medieval English Queens and English policy in general during this period, as it provides a great insight into not only the private lives of Queens but also the social, economic and political circumstances prevalent in England during this period.