The Real Thing
Amazon review (17 May 2018)
One of the most over-worked phrases in the reviewer's dictionary must be "page-turner", over-worked and often too generously used. But Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold is the Real Thing; the pace of Christopher Grey’s absorbing novel is fast and finely judged (and written). Orlando, the brave but sometimes sweetly insecure young man and would-be lover through whose eyes we read this fifteenth century thriller, is a fully-realised and sympathetic character faced with an increasingly dramatic and sometimes supernatural series of challenges. The sights, smells, fears, challenges and sheer glitter of life in a Renaissance town are a beautiful and tightly-described back-drop to a story whose absorbing succession of incident still allows us to look around. This is a great example of vivid historical fiction told through the medium of an unlikely hero who is as subject to modern fears, uncertainties and passions as today’s readers.
"Writing that is spectacular"
From the Bookpleasures.com review (30 May 2018)
"Award-winning novelist Christopher Grey sets his recent tale in 1493 when Bologna was under the tyrannical rule of an Italian nobleman, Giovanni Bentivoglio."
"Grey structures events with intriguing subplots involving historical facts, black magic, an all-powerful super-weapon, murder, violence, deception, villains, romance and conflict that unfolds in impressionistic bits and pieces that snag his readers."
"The prose is both eloquent and at times poetic with writing that is spectacular in its precise, accomplished nature. Another satisfying element are the characters that are intriguing as well as unpredictable, which keeps readers guessing as to their true intentions. In addition, Grey is a master in building story and creating memorable moments, particularly regarding Orlando [the hero], that engender conflicting and unexpected emotions. If you have never heard of Christopher Grey, I highly recommend you get to know him and pick up a copy of Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold. You will not be disappointed."
Amazon review (1 June 2018)
We begin with a graveyard at midnight. The stars are out and yew trees sway ominously in the autumn breeze. Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold has been billed as a historical fantasy thriller, and I am curious to see how award-winning author Christopher Grey will navigate a genre so pitted with clichés, especially with an opening that situates it so firmly in this genre. We soon learn that our first-person narrator is in fact drunk, and my concerns about a tired genre melt away. It is clear that Grey can, and will, do something new with his inherited material, and he does this through brilliant characterisation, a flair for description and artful handling of some complex themes. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and that it was an exciting ride from start to finish! Our protagonist Orlando Novi is immediately gripping. I love his short and pointed questions to the reader, his conversational, sarcastic tone. His dry comments drive the plot forward, adding light touches of occasional banter to offset some of the darkness: it soon becomes clear that black humour is his forte. One thing that did strike me was how his dialogue had the tendency to verge on being slightly over-dramatic and forced – is this a hint of Hamlet, “no spirit, no spectre, no father?”, or a glimpse of a stereotypically patriarchal ‘Renaissance’ society, “Lord, do not let me weep, it is unmanly”? But even as it teeters, Grey for the most part manages to pull it back. The prose is engaging, the characters gripping, and one can see how the slight theatrical tendency of Orlando’s narration perhaps feeds into an element of his character, rather than being over enthusiasm on the part of the author. This aside, it cannot be denied that Grey presents us with an image of a bustling world, of guilds and domestic arguments and poverty juxtaposed with aristocrats, dark magic and lots of trips to the tavern. The background is that of a society on the brink of turning from Latin to the vernacular, and the image of Orlando caught up in this change as he struggles to read books by candlelight, perfectly places the novel in the historical moment it is trying to capture. As well as the fast-paced prose and the impressive characterisation, I would say that Grey’s choice of setting is one of the highlights of the novel. Through depictions of frescoes, dusty churches and ornamental carvings of angels, Grey makes full use of his Italian Renaissance backdrop by drawing on its richness in his descriptions. At the same time, the novel has pockets of darkness which mirror that of its setting in 1493, where new learning flourishes alongside superstition and violence is never far from the surface. This is seen in the magic, very much real, which jostles with Christianity, itself put under strain by a strand of discussion that deals with sadistic priests, corruption and some quite unsettling scenes.
The Renaissance was a time of new knowledge, rebirth and discovery. I would say that Grey successfully applies this to his novel. Working in a genre that has lots of clichés, Grey manages to keep things fresh with witty dialogue, a web of secrets that is truly mesmerising, a taut plot and a focus on family relationships (their issues and solutions) that resonates throughout the book. Grey’s world building is a wonder to behold.
"A Beautifully Vivacious Novel"
Review by James Hendicott for IndieReader (30 May 2018)
Part vengeance quest, part fantasy adventure, HAND OF SILVER, HAND OF GOLD is a beautifully vivacious novel that transplants effortlessly into its time and place, taking a complex and interweaving journey through magic and mystery, and giving a clever history lesson along the way. Set in a vividly depicted renaissance era Italian city of Bologna, HAND OF SILVER, HAND OF GOLD explores the city’s dark undertows through the eyes of lead character Orlando, as he slowly unravels the untold story of his family life and the problems facing his city, discovering his own strength of mind along the way. Incorporating at its periphery the strength of the ancient Roman church, the rivalries of ancient city states, the work of Leonardo Di Vinci, the struggles of the renaissance period working class and the enthralling physicality of a ‘modern for its time’ Bologna, HAND OF SILVER, HAND OF GOLD is extraordinarily successful at what it does: incorporating a winding tale into a distinct and memorable sense of place. In the opening pages, the lead character, Orlando Novi, learns of the tragic late-night death of his father, portrayed to him as a suicide. Knowing his father, he doesn’t buy it, and sets out on an initially tentative quest to try and prove to the lackluster city police that the tragic death was something far more sinister. Orlando comes from a scarred family. Living with his mother and grandmother in an (at best) middling part of town, he’s a little lost, a little lonely, and not particularly sure of himself. His brother died years before, of plague, and his dad’s gone now, too. The fear and grief take him places quickly, as he slowly uncovers the secrets and magical forces previously hidden from view around him. He grows in confidence, starts to have real impact on friends and family, and hits hard against the somewhat timid everyday of his life. What was a murder mystery – and, to some extent remains one – quickly takes on complex and memorable plot twists and fantastical angles. What jumps out, though, is the effortless incorporation of the book’s environment into its plot. While we don’t claim any expertise in the area, from clothing to pubs, the entire environs of Orlando’s atmospheric adventures strike a brilliant and seemingly captivatingly realistic tone. Grey is able to inform and transport readers at the same time, and in the course of following a narrative that builds tension, you’ll learn about anything from the social pressures of the era to the neighborhoods and their textures and nuances. The character development is equally strong: Orlando in particular exhibits believable and logically-motivated changes in behavior, strength and attitude, assisted by those around him in his progression both into manhood and into a character of real strength and purpose, rather than a lost youngster. If there’s a flaw here it’s that you do, sometimes, see the twists and turns in the narrative coming, but it’s easy to forgive.
HAND OF SILVER, HAND OF GOLD is an epic quest, and one that encourages the reader to engage with a time and place that might not immediately inspire. 400-odd pages on the mythical mysteries of six century-old Italy, it turns out, is a great investment of your time.
AWARDED 4.4 STARS, BEST OF MAY 2018
A powerful alchemist is
hell-bent on revenge
Coat of arms of the House of Bentivoglio
The Pope's Emblem
Death never sleeps, but his victims sleep forever
Armourers at work
University of Bologna
“We buried my father a week ago in the graveyard of the Church of San Vitale, which is where I am now—and where I should not be, because it is almost midnight—stretched out on the stone slab covering his grave, staring at the stars.”
...and so our story begins.
A young man at odds with the world. The mystery of his dead father. A city in peril.
Dark forces are at work in the city of Bologna. A Black Magician, dead for two centuries, threatens to be resurrected, and an alchemist (very much alive) roams the city, hell-bent on revenge. Meanwhile, rebellion is being stirred up by faceless conspirators. Amid this growing turmoil, the mysterious death of his father compels a young man, Orlando Novi, to set aside his fears and put himself in the greatest danger of all to discover the truth.
Would you have the courage to find the answer to the question you fear the most?
A new fantasy thriller set in the Italian Renaissance by the award-winning author of Leonardo's Shadow, Christopher Grey.