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Friday 25 November 2022

The Stranger from the Sea - Book review


The eighth Poldark novel by Winston Graham, The Stranger from the Sea was published in 1981. It begins in 1810, ten years after the previous novel, The Angry Tide (published in 1977).

The Angry Tide ended on a philosophical note from Ross Poldark’s wife Demelza, debating on the inevitable end we all must face: ‘The past is over, gone. What is to come doesn’t exist yet. That’s tomorrow. It’s only now that can ever be… We can’t ask more…’ (p612) [In a way, it’s echoing Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett in Gone With the Wind – ‘Tomorrow is another day’]. So I thought it seemed a good place to leave the Poldark saga for a while, even though I had the rest of the series on my shelf.

Now, some many years later I’ve taken up the saga again from where I left off with The Stranger from the Sea.

Even after such a long absence, I soon became familiar with the characters again, though they have naturally aged, including their children: Jeremy is now nineteen and Clowance is sixteen. Bella was born in 1802, after the previous book ended. George Warleggan is an MP, as is Ross, but their paths have rarely crossed in the last ten years. George’s son Valentine is sixteen. Ross’s cousin Geoffrey Charles is twenty-six and serving with Wellington in Portugal. Ross is presently in Portugal as well, on a fact-finding mission to observe the progress against Bonaparte. Here, he meets Geoffrey Charles and reminiscences: ‘... he was loath to move, to wrench at the ribbon of memories that were running through his brain.’ (p40)

Jud and Prudie Paynter are in their seventies now, no longer in the Poldark household, and still at loggerheads. Jud’s still saying ‘Tedn right. Tedn proper.’ This time his displeasure concerns a duck and her newly hatched ducklings making a mess on their floor. As it happens, there were too many eggs for the mother to cover to hatch, so Prudie stuck three eggs in her cleavage to help them along, which meant Jud had to keep his distance for fear of cracking the eggs. Maybe that’s why he was complaining! (p271)

Both Jeremy and Clowance are at that age where their hearts are being tested by attachments. Demelza can recall being ‘in the grip of the same overpowering emotion. Perhaps it was just stirring in them, a sea dragon moving as yet sluggishly in the depths of the pool. But once roused it would not sleep again. It would not sleep until old age – sometimes, from what she’d heard people say, not altogether even then. But in youth an over-mastering impulse which knew no barrier of reason. An emotion causing half the trouble of the world, and half the joy.’ (p280)

Clowance has at least two suitors. Ben is a local lad, the second is Stephen Carrington, mysteriously washed ashore almost dead, rescued by Jeremy. Dr Dwight Enys brought to mind a Cornish saying: ‘Save a stranger from the sea/And he will turn your enemee.’ (p429) The love complications will not be settled in this book, however.

At this time King George is having fewer and fewer bouts of lucidity and Westminster is in turmoil as the king is incapable of signing anything. Moves are afoot to put the Prince of Wales in the monarch’s stead. Ross is vouchsafed an audience with the prince to report on the state of war in Portugal. ‘The Prince of Wales at last rose from his chair. It was a major upheaval and peculiarly uncoordinated, large areas of bulk levering themselves up in unrelated effort. One could even imagine all the joints jutting out, the utter indignity of a fall. But presently it was achieved and he was upright, heavily breathing, began to pace the room, his thin shoes slip-slop, slip-slop.’ (p133)

Occasionally, an interesting historical snippet is dropped in: ‘A steeplechase… is a form of obstacle race. Over hedges, streams, gates… always keeping the church steeple in view.’ (p63)

At other times there’ll be an amusing observation: ‘The older footman, who always seemed to have wrinkled stockings, let him in.’ (p345)

Or a fanciful description that works: ‘… a fire declared its will to live by sending up thin spirals of smoke.’ (p345)

As ever, Ross doesn’t hold back on his opinions. ‘People who brag of their ancestors are like root vegetables. All their importance is underground.’ (p361)

At this time new inventions were arising. ‘In Ayrshire there is a man called Macadam using new methods.’ (p423) And one of the landed gentry is extolling the near-future that will transform the country. Steam engines and other inventions will create prosperity: ‘… the ordinary man, the working man, the farm boy who has left home to work in the factories – they will all have some share in this prosperity… the level will rise. Not only the level to which people live but the level at which people expert to live. We are on the brink of a new world.’ (p481) In short, in time, the industrial revolution will improve the lot of man- and womankind throughout the world.

It’s good to be transported back to this time, to this family and to Cornwall.








Thursday 24 November 2022

Floreskand 4: PROPHECY



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As the events in Madurava unfold, Lornwater’s Madurava House undergoes a significant alteration in the alignment of its spirit statues, signifying the prophet is coming! Though it is not clear from which direction…

If there is any truth in the prophecy, then many of the city kingdoms of Floreskand will be shaken to their core.

Barely recovered from his ordeal in King, Aurelan Crossis sets out on a journey of vengeance against Saurosen, the deposed king, which takes him into the midst of pilgrims heading for the Sacred Hills, where he will be sorely tested.

Bindar, a survivor of the strife in Wings, now trains mountain troops in Arion. In the Vale of Belet he comes into contact with the Haram Sect as well as a powerful fugitive from his past.

The ordeal for Lorar worsens as she is taken by her tormentor Danorr to Arisa…

The emperor of Tarakanda is faced with heightened political and religious tensions and insoluble assassinations that threaten to destabilise the empire.

And Lornwater is still recovering from the civil strife, where factions of Remainers continue to threaten the life of the rightful king. Watchman Welde Dep finds his investigations bring him closer to Queen Tantian, risking the jealousy and enmity of the king.

The saga of Floreskand continues…

Reviews of Prophecy

Absolutely riveting just like the other 3 books. I cannot wait for number five.

I was surprised by a couple of unexpected deaths. The authors obviously have taken a lead from George R. R. Martin! … 

I found the links with earlier books grounded me and wholly satisfying!

…There are a few neat touches here, I reckoned. I liked the nod to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with the various pilgrims. The relationship between Welde Dep and Queen Tantian suddenly seems fraught if the unstable king ever discovers it! There’s more to Dep than we have been told, I suspect, too.

… Good to see Bindar return from the first novel. I quite liked him.

Monday 21 November 2022

Fantasy series - Floreskand 3: MADURAVA

FLORESKAND 3: MADURAVA  by Morton Faulkner

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Shortly after the Lornwater rebellion (Floreskand 2: King), the head of the Madurava House witnesses a meaningful change in the alignment of the sacred compass – pointing to the Sonalume Mountains, to the dunsaron. 


Meanwhile, the Ratava are preparing for a migration that will take them to the dunsaron, for their food-source – the vast numbers of the schwarm – are burrowing away from their usual haunts towards the land of their forebears to propagate the species.

We meet again Rujon Sos and K-Kwan as they track the schwarm and the various competing groups of Underpeople.

Still recovering, the three cities of Lornwater need rebuilding and that requires money. But the royal treasury has been emptied by deposed Saurosen. The trail of lost riches leads Lord Tanellor to the dunsaron, guided by the daughter of Arqitor, Charja Nev.

Others are converging on the same area. First-commander Nimentan Pellas, loyal to the deposed king, has been sent on a secret mission with a large body of soldiers. Almaturge Rait Falo is headed there also with a caravan of great wealth.

Ulran is slowly coming to terms with his new disability, while his son Ranell is in pursuit of Epal Danorr who has been released by a general amnesty and has abducted Lorar.

Watchman Welde Dep is embroiled in arcane investigations that point to a powerful almaturge committing murder, while the new king wrestles with the serpentine diplomacy of the Ranmeron Empire, Tarakanda.

The denouement will be played out in a mysterious place where the land has never experienced snow and is always warm. Soon, it will be warm with flowing blood… 

Reviews of Madurava

The most enjoyable of the series so far, Madurava takes you deeper into the lives of the various groups of characters in an enthralling plot which is so vividly described you begin to feel you've just watched the movie. Certainly, by the end of the book you just know that there must be an awful lot more to tell and I look forward to the next one with great anticipation.

The third book in the series and the best so far. The saga continues to grow following the aftermath of the civil war. Old favourites reappear on a new adventure with all groups heading in the same direction hinting at a grand climax that doesn't disappoint. As always with these stories there is an unexpected twist... The book ends hinting at an even more epic adventure to come in book 4 Prophecy. If this series continues to develop in the way it has so far I think it is going to rival Eddings and Feist.

Love how the characters are developing. The storyline is becoming more intriguing and you get a sense of being very much a part of the adventure. The complexity of every aspect of this land, from the calendar to the religions, shows the author’s dedication to ensuring that the tale is unique and fresh.

Sunday 20 November 2022

Fantasy series - Floreskand 2: KING


FLORESKAND 2: KING by Morton Faulkner

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Amazon US:

When Ulran and Cobrora Fhord left Lornwater on their quest to resolve the mystery of the red tellars (Floreskand: Wings), the city was ripe for rebellion against King Saurosen, holder of the Black Sword.

In charge of the Red Tellar Inn, Ulran’s son Ranell is drawn into a conspiracy with nobles to support Prince Haltese, the king’s heir, to overthrow the tyrant. Inevitably, as a mining disaster and a murder in a holy fane stoke the fires of discontent, open rebellion swamps the streets.

Conflict turns into civil war, where the three cities’ streets become a battleground. Conflict is not confined to Lornwater, however. There’s fighting below ground in the mysterious tunnels and caves of the Underpeople, and within the forest that surrounds the city, and ultimately in the swamps and lakes of Taalland.

Subterfuge, betrayal, conspiracy, intrigue, greed, revenge and a thirst for power motivate rich and poor individuals, whether that’s Lord Tanellor, Baron Laan, Gildmaster Olelsang, Lord-General Launette, ex-slave-girl Jan-re Osa, Captain Aurelan Crossis, Sergeant Bayuan Aco or miner Rujon. 

Muddying the fight are not only bizarre creatures – the vicious garstigg, the ravenous lugarzos or the deadly flensigg – but also the mystics from the Sardan sect, Brother Clen, Sisters Hara, Illasa and Nostor Vata.

At stake is the Black Sword, the powerful symbol that entitles the holder to take the throne of Lornwater.

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Reviews of King:

With the story moving on to full rebellion and civil war, the complexity of the plot and multiplicity of subplots demand the reader’s full attention. However, this fantastic story is so well written that it is easy to move from one location and one lot to another, a tribute to the authors. I found King even more exciting and captivating than Wings.

It's a tale full of adventure, anticipation and tension - another page turner which will keep you enthralled to the end.

A great read again getting you more involved in the story of Floreskand with many more interesting characters. Another page turner full of anticipation and adventure.

Fantastic adventure with myriad twists and turns to the plot.

Nice twist at the end linking in with Wings which was set at the same time in Floreskandian history… This story widens the scope of history and certainly leaves you wanting more.