Friday Face Off : Friends, Bloggers, Readers, lend me your eyes


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

A Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

So this week I’ve gone for a series.  I read the first book and loved it and would like to complete the series at some point –  I’m  waiting to see if it becomes available electronically which isn’t currently the case (last time I checked at least).  The Shards of Heaven series by Michael Livingston.  Here are the covers:

Well, they’re all quite similar but I think my favourite is:


I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you



12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture


2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series


Month of Wyrd and Wonder

7th – A Series where the cover changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

14th – The earliest fantasy you recall reading – or the first fantasy book you really loved, maybe the book that kickstarted your love of fantasy

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood


4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy


2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one


6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller


1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground


3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up


The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

23848192The Shards of Heaven is a fascinating alternate history set during the period of the Roman Empire just shortly after the death of Caesar.  I enjoyed this so much that when I finished reading I actually went to check out some of the history of the period and having done so was even more impressed with the skill which the author has used here to bring us a very easy to read narrative with a twist on the actual events that feels almost like a credible account of what could have taken place.

Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and adopted son has taken control of Rome.  However, he doesn’t intend to leave potential suitors around to lay claim to the empire and he particularly has his eye on Caesarion, Cleopatra’s first son by Caesar.  As a result Rome and Alexandria go to war , although Octavian uses Marc Antony’s defection to Alexandria as the cause hiding his real motives amongst this insult to the Empire.

Meanwhile, Juba – another adopted son of Caesar and former Numidian Prince – is on a quest of his own.  He searches for ancient relics which are believed to hold the power of God.  Nuba himself has an ulterior motive for his search.  He seeks vengeance against Rome for the death of his father and intends to use these treasures, known as Shards, to obtain his desires.  

Done well I simply love stories like this and this story is done very well.  Livingston has taken what is already a very battle led, tempestuous and political era of history and injected it with a little more spice.  In this case the fantasy has a biblical feel with moments of calm followed by thrashing waves and skies torn asunder by bolts of lightening.  Very fitting indeed for this particular era the fantasy is subtle and doesn’t overrule the narrative.  On top of this the author takes some of the lesser known characters and reimagines their stories filling them with thoughts and fears and adding possible scenarios and conversations.  You will like these characters, you won’t be able to help yourself, and consequently you’ll hold your breath as the story unfolds and you desperately read on hoping that they’ll survive against the odds. 

I particularly liked Pullo and Vorenus.  These are a couple of battle hardened Roman soldiers who are exiled to Alexander and are now faced with warring against their own people.  They’ve become attached to the family over the years spent with Cleopatra and Antony and have acted as bodyguards to the children.  They’re a very easy pair to like.  Then we have Didymus, a scholar and tutor to the children – well, he has a secret in his past that he, rightfully so, isn’t proud of and wants to redress.  Selene is Cleopatra’s daughter.  She’s sharp witted and courageous and refuses to be kept in her place simply for having been born a female.  

I really like that Livingston has taken a very well known period of history but rather than focus on the characters we already know has chosen to base his character on these smaller, lesser known characters that have only a small mention in history.  I love the way he’s created an alternate history that keeps all the main events untouched at the same time as introducing a different story with fantasy elements that supports the historical version. 

The writing is quite unembellished, and I mean that in a good way.  The author has plenty to play with here and it would be easy to weigh this story down with heavy descriptions.  As it is I think he does a very good job of bringing the period to life, showing the way in which these characters live and avoiding info dumps.  I thought the battle scenes were really well written and easy to imagine and loved reading about the Library in Alexandria and the underground tunnels, not to mention the myths surrounding the shards and their possible implications in earlier historical events.  I will mention that this is told in a modern voice and style, which I personally really appreciated, but be aware of that before picking this up.

So, to be clear.  I loved this book and would have no hesitation in recommending it.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and in fact it’s one of a few books that I’ve read this year that I could happily have finished the last page and returned to the start for a reread.  I really look forward to the next instalment.  If you love history, alternate history and fantasy and want to read characters that make you feel something then give The Shards of Heaven a try.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.