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The Raven's Heart: A Story of a Quest, a Castle and Mary Queen of Scots

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  231 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
"Jesse Blackadder has all the hallmarks of a great historical fiction writer, achieving a fine balance of thoroughly researched atmospheric detail and suspenseful story. . . . In The Raven's Heart she doesn't hit one wrong note."—The Sunday Telegraph

Scotland, 1561, and a ship comes across the North Sea carrying home Mary, the young, charismatic Queen of Scots, returning af
Paperback, USA/UK/Canada, 464 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Bywater Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,585)
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Australian author Jesse Blackadder's The Raven's Heart explores her own Scottish ancestors' history and the fortunes of Mary Queen of Scots in 17th century through the fictional adventures of Alison/Robbie and her father William Blackadder.

The story is intense, gripping and full of rich historical detail. Blackadder skillfully brings this period in Scottish history to life, artfully portraying the tall, beautiful and tragic Mary in her attempts to retain the love and loyalty of her Scottish Lor
Feb 02, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
Alison Blackadder has lived her entire life disguised as as a boy to protect her from the murderous Hume clan who imprisoned the Blackadder women and stole the family's castle. When Mary Queen of Scots returns to Scotland to claim her throne, Alison's father forces Alison to throw off her disguise and become the Queen's lady-in-waiting, a position he hopes will earn her the queen's favor and ultimately, the return of Blackadder Castle. Alison reluctantly relinquishes her boy clothes (and all the ...more
Dec 19, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary, Queen of Scots is one of those very intriguing figures in history. A woman, born to rule in a time when women were considered not much more than chattel. She was sent as a child to France to marry but her husband died and she was sent/invited back to Scotland to take up her crown. Was she wanted? Probably only to produce a male heir. But we will never know for sure. What we do know is that she felt entitled to the crown of England as well and factions there wanted her as she was Catholic a ...more
Jane Massingham
Apr 22, 2013 Jane Massingham rated it it was amazing
The Raven's heart wasn't the usual book I would have picked up. I like a light hearted, funny read usually as I'm time poor with my reading these days. However, being intrigued by Jesse's quest I bought the book and read it in about 2-3 days which for me these days is unheard of!! I found myself wanting to stall cooking dinner, stall taking kids to school, stall going to work so I could read the next chapter. I was really sad when I finished. Great story, the historical detail didn't slow me up ...more
Kate Forsyth
Aug 30, 2012 Kate Forsyth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I was sure I was going to love this book as soon as I read the subtitle: ‘The Story of a Quest, a Castle and Mary Queen of Scot’. And I did love it! A fabulous, dark, surprising historical novel, with a hefty dose of mystery, intrigue, passion and cross-dressing. This was one of the best reads of the year so far.
Jill Smith
Mar 22, 2013 Jill Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William has a daughter Alison, who travels on the sea with her father dressed as a boy known as Robbie. They sail into port at Leith Scotland, with their Queen and her handmaidens, the four Mary’s. The Queen has only known a French court and this her home in Edinburgh is very different and ill prepared, as Robbie rides ahead to raise the town to prepare for their Queen, none know what the welcome will be. Lord Bothwell, the Queen’s ally and supporter, and William’s closest friend, both warriors ...more
D. Leigh
Jul 29, 2013 D. Leigh rated it liked it
This is a well-written, intriguing book, worthy of the literary notice it has garnered from the Lambda Literary Society and others.

However, I have to admit that several twists in the plot left a very bad taste in my mouth: 1) the whole distasteful demise (not just the last scene) of the main character's first lover 2) the main character suddenly becomes bisexual in the middle of the story 3) the sex scenes seemed vague with the first (female) lover, which I chalked up to the author's preference
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I loved everything about this book. The plot, the places, the people (oh, the people!), the mood, the drama -- everything. I'm not even sure where to start with this gush-fest!

Blackadder's novel grew out of her research into her surname, and while normally family-inspired novels give me the gibblies, in this case, we all win. The historical Blackadders have a story straight out of an opera or Gothic tale: widow violently married off to a vicious noble, evil stepfather marries her daughters to hi
Mar 20, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I decided to read The Raven's Heart for two reasons. The first was that it was recommended at a meeting I was at earlier this year by a colleague who couldn't stop raving about it and the second was that I was at a seminar where Jesse Blackadder was talking about what led her to write the book. I don't usually read historical fiction and I was pleasantly surprised at how good this story was, I couldn't put it down! It is full of everything you want in a good book; adventure, love, mystery, intri ...more
Jun 11, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it
Set in Scotland during the early years of Mary Queen of Scots reign, The Raven's Heart follows Alison Blackadder on her quest to reclaim her family's castle from the powerful Scottish family that seized it a generation earlier. In a effort to keep her protected from her family's enemies, who would kill her if they knew she existed, Alison lives her life as a boy. When Mary Queen of Scots returns to her homeland from France, Alison's father, through Lord Bothwell, is able to secure her a position ...more
Feb 16, 2016 Mirella rated it really liked it
Set in 16th century Scotland, The Raven's Heart is a riveting tale of intrigue, obsession, and the fight for power. It is very much a tale about two women, Alison Blackadder and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. They meet at Blackadder castle, an ancient fortress that rests on the shores of Blackadder Water in Berwickshire. A rumour about the castle states that when the first Blackadder swore a blood oath and sprinkled his blood into the water, men have been driven by madness in order to own it.

Jill Smith
Oct 05, 2014 Jill Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Jesse Blackadder going to the source of her own family heritage and weaving a delightful tale.

Alison Blackadder is the strong main character. She is a driven young girl doing whatever she can to win the favour of a young Mary Queen of Scots, so that she could win back the Blackadder castle her birthright. With her flair for disguise, she becomes the Queens valued confidante and spy. There is danger at every turn, going to town to find out what the real folk think of the Queens return fr
Jul 03, 2014 Oceansword rated it really liked it
This isn't a book that will appeal to all readers of historical fiction but if you're willing to savor a well-researched, historically accurate plot with just a touch of romance (really, not much) this one's for you.
The story focuses upon Allison Blackadder, the last in line of the Blackadder clan of Scotland. Years past, the Hume family usurped the Blackadders and took their castle, marrying all the family's women and forcing the one male heir, William, into hiding. Years later, William is livi
Page (One Book At A Time)
It didn't take me long to agree to this tour. You see, I'm familiar with Mary, Queen of Scots. But only in conjunction with Elizabeth I, and we know how that ends. I've been interested in find out as much as I can about the Queen. This one seems to paint her in a very different light.

I had a hard time with Alison. I understood being raised as a boy her entire life to protect her and then being asked to switch gears was probably hard on her. But, I'm curious how her lifestyle effected the choices
Erin Al-Mehairi
Dec 10, 2012 Erin Al-Mehairi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From my blog, with giveaway open there now through 11:59 pm. EST Dec. 17, 2012....

The Raven’s Heart, by Jesse Blackadder, was set in the 16th Century at the time of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland’s return from France to her Scottish throne after the death of her French husband. Scotland, ruled by regents during her time in France, is cold, despairing and void of life.

The novel surrounds the Blackadder family who had lost its claim on their beloved lands and castle along the vibrant, flowing Blac
Dec 14, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, fiction, tudor, hf-tour
Blackadder was in a unique position to extract material from her own heritage to recreate the complexities of Scotland during Mary Stuart’s reign. When Mary returns to Scotland from France, Alison Blackadder accompanies her retinue, quickly becoming one of the Queen’s favorites. But Alison’s motives for gaining Mary’s favor are not selfless. She is determined to regain her birthright, Blackadder Castle, which was taken by force from her family three generation previously by the Hume family. Beca ...more
Book of Secrets ☕
THE RAVEN'S HEART is an epic historical tale of a young woman's quest to reclaim her birthright. The Blackadder Family's castle was stolen from them by the Hume clan when Alison Blackadder's father was very young. He was sent into hiding for over two decades, and Alison grew up disguised as a boy. Had the enemy clan known about her, she surely would have been kidnapped by them and forced into marriage, as was the fate of her aunts.

When Mary Stuart returns to Scotland from France to claim her thr
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"The Raven's Heart" is the story of Alison Blackadder, a fictional character who is supposed to be related to the real Blackadder family, who are ancestors of the author. Alison is a really good character. The entire book is told from her perspective. From a very early age, she is forced to dress as a boy and then a man in order to save her life from the Hume Family who are not big fans of the Blackadder family. The Hume family has taken the family castle and Alison hopes that she will be able t ...more
Caroline Wilson
**From my review for the Historical Novel Society**

The year is 1561, and Mary, Queen of Scots, has finally returned from France to claim her throne in Scotland. The Blackadder family has been eagerly awaiting her return, hoping for favor in their quest to regain their stolen family castle and lands from the powerful and murderous Hume clan.

Alison Blackadder, who has been disguised as a boy since childhood, joins Mary’s court as a lady-in-waiting in an attempt to champion her family’s cause. Enli
Angela Long (Carter)
I haven't read an historical fiction for a while and was pleasantly delighted. The book was set in a period of time for Mary Queen of Scots that I wasn't overly familiar with and concentrated on the interaction with Mary of the fictional character Alison Blackadder and her quest to regain the Blackadder family castle. The weaving of fact and fiction was beautifully done, and done with a modern twist as the author Jesse Blackadder touched on Alison's love interests with both men and women and ind ...more
Bill Kidd
Oct 08, 2014 Bill Kidd rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book, because I like Jesse, but even this predisposition wasn't sufficient; in the end the novel simply failed to grab me. Initially I had to overcome an aversion to the genre, I don't generally read historical romance novels (with the exception of Jane Austin and Tom Hardy) but, as I said I wanted to give it a go.

At first I liked it, Jesse constructs fine prose and I cruised through the pages. But I soon started to struggle, the story began to feel contrived and a
I had won this book through Meg of A Bookish Affair ( Thanks again, Meg!

This is a book I personally wouldn't buy but when I read Meg's review I got interested and wanted to read it too. And I am glad I did. This historical romance tells about the struggles of a family that has been robbed of their castle and that tries desperately to get the ownership of it back. Robbie/Alison starts serving Mary the queen of Scotland in order to achieve that, but things turn
Aug 12, 2013 Anita rated it really liked it
I seem to have read a lot of historical books on the period of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth. I wonder why there are so many - was it a very interesting period of English (and Scottish) history or is there a lot of research material. In this case the author has an ancestor who was a protagonist in the story, which gives it a little personal interest. Similar to my review of the other book I've read by Jesse Blackadder, she takes historical incidents and winds it into a novel. I enjoyed it. ...more
Whilst not quite as long as Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots, Blackadder's fictional account does give quite a comprehensive coverage of Mary's reign. The central character is an invented ancestor as the plot revolves around efforts of the Blackadder family to regain control of the family castle. At times the story drags, the ambiguous sexuality of the central character changes a few too many times to be plausible and anachronisms such as the use of laudanum and the cover photograph all comb ...more
Nancy White
May 20, 2014 Nancy White rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It does drag on a bit at times, but overall I found this novel very enjoyable. It's set in Scotland around Mary-Queen-of-Scots time.

I haven't done any fact-checking so it could all be 100% fiction, but as I was reading it certainly felt plausible and there are historical notes at the end, too.

I don't usually read historical fiction but this was well-written and entertaining and at times I really felt for the characters.

I'd be interested to know what readers with more experience in the historical
Nick Sweet
May 14, 2016 Nick Sweet rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written novel about one of the most fascinating women in history, told from the eyes of her bisexual crossdressing servant.
Lauren Chater
Jun 23, 2015 Lauren Chater rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, have been meaning to review it for ages... A gorgeous immersive historical fiction novel about one woman's quest to restore her family's fortunes and discover herself. The world of 16th century Scotland is vividly brought to life through the eyes of our heroine, who is herself caught between obligation to her family and the desire to follow her heart. Great read for those who love reading about strong female characters.
Jul 21, 2013 Happy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy historical novels especially on English/Scottish history and this was no exception. What a wicked web of intrigue, treachery and love these people had to live in, not knowing from one minute to the next which people around you were friend or foe. The main character Alison Blackadder was a young girl disguised as a boy for most of her life, no wonder she was confused about love. A good read.
Jul 22, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of historical fiction but this one appealed cos of centring around Mary Queen of Scots and the tumultuous events surrounding her and Elizabeth I. Story rolls along and brings to life a pretty grim and insecure period of history. Really enjoyed the development of Alison's relationships with women.
Kim Taylor-Blakemore
Sep 15, 2013 Kim Taylor-Blakemore rated it it was amazing
Magnificent book. I could not put it down. What an incredible story with every possible thing you could want in historical fiction: court politics, shifting alliances, revenge, adventure, love, lust, greed, and one if the best main characters I've read in a long time. Looking forward to reading it again!
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Yes, in case you're wondering, Jesse Blackadder really was born with that surname. Jesse is fascinated by landscapes, adventurous women and very cold places.

Her first novel After the Party made the Australian Book Review list of favourite Australian novels in 2010. The Raven’s Heart won the Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award and was published in Australia in 2011 and in the UK, USA
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