Tag Archives: Simon Vance

Book Review: Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5) by Ruth Downie (4/5)

23 Jun

I’ve always enjoyed this series. I came up on the first one very randomly while browsing at Boarders (yes, that’s how long ago I picked it up) and I’ve been happy to keep reading them on and off since. I’m happy to always find one when I need a pick-me-up.

Cover image via Amazon

Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2)
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3)
Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4)

Summary from Goodreads;

Back at his post as a doctor in the Twentieth legion in Roman-occupied Britain, Ruso uncovers a new danger even closer to home than the neighboring barbarians. As mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to appear in the medical ledgers, it’s clear that all is not well amongst the native recruits to Britannia’s imperial army. Is the much- decorated Centurion Geminus preying on his weaker soldiers? And could this be related to the appearance of Emperor Hadrian? Bound by his sense of duty and ill-advised curiosity, Ruso begins to ask questions nobody wants to hear. Meanwhile his barbarian wife, Tilla, is finding out some of the answers-and marked as a security risk by the very officers Ruso is interrogating. With Hadrian’s visit looming large, the fates of the legion, Tilla, and Ruso himself hang in the balance.

Ruso’s wit has always been enjoyable. It’s one of the things I like most about these books. And Tilla is getting more and more time to narrate. That being said, this one didn’t stand out as much as the past ones had in my mind. Ruso being accused early on took away a lot of the joy that his character often gave. And Tilla’s investigation took away from a lot of the character development she had commanded in recent books. It was just enough out of step for me to enjoy the book a bit less. Also, the reveal of the killers was just subtle enough that I didn’t get it right away and I had to re-listen to the final ten minutes before I understood what had happened.

The characters in these books are always credible to me. The characters do the best they can with the world they’re living in; the dangers of the Roman period, the medicines known to them, and the average intelligence and education of the people. Ruso is a privileged person and he knows this and has always done as much as he can for the others. It’s what makes him admirable and flawed. He’s a wonderful narrator for this series.

Ruso was the standout character in this book to me. Normally, I lean toward Tilla, but her story fell flat to me this time around. Her concerns about fertility didn’t come through and she was more of a helper than anything this time and didn’t give me much to like. Ruso was himself though in a much more perilous situation than normal. He and Tilla, usually a wonderful pair, were separated for a lot of the story and it was hard to see them without their support system. I’m hoping they’ll be more of a pair again in the next book.

I could identify with Ruso at the end, though at a much smaller scale. This is a bit of a spoiler, so skip ahead to avoid it. The next paragraph will be safe again. I understood why Ruso would confess to a crime he hadn’t done to keep the peace of the empire. I’d be willing to lie about something I hadn’t done to keep peace in my family. I’ll take the fall for something my husband did to save face in front of his family. I’m not sure I’d take it so far as the face death, though.

Ruth Downie
Image via Audible

Sabina was a great side character in this book and Tilla’s interactions with her were fun. Her opinion of the empire and her time in Britain was fun and it was fun to see her feel powerful for once. I can’t imagine the marriage she was in and how that would feel for her, but seeing her play her part was fun. I can see how she garnered such loyalty.

The ending was a bit quick and vague for me. Like I said, I had to re-listen to the final 15 minutes to understand what had happened because I missed it the first time around. It’s not a huge criticism, but it was frustrating, especially listening to the audiobook which makes it much harder to go back and revisit the text.

Simon Vance is an amazing narrator for this series. I hope he’s able to do the whole thing because I’ve come to define his voice and Ruso’s as one. His voices for women aren’t amazing, but I get over it because of the amazing accents he has for Romans and Britons. His inflections for Ruso’s vapid family members always have me giggling.

There is usually something larger than oneself that you would give up everything for. Semper Fidelis is well known in the US as the moto for the US Marines (usually shortened to SemperFi). It carries a lot of weight in US culture. It meant a lot to Ruso, too. He is a cog in the machine, a medicus in an empirical army, but he recognizes the importance of his role and the larger empire he’s representing and holding together. Sometimes, things are bigger than us.

Writer’s Takeaway: Downie’s humor has always been my favorite. Even in a murder mystery, she’s making me smile and laugh. I enjoy the banter between her characters and her balance of serious and humorous characters that keep the book moving with a lighter tone between somber bits. It’s a balance that’s well-executed and I’m not sure it would work in less practiced hands. It could easily be farcical but here it’s wonderful.

A wonderful mystery and a great story in this series. I’ll plan to continue onward. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the Pre-1300 time period in the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Related Posts:
“Semper Fidelis” by Ruth Downie – Always Faithful | Tony’s Book World
Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie | For winter nights- A bookish blog

Book Review: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (3/5)

7 May

After Lagercrantz took over this series, I decided to keep reading. I liked the first one, The Girl in the Spider’s Web well enough and decided to keep going. After this one, though, I’m not sure if I’ll soldier on.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Girl Who Take an Eye for an Eye (Millennium #5) by David Lagercrantz (Created by Stieg Larsson and translated by George Goulding)

Other books by Lagercrantz reviewed on this blog:

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4)

Summary from Goodreads:

Lisbeth Salander – the girl with the dragon tattoo, the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others – has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself. Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And nothing will stop her – not the anti-Muslim gang she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the deadly reach from inside the Russian mafia of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudo-scientific experiment known only as The Registry. Once again, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

This book didn’t hit a mark for me. I felt like there wasn’t very little about the main characters in this one and that was part of what I’d liked about the original series and the first follow up. Lisbeth is in jail for a lot of the book so she’s restricted. Mikael stars but his relationships with Erika and Lisbeth are almost nonexistent so we don’t get much development from him. Major characters like Leo and Faria never appeared in earlier books and will likely never appear again so I didn’t bother to form any attachment to them. Whereas the first three books (and to a degree the fourth) felt like they were part of a series, this felt like it was part of a serial that Lagercrantz could continue indefinitely so we can’t have an ending for characters who need to perpetuate forever.

Blomkvist felt the most believable to me through the book. Lisbeth didn’t feel like her true self and the other characters weren’t well fleshed out until the end. It was hard to form an attachment to anyone. I love the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael but it just wasn’t there for me this time and everything felt flat.

Faria was my favorite character and I’m sad she’ll be a one-shot character. Her role in this book and her attachment to Lisbeth were great. I loved flashing to her story and what had happened to her and Jamal; it was just as interesting as the mystery with Leo. I kept hoping for a happy ending for her and I guess what she got was the best I could have asked for.

None of these characters were very relatable which is why I didn’t attach too much to any of them. None of them felt fleshed out enough to be real people besides the two we already knew: Lisbeth and Mikael. I find I feel this way often with thriller or mystery novels. Connecting with the characters isn’t really the point, but it’s something I notice.

David Lagercrantz
Image via Facebook

Finding out the truth about Jamal’s murder was my favorite bit. Lisbeth is finally out of jail and gets to play a role in figuring out the mystery again which is where I think she really shines. She also uses her computer network which is one of her ‘superpowers’ in my mind. It was a throwback to the action of previous books that I enjoyed so much.

Leo’s entire plotline fell flat for me. Especially because I felt the end was a disappointment. (Spoiler here.) I was even more angry that the answer was identical twins separated at birth. It seems like a cheap way of ending something. I was watching Sherlock last night and he even said, “It’s not twins! It’s never twins.” I had to roll my eyes because Lagercrantz didn’t get that memo. I thought we’d done enough with twins because of Lisbeth and Camilla, I didn’t think it needed to come up again.

Simon Vance narrated this audiobook. I can’t find another book he’s narrated when I search for him on this blog but his voice seemed familiar. I thought he did well giving the characters distinct voices, especially older characters like Holgar, and his voices for women didn’t come off as rude or offensive.

This book seemed to lack an overall theme or message. If anything, it was having sympathy for others. No one did much for Faria except Lisbeth and no one felt bad for Leo because they knew he was rich. I don’t think this was a strong theme, though. That’s part of what made this book fall short for me. With no theme or character development, it was a quick mystery and not what I expect from the series.

Writer’s Takeaway: Series need some level of consistency. What I feel happened here is that after replicating Larsson’s style well in his first attempt, Lagercrantz went a bit in his own direction. I wonder if the subsequent novels will be less and less like the original series. I feel this is a bit alienating to readers. People who liked Larsson might not like Lagercrantz, a category I feel I fall in. And those who like Lagercrantz might not have enjoyed the original Larsson. You’d have to be a fan of both to continue with this series.

Not a book I overly enjoyed and not one that makes me want to continue with the series. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review of “The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye” by David Lagercrantz | Rhapsody in Books Weblog
Book Talk: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (Millennium #5) | The Punk Theory
Book Review: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (Millennium #5) | Keeper of Pages