I use four ratings, rather than the traditional ‘five star’ system, as otherwise I find it too easy to simply take the middle road. Here is some information about the symbols I use for my ratings, as well as my criteria for assigning them:
Four Feudal Estates
I grant the author four feudal estates, so that he may guard my empire’s borders.
Books in this category tell a compelling story while they describe an important historical event or person. I would recommend these books to a reader without a specific interest in history; I could see these books being made into a big-budget Hollywood movie.
I grant the author three warhorses, so that he and his knights can ride into battle against my enemies.
Books in this category describe an important historical event or person, but don’t quite do so in the “page turning” manner I would have preferred. I would recommend these books to a history enthusiast, or to a person with an interest in the subject matter.
Two Loaves of Bread
I grant the author two loaves of bread, which can be used to keep the peasants alive. My advisors inform me that live peasants are more useful than dead ones.
Books in this category may describe an important historical event or person, but do so in a very dry manner that makes the book difficult to finish. I would recommend these books only to a serious history buff, or someone who needed to read every book on the subject matter.
One White Elephant
I grant the author a white elephant. As white elephants are sacred, and thus cannot be used for work, the author will face financial ruin feeding a large, hungry, and unproductive animal.
I expect very few books to fall into this category. I reserve this rating for books with obvious factual errors, books which draw misleading conclusions from the available information, or books which fail to deliver information in line with their title and description.
The clip art I’ve used to signify my rankings was downloaded from Clker.com, a provider of free public domain clip art.