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Valley of Thracians – Ellis Shuman

19 May

Valley-of-ThraciansA Peace Corps volunteer has gone missing in Bulgaria and everyone assumes he is dead, everyone except his grandfather, who refuses to give up hope. Retired literature professor Simon Matthews launches a desperate search only to be lured into a bizarre quest to retrieve a stolen Thracian artifact—a unique object of immense value others will stop at nothing to recover.

A novel set in Bulgaria?  This is something new for me and it’s nice to get an insight into and learn about a country that is arguably – and perhaps unfairly – best known for its football team of the 1994 world cup.

My first impressions were that this was going to be a Da Vinci Code style book but I am happy to report that it isn’t and that makes me happy…very happy.

From the outset the author’s words radiate a genuine passion and a deep sense of love for the beauty of Bulgarian culture and history and gives the story that authentic feel.

The book is a slow burner with many plot threads that are unravelled then twined together and developed for the inevitable finale.  With the story sometimes reading like a travel book or perhaps an advert for the Bulgarian tourist board,not that that is by any means a criticism, I like the picturesque.

There was something soothing about viewing mountains from afar, as if the capabilities of nature to create such majesty could easily solve the trivial concerns of those who fell captive to their wonders.

The story is divided neatly into parts which seamlessly transition between plot and cultural lessons of Bulgarian idiosyncracies, geography and pronunciation.  There is a nice change between third and first person perspectives at one point as we are introduced to key character Scott which helps the book feel fresh and had me sympathising with him more than I perhaps would have done in third person…the workings of the mind render characters ever more intimate.

If there a weakness overall to the narrative though. it is in the characters. I enjoyed the book but I just didn’t feel I cared enough about them…there were a number of questions regarding characters’ actions which kept up the mystery of the book but I just don’t think they were strong enough overall.  Having said that there were some good foundations laid, Boris had the potential to be a real figure that the reader loves to hate and equally Katya’s mental fragility and obsessional behaviour was something I did enjoy, she was my favourite character for her complex mix of weakness and misguided nature.

The ending for me felt a little rushed, everything was tied up extremely quickly and I just expected a little more than the low-key conclusion.  To offset that though and because this review does not deserve to end on a negative note,  the author did bring up the topic of archaeological propaganda which is a fascinating topic that I need to explore and as with the rest of history, evidence can be changed in order to suit one’s purpose…it is something we should be aware of in history books and in the news at large, it’s a good lesson to be taken on board.

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16 Comments

Posted by on 19/05/2014 in Thriller

 

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16 responses to “Valley of Thracians – Ellis Shuman

  1. Seyi sandra

    19/05/2014 at 20:33

    Sounds intriguing Ste J! A nice review by the way! 🙂

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    • Ste J

      20/05/2014 at 18:44

      I thank you…I continue to hone my craft and if I have to read free books to do so, then that just shows how committed I am hehe.

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  2. gargoylebruce

    19/05/2014 at 22:49

    I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I have no idea where Bulgaria is. Apart from in the rather broad category of “countries in Europe”. So I’m off to consult a map.

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    • Ste J

      20/05/2014 at 18:41

      Eastern Europe is sometimes a mystery to us North Europeans too, although with cheap house and beer prices getting more well known. It’s the geography of the old Soviet Bloc countries that I keep getting mixed up. I shall join you in your map perusal…marusal.

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  3. nancyrae4

    20/05/2014 at 03:38

    Archaeological propaganda sounds right up my alley. In fact, I may use it in the novel I’m writing. I wish you’d found more to love in this novel but, as always, you’ve given us an honest and positive review:)

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    • Ste J

      20/05/2014 at 18:38

      It was good but it didn’t pull me in and I spent a lot longer reading it as a consequence…it has good points as well and I think I achieved a good balance. I do love how books beget books as I would have said has I been in olden times.

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  4. Alastair Savage

    20/05/2014 at 07:37

    Your review reminds me of Dracula where there are great descriptions of a trip through the Romanian mountains at the start of the book. I believe that Bram Stoker had never actually been there but just cribbed the details from a guide book of the time, and why not?

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    • Ste J

      20/05/2014 at 18:43

      well it saves on costs, if only he would have had Google maps, he would have been quids in, although the directions thing didn’t work so well for a certain Mr D. Brown…I loved the Whitby bit of Dracula best but the castle as the beginning was rather ghoulish!

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  5. Lyn

    21/05/2014 at 01:16

    Great review Ste J, I love a mystery and history mix in a book. Sounds interesting; might give it a go 🙂

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    • Ste J

      23/05/2014 at 18:23

      Mystery and history, I like that phrase…it’s worth a read, it is by no means a bad book just not quite my cup of tea…but I am sure peopel who enjoy the genre more will fly through it.

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  6. LuAnn

    21/05/2014 at 12:41

    I may have to give this one a go as I have a strong desire to travel through Eastern Europe. I so appreciate the depth of your book reviews Ste J…very refreshing. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      23/05/2014 at 18:31

      Eastern Europe has some amazing places and I think a lot of people still see these places as some sort of Soviet vassal still…I’ll join you for a stint of European travel, I have spent more time in your continent than on my own!

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      • LuAnn

        24/05/2014 at 11:42

        That is often the case it seems. Until we began traveling in an RV, what I had seen in my own country was very limited.

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        • Ste J

          25/05/2014 at 16:43

          It is amazing how much great stuff on one’s doorstep, so to speak is not noticed until we look.

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  7. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    21/05/2014 at 13:04

    Yes, evidence can be changed to suit a purpose. I love history, especially discovering the true facts and ferreting out the stuff that’s always left out. It’s funny that the details left out of the history books are so much more fascinating than the events left in. “Valley of Thracians” sounds pretty good to me even with the negatives, but then I’ve rarely, if ever, read a book without some faults somewhere.

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    • Ste J

      23/05/2014 at 18:40

      That is true, most books do have problems with them in some form. Although it has negatives, I think for readers who really enjoy the thriller genre they probably won’t matter as much. I am probably a bit too picky.

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