by Irene Soldatos
(Hadley Rille Books)
A secret history and epic tale of intrigue and aguls in Europe, this is set in the early 1100’s. I’m not a fan of any sort of vampire fiction or of period pieces that are so meticulously written that historians are impressed but this held my interest, start to finish. Those who are of a more historical novel bent, fans of vampiric fiction, or both, are in for a rare treat in Bad Bishop.
The bishop in the tile is a chess piece as befits the main character, Amarante, a widow who remarks to herself that she might one day get married again; it would be good to have someone to play chess with. There is a great deal of chess in the story, both with real chessboards and human and agul chess pieces that are moved by an unseen hand by wily opponent. The stakes are more than life and death. The magic and alchemy in this book ring true and the scholarship is impeccable.
A word of caution: this is no easy beach read. Bad Bishop requires the same sort of absorption you’d need for a good chess match to read it, to keep track of the fascinating characters and their moves and the millennially-long histories and their implications. Soldatos provides a lot of book for your money, too: it’s 486 pages.
My one quibble was that I’d hoped for more closure in the end, but Soldatos set things up for a sequel. But if this sort of thing is what you crave that’d be a plus.