Orphaned when his mother dies of starvation, having been cast out of her village as a witch, John is taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor, where he quickly rises from kitchen-boy to Cook, and is known for his uniquely keen palate and natural cooking ability. However, he quickly gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the Lord of the Manor. In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiancé is an arrogant buffoon. When Lucretia takes on a vow of hunger until her father calls off her engagement to her insipid husband-to-be, it falls to John to try to cook her delicious foods that might tempt her to break her fast.
Reminiscent of Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, John Saturnall’s Feast is a brilliant work and a delight for all the senses.”
Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.
When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?”
I had no idea. At least until I found myself in an unexpected bidding war for a beautiful collection of Bantam Giant paperbacks on eBay, including two by Mr Schoonover: The Golden Exile and The Burnished Blade (cover here).
Don’t know much more about him. I’m sure a trip to Wikipedia would tell me lots about Schoonover but, really, his covers tell me pretty much everything I need. Apparently he wrote big fat adventure novels featuring dudes with swords, exotic settings, and women who had little use for clothing. I’m a fan.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that his novels were published as Bantam Giants.
There’s just something about the Bantam Giants that really brings out the collector in me. If you’re any kind of paperback aficionado, you know what I’m talking about.
The first Bantam Giants appeared in 1951, during the tenure of the legendary Ian Ballantine. I don’t believe they were numbered separately from Bantam’s usual sequencing, which makes cataloging them somewhat problematic, but their ranks included James Michener, Emile Zola, Harold Robbins, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Wilder, C. S. Forester and many, many more.
Some of the best literature of the 20th Century appeared in paperback as Bantam Giants, such as Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.
They also included a superb assortment of classic adventure novels from Rafael Sabatini, Thomas R. Costain, John Masters, John Dickson Carr, and even some dude named Lawrence Schoonover.
There was also a smattering of science fiction and fantasy, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s classic anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao, John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights, and novels by Bradbury and Jerry Sohl.
I think a large part of the appeal of Bantam Giants is their sheer size. They promise a lot of reading for your 35 cents. And dang, they look good don’t they? Just check out that beautiful assortment at left (click for bigger version.)
‘Course, I’d know a lot more about Schoonover if I’d just managed to win that damn auction. Since I didn’t, I was forced to hunt down virtually every single title in the set individually on eBay. I finally managed to complete that daunting task late last week. It’s okay, I’m sure the kids didn’t really need that college fund.
And before you ask which I’m going to read first, I think that should be fairly obvious. I’m curious about all of them, but before anything else I have to find out just what the Great Folly of that young lady in the bottom right is.
Even though I think I have a pretty good idea.
ANALYSIS: Neal Asher is an author whose opinion I admire and respect. So when he wrote on his blog that Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns was “the best fantasy read I’ve had since Alan Campbell’s Scar Night”, the book immediately became added to my wishlist. After all, I read Scar Night because of Neal Asher’s recommendation, and since then, Alan Campbell has become one of my favorite fantasy authors. With Mark Lawrence, it’s too early to say whether or not the author will become a favorite of mine or not, but Prince of Thorns certainly left an impressive first impression.