Thursday, May 10, 2012

Edi's Spotlight: Into the Valley of Death by A L Berridge

Historical Week 2012 - Day Four

Dear Readers,

yesterday you got in touch with author A. L. Berridge.I hope you may now have an understanding what it means to write historical fiction.

With that in mind you may imagine what this day - the 10th of May 2012 - means to her when I tell you, that today is the publishing day of Into the Valley of Death (May 2012) [ISBN-13: 978-0241954102].

Will readers like the first book in a new series which tell the story of four men in the Crimean War?

Today is also a very special day for me and my wife. We celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary!

Special days are also days for gifts.
And today I have a gift for my beloved wife which you can see here and a gift for A. L. Berridge:

My review of Into the Valley of Death!

Nothing for you, my reader? I'm sorry to say not today. But come back the following days when you get the opportunity to win twice which means on two different days..

Introduction

You may know my introduction to my review of Honour and the Sword (pb, 2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0141043739] which is the first book in the The Chevalier Series. I do not want to repeat the story how I got to know discovered A. L. Berridge. Today is the day of Into the Valley of Death, the first book in her new series featuring Harry Ryder.
A new series is the opportunity for an author to try something new and it is at the same the risk to alienate readers.
Reader are as strange as authors. So what am I? Sorry, that is the topic of something completely different .....

I wanted to tell you what I think about Into the Valley of Death.
- Is it a hit or a miss?
- Fit Crimea (pb, 2011)[ISBN-13: 978-0141013503] by Orlando Figes and Into the Valley of Death (May 2012) [ISBN-13: 978-0241954102] by A. L. Berridge together?

You will find the answer to these questions at the end of this post.

Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:

Into the Valley of Death (May, 2012)
[ISBN-13: 978-0241954102

I thought a while about what kind of information I would like to deliver. Finally it was the author who decided for me. It is the text shown on her site:
"1854 - The Allied armies prepare to besiege the Russian stronghold in the Crimea
Harry Ryder is a maverick hero. Resentful of the army that destroyed his father and his own career, he has no time for incompetent commanders. He clashes with his superiors as fiercely as he fights the Russians.
Four men, one woman and a game of cards will change everything - and alter the course of a war.
Something evil has crept into the ranks of the British Army's own officers, an unknown enemy who plans to lure men to ruin on the battlefields. The only path to victory lies in uncovering the truth, but to find it and confront his own destiny Ryder must charge with the Light Brigade into the Valley of Death itself..."


My Expectations

I expect othing less than a historical novel on the same level as Honour and the Sword - strong character(s), exact historical setting, emotional and stirring writing, a story which fits into the historical events. For more details read my review.

The Delivery

A. L. Berridge provided me with an ARC of Into the Valley of Death for this review.

I'm sure some of you will say the title of the book sounds somehow familiar. Into the Valley of Death is quote from a famous short lyrics (line seven): The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennison 

Of course this is a strong hint to the  Crimean War for everone who has read  The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennison
I do not know if this title will have an impact on the sales figures. For me it did not matter until I read The Charge Of The Light Brigade for the first time a few weeks ago. But I can imagine that this title will be an eye-catcher in every book store.


The book is divided into a prologue, three named parts, an epilogue and a historical note. The three parts are divided into chapters where the chapter header shows either a specific date or a specific date plus a secific time.

 As you know from my Tuesday post, The Crimean War lasted from October 1853 to February 1856.  The book covers the time period from June 1853 to November 7, 1854 and emphasize following events:  Battle of Alma, Battle of Balaklava , Battle of Inkerman and the Charge of the Light Brigade. That also includes the time before, between and after these battles. But historical fiction is not pure history. A. L. Berridge reveals in her historical note the fictional parts and characters.

Into the Valley of Death is part of the Harry Ryder series. A series means that there is a story arc. In the very beginning of the book you learn that Ryder is not young Harry's real surname. He was born as Harry  Standish. Without giving too much away I can tell you that something terrible happened and as a conclusion Harry changed his surname. He wants to make his mark without any burden from the past.
With Into the Valley of Death we follow Harry Ryder on his way. He is just eighteen years old when we meet him. And when the reader like him and he does not die on battlefield then we can follow him to a lot of places - possible places. It all depends you, A. L. Berridge and her punblisher. Do you know the number of Queen Victoria's Little Wars from 1837 to 1901? Each of these "little" wars is a possible background for a new Harry Ryder story.

Be prepared that the Harry Ryder series is more different than familiar compared the The Chevalier Series.


Both series feature a main character: André and Harry. They are young and ambitious without stop at nothing. Their honesty is a burden and an important characteristic trait at the same time. But they are also different which is the result of their heritage and the period of time they belong too.  Enough comparisons.

When I started to read Into the Valley of Death, I felt alienated. I missed the narrative structure of Honour and the Sword. I did not know before how much I liked it. But that is unfair. It is the author's choice and I myself as a reader have the opportunity to accept or deny. It did not take long and I forgot my complaint because I was sucked in the story and got steamed up about these out of date military rules and this stupid Harry Ryder. After I calmed down I started to think about what I read and about my reaction. How could I have been that blind. I have been hit by one of the strong points of Into the Valley of Death: emotional weight and surgical precision regarding details - what a dynamic duo!

It was incredible to discover how absorbing , intelligent and brutally honest A. L. Berridge moved her hero and his friends through the story. A story where the frontier between history and fiction fade a way before your eyes. It needs the historical note at the end of Into the Valley of Death to disentangle the fictional parts and characters.

I must say A. L. Berridge created something very special: A mind time travel back to the time of the  Crimean War. The cries of the wounded made me shiver. The arrogance of officers drove me mad. The warfare which did not fit to the modern weapons made me angry. The discrepancy between battlefield massacre and war time dignity made me dumbfounded.
I was not sure to survive this war in a good mental condition. Fortunately there is some light in this maddening war: Friendship, love , trust and condonation from deep of the heart.
Is there a better way to end a story about the  with the one and only appearance of a famous woman without telling her name?

"..., but the lady's dress swished against the floor as elegantly as in a drawing room, and she passed along the rows of beds he thought the light of her lamp shone like hope." [Last sentence]

I did not forget that I owe you the answer of two questions.



- Fit Crimea (pb, 2011)[ISBN-13: 978-0141013503] by Orlando Figes and Into the Valley of Death (May 2012) [ISBN-13: 978-0241954102] by A. L. Berridge together?

The shortest and most simple answer is .... YES!
But this is no helpful answer.
Let me add some "meat".
For me Crimea (pb, 2011)[ISBN-13: 978-0141013503] by Orlando Figes delivers all the information which guarantee you a proper understanding of the war and it is therefore the rocking chair where you take place to read Into the Valley of Death. With the Crimea rocking chair you double the reading pleasure of Into the Valley of Death.
The Crimea rocking chair is the time machine back to the Crimean War and Into the Valley of Death is the energy and elixir you need for this remarkable trip to a forgotten war and the forgotten victims.


- Is Into the Valley of Death a hit or a miss?Hmmm..... I think .... just let me read again what I wrote .... it seems ....
No, No No!!!  
Into the Valley of Death 
is definitely a hit!!  


Why?

- One of the strong points of Into the Valley of Death: emotional weight and surgical precision regarding details - what a dynamic duo!
- There is some light in this maddening war: Friendship, love , trust and condonation from deep of the heart.
- Strong and vivid characters which develop within the story.

- History and fiction have been interweaved to perfection.

- Absorbing , intelligent and brutally honest story telling
- A mind time travel back to the time of the  Crimean War.





1 comment:

Zoltán Gecse said...

Happy anniversary!

It's strange you write more to your blog when you away. ;)

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