1558- England is a land torn by religious conflict and an uncertain political future. Ned Willard, the son of successful merchants in Knightsbridge, sees his future changed as the struggle for the monarchy between Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth develops. Trade with Europe is affected and through a series of misfortunes, Ned must make the decision to go to London and work for Sir Francis Walsingham who is developing a secret service for Elizabeth. When she ascends to the throne, Ned becomes the spymaster, Walsingham's, trusted assistant.
Follett intertwines the stories of the Guises, powerful French Catholics, with the Huguenots who risk torture and their lives to worship as Protestants. Then there are the star-crossed lovers, the pirates, and adventurers. The Knightbridge part of the story occurs in the shadow of the great Cathedral built centuries before and A Column of Fire completes the trilogy begun with Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Through the engaging characters, Follett describes the dawn of England's secret service, the terrible era of religious intolerance, and cruel times that were England and Europe's in the 1500's.
Marty Chan is an Edmonton writer of young adult books and plays. Because of my, ahem, age, I don't usually read YA but Marty is coming to the Arts Festival and I thought I should read some of his work. I have seen one of his plays (The Bone House was mounted at Fringe in Edmonton.)
Fire and Glass is the first in the Keepers of the Vault Trilogy. Kristina and Dylan are junior high outcasts because they are 'uncool' new comers. They gravitate to one another when they both experience some "strange" sounds and sights which no one else seems to notice. Their curiosity leads the to the abandoned fourth floor of the school. A eerie and frightening experience awaits and leaves them with a load of questions and no answers. Chan has captured the teen angst and society of a junior high school so well. As Dylan and Kristina join forces against the "Goth djinn stalker who likes to play with fire", the mystery deepens and the dangers multiply. I wished the book was longer (because as an adult, I just like longer books) and will recommend it to my grandson. It's an engaging story and I think I'll break my own rule about no time for YA fiction and read the other two novels in the series. Fire and Glass leaves you hanging and wanting more.
Will Ferguson is a Calgary writer whose 419 won the Giller prize in 2012. Of his four novels, two are humourous romps and the other two serious books. The Shoe on the Roof has a main plot revolving around a psychology experiment gone wrong. Thomas Rosanoff (not to be confused with the Thomas Rosanoff, his famous father) loves Amy. She tests his love in an age-old way and he fails. Amy leaves him ruing his choice and desperate to win her back. Perhaps, he thinks, 'if I can cure Amy's brother, of the delusion that he is Jesus, she'll take me back.' The search for a cure leads him to a technique that may work. Thomas is a medical student and he and his friend, Bernie, have a lab where they can conduct research. This is a complex story exploring, the nature of love, the lengths desperate people will go to, and the limits and dangers of psychiatry.
Apart from the plot which keeps the pages turning, Will Ferguson is a fine writer. The descriptions are unique and though lyrical, do not intrude on the story. This is a talented man, telling a great yarn with amazing writing. A quote: "The sun through the window gradually shifted, throwing light across the floor and then reeling it back in."
Christmas is on the horizon, snow is on the ground, and if you'd like a head start on your presents Fire and Glass or another Marty Chan title would please a 12+ reader. (It's even printed in a dyslexic friendly font.). The Shoe on the Roof would satisfy the adult bibliophile. The great thing? Both Canadian authors.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.