Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Alison Morton

4/5
Inceptio 

Amazon.com
Amazon.UK

The cover didn't jump out at me, I didn't know what the image meant and neither did I understand the title and had to look it up (it's Latin for beginning). What the cover strongly told me was that the book was literary fiction, and maybe a little heavy-going.

The blurb, however, tells a different story. It's exciting! It's present day and Karen is angry and frightened after surviving a kidnapping attack. The blurb immediately draws me into the meat of the story and tells me not only who the main character is but also what the book is about. It has just enough information to tell me that the book has an alternative history and Karen could be a Lara Croft type character. I hope she's not going to be too perfect though...

The look inside puts me off with a page of reviews, and then came the Historical Note and I admit I groaned a little. History lesson, I thought. But the first sentence: What if King Harold won the Battle of Hastings in 1066? lead to the question of an alternative history, and as that is the essence of the book my interest picked up again.

I did skip a few pages of the historical notes to get to the beginning, and the beginning opens with the main character Karen punching the nose of (unknowingly at the time) the son of the External Affairs Secretary, Hartenwyck, who is apparently the most powerful person in the country.

And so the story begins. Karen Brown is an ordinary woman and she most certainly isn't perfect. In fact, in the beginning she's a little wimpy.

Conrad Tellus is the love interest, which is very subtly developed into the book. The story doesn't hang about, and at less than a chapter in I'm pulled into Karen's world where everything she has ever known has been turned upside down. She's terrified, angry and confused and who wouldn't be? You're living your life as a nobody and all of a sudden you're sacked from your volunteer job, gain a criminal record, stalked by a Government enforcer, and have a sexy guy (Conradus Tellus) who wants to help you, with what, you're not really sure.

Renschman has a vendetta against Karen's father, and as Karen's father is dead, it's Karen who he seeks revenge from, but she doesn't know this at the time. Her secret past is cleverly left until the end to keep the reader engaged.

Karen ends up in Roma Nova, in Italy, which is ruled from the female descendent of Imperial Rome. Karen, unknown to her, is a descendent and her family want her back, they also want to protect her from Renschman.

This is where I became confused. So wanting to protect her, they allow her to become an undercover agent and act as bait for a notorious drug-running gang. OK, so Karen, or Cara, as she is now called (original birth name) learns a martial art and becomes the Lara Croft that the blurb promised, but though her transformation worked well within the story, I couldn't believe her family and friends would allow her to put herself in so much risk by pretending to work for  a group of career criminals.

Another 'problem' I found, or maybe it was the authors style, was that some of the scenes and chapters seemed to cut off in their climax. For instance (Cara's in a relationship with with Lurio--or thought she was):

'You know something, Cara Bruna?' he said, his finger touching the tip of my nose. 'You are  the most tremendous fuck I've ever had and I'm going to miss that.'
How coarse he could be, but it was a great compliment from him. 'What do you mean "going to miss that"?'
'After the trials next week you'll be free to go home.'

End of chapter.

The new chapter opens with the trials, and then Cara goes back to Lurio's apartment to collect her things and drop his keys through his mailbox before going 'home' to her grandmother. It's a little bit emotionless.

But at least the characters weren't one dimensional. They were real people with flaws, and we had some great characterisation from the sexy Conrad, cold and domineering Lurio, exciting Apollodorous, ice queen Somma and of course the quirky, strong-yet-ordinary Karen/Carina Brown. But the villain, Renschman, what a disappointment! He became a cartoon villain: hapless and pathetic. I bet he wore a black cape to cover his face with on his 'villainy' escapades.

The book had a lot of characters, but the author had a 'dramatis personae' at the back of the book for readers to refer back if they became lost.

Over all, Inceptio is fast-reading with interesting story lines in between the main plot of the story. It is the first of the series, and this first book is a good indicator of the characters yet to be fleshed out and I can only imagine the adventures that Cara and Conrad experience will under the skilful hands of Alison Morton.

It's an alternative history but has more emphasis on the action and crime, and if you like an intelligent read along those lines, and with a strong heroine, then this book is definitely worth a read.

It can be read as a stand-alone read.

Perfiditas follows Inceptio, and the third book, Successio will be published this month (June 2014).


Read 'Karen Brown's' interview on WWBB: http://louisewise.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/a-character-interview-with-karen-brown.html



Blurb

New York, present day. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety and a ready-made family - at a price. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus, who rescued her in America, isolates her.

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it...

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