Do you enjoy meticulously researched military history, authentic period language, and suspense? How about folk mythology? Rob Rice seemlessly weaves these seemingly disparate elements into a tapestry so carefully constructed that even the most cynical reader will be tempted to suspend disbelief. In vignettes ranging from the war of 1812, to the 1880's, to the early years of WWII aerial combat, the author spins three galloping good yarns (pun intended) that reflect an amazing grasp of real-world military operations, equipment, customs and bureaucratic intrigue. He starts with complex, believable characters, vividly portrayed, realistic combat action, and incorporates a generous helping of scrying lenses, weather manipulation, and assorted folk goblins. The result is a delightful read that is even better the second time.
I received this book as a gift, and I've got to say that it took forever for me to get to it (newer books by authors I already knew kept bumping it down the list). However, I'm very glad that I finally got to it. It's an excellent and very well written book, with sort of a "macabre historical alternate history" thing going for it. It's set in a world that pretty much parallels ours, with the exception that many of what we think of as supernatural beings actually exist - and a normal person who interacts with them may wind up changing in ways the he or she neither expected nor wanted. And of course with most of the main characters being British, one really doesn't discuss such things when they happen. Just not done, don't you know? The author does a very good job of conveying the unpleasant side effects when someone finds themselves changing, and this helps to bring an eerie sense of the macabre and unnatural into the story. Again, a highly recommended read. I just purchased the authors newest book (The Chronicles of Loquacious, Centaur of Rhodes), and I'm going to get the other one that I haven't read (Darkness in the Mirror) once I've finished it. I imagine I'll post a review on them as well, once I'm done.
Archival: Most Secret is a collection of historic war stories the like of which you have never seen before. The settings are familiar, even many of the characters are famous persons from our past. However, in Rob Rice's world, there is one major difference - the addition of magic and transformation. For in the war stories presented in Archival:Most Secret, soldiers encounter spells and curses that are far more dangerous than mere bullets.
Do not mistake these for simple fairy tails for adults - Rice weaves a complex tapestry of intrigue, unique character, and historical detail that can draw in the most skeptical reader. This collection traces the fate of three different soldiers who find that war is quite literally a beastly business. Each is told with careful thought to period language, historical fact, and logic. The players are real people, with faults and quirks that bring them alive in the mind's eye. He also manages to bring the locale alive, with detailed descriptions and atmosphere.
If you enjoy historical novels, or any kind of realiztic fantasy, you'll love Archival: Most Secret.
This is an extraordinary book, not quite like any other I've read. The author, who seems to me a kind of literary magician, spins three thematically-related tales that are simultaneously true to the historical record and utterly fantastic. He describes events that really happened, depicts characters who (for the most part) actually existed, renders physical details with uncanny accuracy, and creates pitch-perfect dialogue; which is to say, he writes with all the skill of a first-rate historical novelist. And yet in his stories men regularly turn into mythical creatures, or half-human beings, or outright beasts. They do this in ways that strike the reader as no less plausible for being utterly bizarre, and the actions they take inflect historical events in similarly weird-yet-convincing ways. On top of it all, Rice writes with such art that the reader can find him- or herself fully immersed in this world without being able to pinpoint the moment at which she or he recognized how very strange a place it is.
If there are literary collaborations in the Great Beyond, Patrick O'Brian and H. P. Lovecraft might be able to produce something comparable, but I can't think of a similar combination of talents in the mortal sphere that could achieve the effects that Rob Rice creates in this volume. I hope that many more such books will follow.
...because Rice's style draws the reader in like few other authors can. He does not so much present his plots as unveil them, with cunning use of idiom and a strikingly authentic attention to the details of both history and myth. Thoroughly English in character, "Archival" tells of three distinctly individual protagonists linked by common fates, and the evolution of British society as it slowly attempts to cope with them and others like them. At turns disturbing, comical, horrifying and thoughtful, "Archival" is difficult to put down and entirely enjoyable.