Monday, January 20, 2014

Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Read: January 18, 2014

It is 741. After subduing the pagan religions in the east, halting the march of Islam in the west, and conquering the continent for the Merovingian kings, mayor of the palace Charles the Hammer has one final ambition-the throne. Only one thing stands in his way-he is dying. Charles cobbles together a plan to divide the kingdom among his three sons, betroth his daughter to a Lombard prince to secure his southern border, and keep the Church unified behind them through his friend Bishop Boniface. Despite his best efforts, the only thing to reign after Charles’s death is chaos. His daughter has no intention of marrying anyone, let alone a Lombard prince. His two eldest sons question the rights of their younger pagan stepbrother, and the Church demands a steep price for their support. Son battles son, Christianity battles paganism, and Charles’s daughter flees his court for an enemy’s love. Based on a true story, Anvil of God is a whirlwind of love, honor, sacrifice, and betrayal that follows a bereaved family’s relentless quest for power and destiny.

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Imagine you're under water; swimming low, along the bottom of a pool. You push off the floor, slowly rising till you break the surface and you take that first breath, filling your lungs to capacity. That's how I felt finishing Anvil of God... like I'd been released from another world. 

Honestly, this is the kind of book I dream about stumbling over. An engaging narrative, J Boyce Gleason's startling debut brought 741 brilliantly to life, capturing my imagination in its recreation of an all but forgotten empire, drawing me into a whirlwind of intrigue that, even after days after reading, refuses to let me go. 

For the record, my knowledge of this period was and to some extent remains overwhelmingly vague. I'm not exaggerating, before reading this piece I couldn't have differentiated Charles Martel from Charles Garnier which leads me to one of the more remarkable aspects of this book. 

Gleason has a deep comprehension of and obvious affinity for this particular era, but he doesn't take that familiarity for granted. Exercising great care, he carefully reconstructs the political playing field, fleshing it out with vividly atmospheric descriptions and imaginative details that make the narrative easy to follow, even for those encountering the material for the first time.  

Like most political epics, Anvil of God incorporates an extensive cast, but here again, Gleason exhibits a flawless mastery of his craft. Charles, Carloman, Pippin, Gripho, Boniface, Childbrand, Liutbrand, Odilo, Bradius, Sunni, Trudi, Greta, Bretrada... each has an individual personality, distinct emotional makeup and unique motivation. Independently dynamic, Gleason's characters are universally well-rounded, multidimensional and authentic.

Fast-paced and fluid, Gleason hits the ground running, but what amazed me is how deftly he was able to sustain that momentum for all four hundred plus pages of the book. I'd intended to read Anvil of God a few chapters at a time, but quickly realized doing so was a practical impossibility. A compulsively addicting fiction, I simply couldn't put it down.

Heartfelt romance, religious conflict, convoluted family dynamics, contrasting gender roles, political power struggles, violently gritty battlefield combat, Gleason fits it all in a single exciting volume. A spellbinding tale of valor, rivalry, and ambition, Anvil of God isn't to be missed. 

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"Power without purpose is self-serving. You are being chosen because you are men of power who have faith. You are being chosen," Boniface paued for effect, "because you serve God."
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Check out all the stops on J Boyce Gleason's Anvil of God virtual Book Tour

Monday, January 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 21
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, January 27
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Friday, January 31
Review & Giveaway at The Novel Life
Saturday, February 1
Review at Closed the Cover
Monday, February 3
Review & Giveaway at Words & Peace
Thursday, February 6
Review at The Lit Bitch
Friday, February 7
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview at The Novel Life
Wednesday, February 12
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, February 13
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.
Friday, February 14
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

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