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March 2009 - The Master of Verona by David Blixt

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
annis
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Post by annis » Sat March 21st, 2009, 6:17 pm

The antipathy between Pietro and Marsilio adds plenty of dynamic tension to MOV. The duel is an inevitable result, but its ultimately inconclusive ending means that the the situation is left unresolved, and the tension only partly relieved. I particularly enjoyed the wildcard aspect of Pietro's anxious younger brother diving in to help but just about getting both himself and Pietro killed in the process. Nice to see some family loyalty :)

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cesco
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Fights

Post by cesco » Sun March 22nd, 2009, 12:14 am

It means a lot to me that you all enjoy the battles. Quite a lot.

I probably approach my fights a little differently than most writers thanks to my theatre training - specifically my training in stage violence. I've traveled from Virginia to Vegas, from Banff to Edinburgh, to study with some of the best fighters in the world. I've been trained in just about every European weapon from the gladius to the epee, along with the history that goes with it.

Of course, it's all choreography (Shakespeare's fight master was also his dance master). Approaching a fight on-stage as a choreographer, my first goal is to decide what story I'm telling. The fight has its own internal narrative, one that should compliment the story of the play. If a fight doesn't tell a story, it shouldn't be in there.

The upshot of all this is that I own many, many weapons (people keep giving me swords as presents), most of which I have used onstage, and often rent out to theatre companies in the area. So when it comes to fights, I choreograph them as I would for the stage. For the duel between Pietro and Carrara, I was up on the roof of my building, broadsword in one hand, halberd head in the other, figuring out how the fight would flow.

I too enjoy Cornwell's fights. My favorite is the duel at the start of Excalibur between Derfel and Lionfa. It's the natural compliment to the one at the end of Sharpe's Gold, which I happen to know was the basis for the fight at the end of the film of ROB ROY. (I once did a performance of R&J that was set in Napoleonic Italy because the director was reading the Sharpe series at the time!)

I'm sorry if the Carrara/Pietro thing is unsatisfying. As they're both historical figures, I don't quite have the freedom to wrap them up nice and neat. Rest assured, the antipathy has not faded, and there are twists ahead.

Phew! Longer than intended. Sorry.

annis
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Post by annis » Sun March 22nd, 2009, 1:50 am

I didn't find the Pietro/Carrara thing unsatisfying, David. I just meant that because Cangrande called a halt to the duel, any final resolution to their conflict had to be put on hold. I see the bad feeling between the two simmering away, maybe to boil over again at some later stage in the story.

I love the image of you up on the roof practising shadow sword fights :)

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LCW
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Post by LCW » Thu March 26th, 2009, 3:02 pm

I've been reading this book for a few days but I'm having trouble getting into it and seem to be finding things to do other than read in the evenings. I'm not sure if it's the book or me. I'll keep going though as I'm only 150 pages into it. This has happened before and I've ended up really liking the book in the end. But I'm wondering if I'm the only one. Maybe it just starts out slow?
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Thu March 26th, 2009, 3:23 pm

That happened to me when I first had it from the library quite some time ago, although I admit I had some things happening in my life and the last thing I needed was a book that took serious concentration to get in to. I plan on trying it again when I'm in a more ambitious mood and a quiet weekend with my thinking cap on :o
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LCW
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Post by LCW » Thu March 26th, 2009, 4:40 pm

I'm glad I'm not the only one. I skimmed the thread (don't want any spoilers) and am wondering about the Shakespearean influence of the book. I'm not really familiar with Shakespeare at all, what I remember from school is that anything to do with him or his plays was booooring, so maybe that's why I'm not getting it?

I had no idea I would have to put my thinking cap on for this book, lol, so maybe I just approached it in the wrong way! The last book I read was great, loved it, but definitely didn't require any extra mental apparel. Tonight I'll give it a few uninterrupted hours while wearing said cap and see what happens! :D
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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Tanzanite
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Post by Tanzanite » Thu March 26th, 2009, 7:12 pm

I had a little trouble getting into it at first, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I don't know that much about Shakespeare's works but I didn't think it affected my reading of the book one way or the other.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu March 26th, 2009, 8:45 pm

I noticed the Shakespeare refernces, but I really think that they didn't add much to the plot. In fact, they distracted -- if you knew the Shakespeare story, you expected things to go that way, but then they didn't. All in all, it seemed like a little game Blixt was putting in for Shakespeare fans, and those who know no Shakespeare at all are fortunate not to get sidetracked by all the allusions to various plays.

I really appreciated the actual history far more than the literary allusions -- and I include the Dante plot line under history, not literature, because he really was in the middle of those times. I think the rest was because Verona gets a lot of mileage out of being the setting for 'Romeo and Juliet' -- a friend went there, she says they even have Juliet's balcony all set up for the tourists, even though that story is fictional. But the tale of Cangrande's military exploits is quite real, and in my view, much more absorbing.

Thank goodness history trumped Shakespeare in the novel's plotline!

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Amanda
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Post by Amanda » Thu March 26th, 2009, 10:30 pm

I had a little trouble getting into the book too. Apart from Ancient Rome I haven't read anything about Italian history.

I think once I got through the first battle, I started to get into it. I liked the camaraderie, the one-up-manship, and boasting of that develops between Pietro, Mari and Antony. I think it did take I while for me to figure out the family politics and alliances. Some characters have quite a few different names too!

Having said this though....I am over half way through and am enjoying it. I know very little Shakespeare, and nothing about Dante.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Fri March 27th, 2009, 4:36 am

Yes, it took a little while to get off the ground. My main trouble with the early chapters was the large number of characters. I had a hard time keeping them straight at first, and it wasn't always easy for me to follow which side of the war a scene was about. But once I sorted it out and knew the main characters to follow, I was totally hooked.
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