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The Hippoi Athanatoi, the immortal horses, are the fabulous steeds of the gods and heroes of Greek myth.

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Duels and Conspiracies

It has been sitting on our bookshelf for quite some time now, but a few days ago I felt the need for a break from my current assignments for my classes, and so I picked up Mary Gentle’s 1610: A Sundial in a Grave. I figured I could stretch out the rather hefty-looking volume for a while, reading a bit now and then. From reading her earlier novel Ash: A Secret History, I thought this might be another fairly tough read that I would need to take my time with.

Boy was I wrong.

Sure, the first two days I only managed the first two chapters, but then, all of a sudden, I was hooked. I started reading in earnest today (well, yesterday, really, since its now past midnight), and I finished the book a little while ago. Once the main characters had been introduced, and the ball had started rolling, I simply could not stop. The characters—in particular, Rochefort and Dariole—are vivid and captivating, the plot is intriguing and the book as a whole feels well-written and well researched.

Like Ash, 1610 is a story where magic and science blends, and where time plays an important role. Unlike Ash, however, the action takes place in mostly chronological order, and the plot is far less convoluted than it was in Ash. The main character, Rochefort, is a duellist in service to a French duke. Against his will, he is made to take part in the assassination of King Henri of France, and finds himself forced to flee the country. However, on his way out of Paris, he finds himself saddled with the young, impudent Dariole, another duellist who despite his young years is more than able to give Rochefort a run for his money. And to whom Rochefort finds himself attracted, very much against his will considering that Dariole never seems to pass up an opportunity to try to humiliate the other man.

While fleeing, they also end up picking up a third person, a samurai washed ashore after a shipwreck. Together, they head for England, where unbeknownst to Rochefort he is expected by a man who claims he is able to predict the future through astrology. He has decided that the future he has seen is undesirable, and that the only way to avoid it is to kill King James of England. And what better man for the job than Rochefort, who already has helped kill another king?