Audiobook Review: Touched with Fire (The Fire Trilogy #1) by Christopher Datta

Audiobook Review: Touched with Fire (The Fire Trilogy #1) by Christopher DattaSeries:
Narrator: Hugh Harper
Source: Novel Publicity

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: Touched with Fire by Christopher Datta
Series: The Fire Trilogy, #1
Release Date: December 07, 2016
Pages: • Format: 11 hrs and 12 mins (Audiobook)
Published By: Christopher Datta
Purchase Links:   Amazon USBarnes & NobleAudible

Ellen Craft is property; in this case, of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her “father”: the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same pale – indeed, lily-white – skin. Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run north. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey – south again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army: she will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

I have mixed feelings about this audiobook. I am so glad the author took on the story of Ellie Craft and weaved an incredible story of heroism. But that is also part of the problem for me, parts of it were just that, unbelievable. The first part of this book was focused on Ellie as a young slave girl trying to navigate and come to terms with where she fit in with her family and community. The second part of the book was so heavy on war facts. I didn’t quite enjoy the second part as much because I couldn’t buy Ellie as union soldier hiding in plain sight so to speak. The narrator’s voice was okay but the singing parts grated my nerves.

I found the author’s writing to be basic and rough in the beginning, but in the second part of the story, the author found his groove. In addition, the characters in this story under developed and too one dimensional. even Ellie. The slaves, Ellie’s sister, even Ellie’s actions were either black and white (pun aside). The slaves, Ellie’s sister, even Ellie’s actions were either black and white (pun aside). I found the transitions from scene to scene to be uneven. It just didn’t flow smoothly. It got better later in the book.

Ellen was born a “quadroon”, one quarter black and three quarters white. Ellie was born to a half white slave woman who was raped by her owner. The result was that Elle looked white, a fact that made clear her parentage. For most of her young life, Ellie felt angry that she wasn’t acknowledge by her father as his daughter, even though she knew she was a product of rape. Ellie was also angry at her half-sister for treating her like help, and not recognizing her as her sister and perhaps equal. It just doesn’t compute with what we know of slave paternity issues back then. If you were born of a slave, it doesn’t matter if you have white, you were still a slave and almost never acknowledged. The internal musings of why her father didn’t accept or acknowledge her as his own painted Elle as a child who saw herself as more than a slave. This also supports the other slaves claim that Ellie was uppity and thought she was better. Ellie never bothered to deny these assertions, thus incurred the scorn of the other slaves. So, for the first part of her life, Ellie didn’t see herself as a black slave.

When Ellie was barely a young adult, she had a violent encounter with the creepy Reverend. She began espousing views on her blackness that come out of nowhere to me. But this is part of the story I enjoyed most, When Ellie and William become a couple. There was love with this couple and I enjoyed seeing Ellie for the first time show genuine affection, need and concern for someone else. He made her appear vulnerable and more human so I liked this Ellie. Their attempt to seek freedom required Ellie to pass both as a white person and as a man, that’s when things went implausible for me. It’s one thing to for an illiterate slave to pass as a white person, but as a white slave owner and man travelling. There is more to pretending to be a man than wearing clothes. But Ellie pulled it off for six years as Eli where she was fighting, sleeping and leaving among other men. Either way, I couldn’t connect with Ellie as a young girl nor as this cantankerous union soldier. I really wanted to like her because I had empathy for her plight, but she just always came off as self-centered to me.

The ending of this story got predictable but it was satisfying. This subject matter is a sensitive one and I think the author gave the reader a hero to root for. I just would have liked a little more realism in emotion and actions by the characters. I haven’t read the actual account of Ellen Craft because I didn’t want it to color my opinion of this book. My opinions are based solely on my experience with this author’s narrative.

The Risen (A Novel of Spartacus) by David Anthony Durham

The Risen (A Novel of Spartacus) by David Anthony DurhamSeries: A Novel of Spartacus
on May 3rd 2016
Pages: 496
AmazonNarrator: Steven Crossley

I chose to read this book because I loved the Starz version of Spartacus and I also appreciated the fact that is history. I have never read David Anthony Durham but his storytelling was engaging and riveting. I imagined myself in the story at times because the writing was so visceral. The only thing missing was the Spartacus Speak (Move to Purpose, Apology, Gratitude, etc.) I had grown to love on the show.
 photo bloodSand_zpsd819efe8.gif
In this account, Spartacus was humanized much more than the show. We were shown pain & suffering, resistance, strength, vulnerability, shrewdness, anguish, hope and ultimately defeat. There were so many different emotions and components to the man/legend as well as his compatriots. What I loved most about his story is that this is the first time that I have experienced Romans who were conflicted or even sympathetic to “The Risen” or the rebels. In addition, in the cable television show, Spartacus (Blood and Sands through War of the Damned) was more motivated by the loss of his wife, but in this book, Spartacus was mostly moved by the injustice of the captivity.

What a study in leadership comparing Crassus to Spartacus. I was moved by the struggle for liberty and Spartacus inner turmoil with his own fears but needed to exhibit courageous strength for his followers. I still hated Crassus because of his ruthlessness and ambition. I loved Spartacus and his generals, Castus, Crixus, Gannicus, Ullio etc.
 photo Casstus Agron amp Nasir_zpsazqnkw2u.jpg
It was so sad but I found myself hoping WHAT IF? I knew The Risen wouldn’t be triumphant but I couldn’t help wanting the impossible.

“Whatever fate awaits you…it’s mine as well as yours…I am free to choose, and I choose to fight with you. I want the best life, or death, for us all. I swear it.”

Everything felt so authentic from the planning to the escape, individual plights within the rebellion. I felt their elation with each battle won as it was a sign to them that they were favored by the gods. I felt their despair with their defeats as it was one step closer to the unavoidable end. There was horrific violence in this book, but it didn’t bother me because it was disturbingly factual. This was an entertaining read for those who love historical fiction. I highly recommend this book to those who love Spartacus and also accounts of the Roman Empire.

*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook received in exchange for an honest review.

Mistress of Rome (The Empress of Rome #1) by Kate Quinn

Mistress of Rome  (The Empress of Rome #1) by Kate QuinnSeries: The Empress of Rome #1
on 2011-04-05
Pages: 400
AmazonNarrator: Elizabeth Wiley
A.D. 69. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything-especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more aloof, content to witness history rather than make it. But when a bloody coup turns their world upside-down, both women must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor...and one Empress.

I saw the description blurb—Spartacus for girls. Of course I had to pick it up as I just loved the series Spartacus Blood & Sands. This book read like a mish mash of Spartacus, Rome and the Gladiator. The story itself was interesting, but the narrator was unsuccessful in conveying the tone of the period. Given the entitlement, revelry and brutality of the period, the actual writing didn’t appear authentic to me. Words like “giggle” just don’t seem appropriate for the time period. The actual plot of the story was enjoyable, but the modern day language made this historical fiction diminished the quality of the work.
The main character Thea, reminded me of Naevia from Spartacus, with a touch of Kore. The character Arius, reminded me of Crixus, with a touch of Spartacus. They were victims of the republic and one couldn’t help but root for them to gain their freedom. Lepida Pollia, Thea’s owner was a good mix of Illythia and Lucretia, and thus I couldn’t wait for her to get her comeuppance.

The stories featuring the gladiators battles were not as brutal as I was expecting, nor where they memorable. The behind machinations for power and prestige, plus vengeance for wrong doing, gave this book the flavor associated with the Roman Empire drama. I love that time period because good didn’t triumph often. One had to be resourceful and adaptable, and make the proper alliances to elevate their position. Very dramatic stuff if you like characters with depth.
I think Senator Marcus was the unsung hero in this book and he was my favorite character. He was advanced for his time and he lost a lot for the love of his country. I enjoyed his journey the most.
I would recommend this book for someone who wants a lighter version of Spartacus and didn’t care for the “Spartacus Speak” as I call it. This book would make a good TV mini-series.

**Special Thanks to Tantor Media for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review

Review: Captive Prince: Volume One by C.S. Pacat

Review: Captive Prince: Volume One by C.S. PacatSeries: Captive Prince
on November 25, 2013
Pages: 241
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else . . .

This one was like watching my beloved Spartacus: Blood & Sand. This is kingdoms fighting, subjugating and oppressing the conquered. Political treachery, alliances made for power and territory and then loyalty.

Volume 1 has that Slave- Dominus set up, political intrigue, a strong & righteous prince sold into slavery after his brother’s political coup. He is sold to their worst enemy in hopes they will torture him mindless before executing him. Once the Akielos princes arrives to Vere as a slave, it’s clear to everyone that the slave will be hard to control. While most people don’t recognize him as the prince of their rival territory, it is apparent that his will has not been broken. He is given to the conquering kingdom’s prince to break but Laurent knows Damen can’t be broken. How will Prince Laurent make Damen heel? What if he cannot? What about the slave attracts him? What was his Uncle’s aim when he gave him the uncontrollable slave?

Great writing. Interesting plot. A lot of little subtle things are going on in this book. You gotta pay attention to know who the real players are and their allies. Laurent is a very complex character. I don’t like him but I am really fascinated by him. Damen just wears all his emotion on his sleeve. I look forward to seeing how Mr. Transparent (Damen) and Mr. Opaque (Laurent) wrestle control from the other. I will read book 2 immediately.