Welcome back to the table readers! I know I’ve been sporadically MIA but I have some truly shocking news for y’all: moving out of state is a pain in the butt. I know, I know, who would’ve thought that but throw in an impromptu international trip and you’ve got a recipe for stress city. Granted, it’s also a recipe for excitement town but I’ve got a lot going on to say the least! Originally I wasn’t going to do an entire post for this book, however, when Shakshuka made a surprise appearance I couldn’t help myself but continue my tour around the culinary world. So without further ado, here’s my review for War by Laura Thalassa (book 2 in The Four Horsemen series).
I feel like I need to start this out by saying that this is a very different type of book than I read these days. Laura Thalassa is the author to one of my favorite *romance* series The Bargainer that I read years ago and adored. After falling in love with that series I picked up and read every other book she’s written – all of which, while not as good, I felt were entertaining while also being well written. So when I saw she was coming out with a new series based on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse I couldn’t help but pick them up. War is the second novel in the series, preceded by Pestilence and while they’re definitely entertaining, and Thalassa is a great writer this is definitely not my favorite series.
Following up years after Pestilence has gone off the map (you’ll have to read the first book to find out about that) we enter War with a whole new set of characters. The novel is set in “New Palestine” and our MC is a young woman named Miriam who, after losing her entire family is trying to stay alive by making weapons in the collapsed society she once called home. There’s no “making a life” here, there’s only survival, there’s only the next meal, the next scavenge, the next breath. However, right after we enter Miriam’s story, her entire world implodes as War descends to earth and with him, he brings [I’m going to take a brief intermission here to give you one guess what he brings with him… waiting…waiting…] yup, you guessed it, WAR.
Loss is a wound that never heals. Never never never. It scabs over, and for a time you can almost forget it’s there, but then something—a smell, a sound, a memory—will split that wound right open, and you’ll be reminded again that you’re not whole. That you’ll never fully be whole again.
Upon their meeting, War recognizes something in Miriam and steals her away to tag along with his giant war camp as they travel from city to city leaving nothing but death and destruction in their wake. As Miriam grapples with wanting to stay alive but being horrified by the atrocities committed by War and his soldiers she sees an opportunity. Not to kill War (because obviously that is impossible) but to teach him, to show him her humanity and why humanity is worth saving. As they travel they both must learn and grow and along the way, they might find something more.
All creatures can experience pestilence, famine, and death—but war, true war, that is a singularly human experience.
I’ll start with what I did like: Thalassa is an excellent writer who has a levity and joy to her books that I’ve yet to find anywhere else. I don’t know how to fully articulate it, but every time I’m reading one of her stories I feel like I can feel through the pages that this is what she’s meant to do. There’s a happiness to her words, even when it’s about heavier topics…like death, dying and war. There’s always a solid comic relief and a resilience to her female characters that make them not only likable narrators, but characters you want to experience the story with. It’s these skills that continually draw me back to her books whenever she releases a new one.
That being said, this series is not my favorite. I find in a lot of books when you’re given a new set of characters with each iteration in a series it often feels rushed and lacks the development and continuity of a series that follows the same characters. Whereas other books I’ve read by Thalassa seem story forward with a strong romantic sub-plot, this series feels romance forward with a weak story sub-plot. The story, the collapse of the entire world as we know it feels secondary to these other-worldly beings finding their ladies. Look, I love me a good romance, I’m a cheese-ball and I’ve always been drawn to fantasy, but what’s the point in creating an entirely new world if there’s no time spent developing that world?
I don’t want to be awake when you’re asleep. Talking with you reminds me of how lonely it is to exist.
This was an interesting look at the human experience and an original take on an old story. However, overall this series has fallen a bit flat for me and lacks the character development and story arcs that I’ve come to be familiar with in Thalassa’s work. Granted, I gobbled this book up in one sitting so the entertainment value is there I just wish I would’ve seen a bit more…oomph to Thalassa’s story development in this novel. I’ll likely still pick up the last two in this series because I can’t help myself, but this one isn’t going to make my “recommend” list either.
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Fans of Four Horsemen retellings, fans of romance novels, fans of fantasy novels that have very strong romantic sub-plots.
Now, onto the main event and something that was definitely NOT disappointing in the least! Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a tomato sauce with peppers, onion, garlic and a mix of some of my favorite spices, so off we go!
Servings: 2-3 (I only eat one egg, but my husband eats two, so take what you will from that)
Prep-Time: 5 minutes
Cook-Time: 25-30 minutes
- 1 small red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced (or 3-4 teaspoons garlic, minced)
- 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 3 eggs
You’ll notice I used a cast-iron skillet for my ingredients picture, but did not use a cast-iron skillet. Tomato based sauces are killer on a cast-iron skillets seasoning. It’s ok to use tomatoes in the skillet but if you’re boiling a tomato based sauce I highly suggest using stainless steel instead of destroying and having to re-season your cast-iron. I’ve made this mistake multiple times!
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook for 10-12 minutes until the onions are soft and begin to caramelize. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute).
- Add tomatoes, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to simmer and reduce heat to low, simmering as sauce thickens for about 10 minutes.
- Make 3 small “nests” in the tomato mixture. Crack eggs into nests and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until egg whites have set. I suggest covering for about 5 minutes and then begin checking on how done the egg whites are. It’s very easy to overcook the eggs and remember they’ll continue to cook a bit all the way up until you eat them.
Serve immediately with bread!
Quote: “I miss the taste of my mothers Shakshuka,” I admit. I never learned to cook her exact version of the spicy breakfast dish. There are so many small, simple things like that, that I lost when I lost her.
Music Mood: People Need a Melody by The Head and the Heart
Slowly but surely, that’s my motto right now. Slowly but surely getting back into reading, back into blogging and you know…moving to the mountains! Have any of you read books by Laura Thalassa, if so what are your thoughts? What are some of your favorite dishes your parent(s) made you that you still make for your family? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!