The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss

One morning, whilst waiting for my strong cup of coffee to kick in, and the laptop to boot up the latest manuscript that needs going over , I stuck on the Travel Channel in the hope of finding some adventure.  Or more importantly to avoid all the terrible reality TV that ruins the medium.

Josh Gates was on doing his Expedition Unknown, and at first my heart sank when his quest involved  a book called The Secret,  thankfully it wasn’t referring to that terrible specimen that came out some years ago.

What Josh was referring to was a book that leads to real buried treasure,  and instead of  a classic  ‘X’ marks the spot treasure maps, there are twelve fantasy images  with clues of real world landmarks cryptically embedded within. Accompanying each illustration is poetry with additional clues to entice the reader into this deceptive maze.

Published in 1982, creator Byron Preiss tapped into the The 80’s love of fantasy but he layered it with the theme of immigration, from the Old World to the New.  The fantastical creatures of Europe came over, and morphed into something else, along with those that told the tales.  It is also an encouragement to get out and travel, to appreciate nature, and enjoy a bit of lateral thinking at the same time. Continue reading “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss”

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Book Memories #3 The Eye of the World

After the obligatory reading of all the Middle Earth literature, there came a hankering for another Big Fantasy, and perusing the pages of the Waterstones Quarterly magazine back in 2001, I came across a review for the paperback version of Winter’s Heart, book nine of the (then) ongoing wheel of time series.

The bite sized paragraph review spoke of convoluted quests, many characters, and wanderings on a vast map.  Naturally, I was sold on this.  Not only for the amount of words to read (the overall total for the series being 4,410,036 according to Wikipedia) but the word convoluted appealed, greatly too.

Almost two decades since I picked up that first entry, and I again plucked it from a bookshop’s shelf home, due to a hankering for the series.   The covers in the UK are now a fancy black but this cover (as was my original) is of a quite unimpressively realised depiction of some of the main characters.  Thankfully only my original books one and two were these hand drawn creations.  Although I imagine many fans were annoyed by the mid series change of cover that came about before book ten (and if I remember rightly the lone prequel New Spring).

Having read a few things in the glossary whilst in the shop, I was eager to delve straight into its 782 pages, there were so many characters and events popping back into my head.  It’s good to return in this world, I enjoy being there even if nothing happens (not an exaggeration) in book ten. I am just happy to relive the adventure in Jordan’s world. Continue reading “Book Memories #3 The Eye of the World”

The Sword in the Stone – T. H. White

47-1For those of you who don’t want a complete plot summary in the synopsis avoid the below brightly coloured writing, I will say though that the plot and its inevitability is secondary to the whimsical nature of the story.

Probably only the magician, Merlyn, knew that his pupil, the Wart (to rhyme with “Art”) would one day be the great King Arthur.

For six years Merlyn was the boy’s tutor and the Wart learned all manner of useful things; such as what it is like to be a fish or a hawk or a badger.

Then the King Pendragon died without heirs.  And King Pellinore arrived at the court with an extraordinary story of a sword stuck in an anvil, stuck to a stone outside a church in London.  Written on the sword in gold letters with the words Whoso Pulleth Out This Sword of this Stone and Anvil is Rightwise King Born of All England.

The last person anybody expected to pull out the sword was the Wart but then he had had Merlyn as his tutor for six years…

Having grown up with the Disney film, I couldn’t leave this book resting unloved on the shelves of a second-hand bookshop, I assumed a fun and magical tale which would provide some escapism and nothing more than an amusing diversion.  It did more than that, it made me smile and introduced to me to some really big words as well.

What sets this story apart from other Children’s books is its denseness, by which I mean the number of interesting facts and the language, which add layers to the nature of its plot.  It has all of these in abundance and is a book that adults will enjoy as much as children.

I say plot, it’s a less a singular story rather a selection of scenes which offer lessons about nature and life lessons to the character of The Wart (to rhyme with Art, of course).  In fact the title is almost an afterthought but that makes sense as the understanding and attachment to Wart has to be built for the books that are to follow, this being book one in a series of five.

For children, there is am amiable story, which is a different take on the parentless boy coming of age being around magic theme and it is perhaps no surprise that J. K. Rowling cites this book as one of the inspirations for the ‘arry Potter series.  The world is populated with comical and eccentric characters and religion, nature and time are all touched upon in the adventures, it is a book that will certainly intrigue the younger mind with the mysteries of the world and its philosophies.. Continue reading “The Sword in the Stone – T. H. White”

Valverde’s Gold – Mark Honigsbaum

958524When Mark Honigsbaum discovers an ancient Spanish treasure guide buried in his research notebooks, he cannot help but be drawn into the legend of Valverde, a conquistador with a treasure trail that has proven fatal for the past 400 years. Undeterred by the cursed history of the gold, Honigsbaum embarks on an epic journey into the last uncharted range in the Andes–the Llanganati Mountains of eastern Ecuador. This is the story of how the lure of gold intoxicates even the most level-headed of historians, and of how men–and women–are seized with the desire to claim treasure from one of the most inhospitable landscapes in the world. Honigsbaum battles through mountains, jungles, and conflicting stories, and, as he draws closer to the hidden cache, illuminates the allure of lost gold and the hold it has on our imagination.

Heat, madness and exotic locations, it can only be time for treasure hunting season and ready for unleashing my inner Indiana Jones, I picked up this book with excitement and two very moist hands.

The first thing I came across were quotes from Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson and then shortly after a map.  My enthusiasm was sky-high already.  The idea of treasure and adventures, each place on the map holding dramatic stories is possibly the most romantic thing ever conceived of.

Before any searching can be done, Honigsbaum takes his time learning about all the different historical players in this mystery from Conquistadors to mariners and it is fascinating stuff…codes hidden in a King James Bible, suspected murders and a centuries old secret, it is all explored in detail.  Tales like this do get convoluted and it is an international jaunt around various countries and he deals with some real characters as well. Continue reading “Valverde’s Gold – Mark Honigsbaum”

The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

lr-1995-12I take it that this book needs no introduction at all, which begs the question, is this a moot review or do I have something – and dare I say it, innovative – to say about this long quest?

I don’t think I do, of course I don’t but here’s my take on the well-worn subject anyway.  Maybe it will inspire people to read or reread it though, so my time will not have been spent in vain.

The immediate thing that fascinated me and was, on reflection, the facet of the story concerning the myths and legends that the story is based around.

Containing Norse and Germanic references there is a lot to look on in this work for a fan of classic literature, taking certain themes from such great works as the Saga of the Volsungs and the Nibelungenlied.

Tolkien’s scholarly background in philology – the study of written languages combining literary criticism, history and linguistics – helps the book ooze that old feeling, giving it a somehow familiar and more, well, natural quality.  Like his fellow friend, writer and member of the Inklings C. S. Lewis, he creates a world that feels epic and old and that hints at more stories and wonders than are chronicled herein.

To the backdrop of this epic quest and all round dramatic, not to mention noble nature of the characters and their enterprise, this book hints at the history of Middle Earth and it is this vast and layered feeling that makes you care for more of the cornucopia of the world’s fables than is herein told.  For more chronicled sagas check out amongst others of Tolkien’s work The Silmarrilion foremost, which coupled with the appendices of TLotR give a depth of vision that few fantasies truly capture.

The characters are polarised to either good or bad, excepting Gollum of course and it is he and the Ring’s relationship that is the most fascinating aspect of the book.  The ring, like the island in the TV show Lost, is a character in and of itself and has the distinction of perhaps being the pivotal mover – and shaker – of the plot as a whole. Continue reading “The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien”

Gateway to Atlantis – Andrew Collins

0786708107.01.LZZZZZZZ‘The legend of Atlantis is perhaps the most intriguing mystery of all time. Ever since Plato’s fabulous account over 2350 years ago of an island empire set in the Atlantic ocean, philosophers, explorers, explorers and historians have been enticed and frustrated by the search for the elusive truth behind the myth.’

Some books like the Erich Von Daniken’s downright hilarious Chariots of the Gods give revisionist history a bad name and make it a laughing stock to be easily dismissed by scholars everywhere, as a silly flight of fancy that should be ignored.  Every so often though a few books do raise interesting questions or bring to the fore an interesting theory…

So with this type of book, I’ve learned to tread a little warily, it’s usually a question of working out what arguments, if any,  the author is ignoring and leaving out in order for his expounded theory to fit the facts.

Gateway to Atlantis though, avoids this by interpreting myths and oral histories, looking at geographical and geological information as well as making logical surmises based on ethnic, linguistic, cartographical and historical analysis. In short he bases his theories on actual recorded fact, not hear say.

Atlantis is the basis for countless – unless you have lots of time on your hands – books and films.  The romance of its dramatic sinking, makes this a more exciting study than any other mythological and plain made up place.  I think it is the intrinsic nature of humans to wonder, to continually question and seek out the answers to interesting and sometimes downright pointless questions, like do tortoises yawn?

They say that all myth contains at least a grain of truth and whilst Avalon, Mu, Lemuria and El Dorado, etc are fascinating to read about, they lack the mysterious nature of the Atlantean people.  In this book, you people of an enquiring mind will discover a compelling theory that reaches over continents and back in time encompassing some well-known as well as the more obscurer civilisations. Continue reading “Gateway to Atlantis – Andrew Collins”