Lada is the daughter of Vlad Draculesti, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. Only he is not pleased to have a girl as she is not pretty enough to beLada is the daughter of Vlad Draculesti, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. Only he is not pleased to have a girl as she is not pretty enough to be married off for an advantage. She is trained from an early age to fight and Vlad recognizes that strength in her and is proud of her viciousness, but not enough to give her love or attention. Her younger brother Radu is handsome, fair and meek, everything is sister is not. But their father doesn’t care for him either. So it is not surprising that Vlad, the ruler of Wallachia, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire in Southern Romania, uses his two children as bartering chips with the Ottoman ruler, Sultan Murad. Lada and Radu spend the majority of their childhood in Eridne in the palace, learning to survive in a place and with a religion not their own. Eventually they become friends with Mehmed, the third son the Sultan, and it is he who changes their life forever. Will Lada finally get the recognition and power that she deserves? Will Radu finally come into his own and become his own man and not an extension of his sister? To find out, read the exciting first book in The Conqueror’s Saga. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.
I adored this book. I’ve been fascinated with the Ottomans for awhile now and I love stories that are twists on the original. Everyone pretty much knows who Vlad Dracul is, but to imagine his daughter (a noblewoman in 15th century Romania) as the brutal vicious one is a definite twist. It’s so rare to find such a richly detailed story, with a non-preachy view on religions (especially Islam), and such complex characters. In fact, the author made Islam sound really peaceful and centering, like I think it really is based on my studying of it. The executioner being labeled “the head gardener” was an interesting concept for me, as was the knowledge that it was the Ottomans (or more accurately the Ancient Mesopotamians who preceded them), not the Wallochians, who came up with the idea to impale people as punishment. The fratricide law that Mehmed enacts at the end of the book was based on historical fact and did basically give the sultan the right to get rid of his male siblings so that
Lada’s character is fascinating and it’s nice to hear about a rather unconventional heroine who is not flawlessly beautiful and is bitter and vengeful and ready to kick ass and take no prisoners. And she has a right to be, as life has always been hard on her and she really has no one to confide in about her deepest darkest feelings, even though she can barely admit those to herself. She is manipulative and strong and feisty and someone I would want to fight for me.
Radu is completely different from her in a way – he is softness and civility, to Lada’s anger and violence. He gains power not by force but by being charming, sophisticated and courtly. He has to hide the biggest part of himself to survive. But they both want the best for Mehmed, even though they disagree on what exactly that is. And they both love him, something I know he is aware of and does exploit to his better end.
My biggest gripe with this book was how much the story got bogged down in the middle with politics. I’m all for story-building but I felt that the author could’ve skipped a bunch of not vitally important stuff to get to more meatier parts. I hadn’t seen that it was part of a trilogy until I was about to write this review. I’m not surprised as the author has set up way too much of the story for it to be a single volume, plus I’m interested to see where she goes from here with it. It was just starting to get good, with Lada finally coming to terms that she might actually have some real power, Radu learning that even though he can never openly show his feelings for the sultan, he can still be around to protect and advise him, and Mehmed finally becoming the ruler he is meant to be....more
Grayling’s mother, Hannah Strong, a wise woman who provides medicine and small spells for the local village, has been turned into a tree by an unseenGrayling’s mother, Hannah Strong, a wise woman who provides medicine and small spells for the local village, has been turned into a tree by an unseen force. It is up to Grayling to rescue her and return with her Grimoire, Hannah’s book of spells. She is soon joined by a shape-shifting mouse named Pook and a weather witch and her grumpy apprentice, an enchantress and a wizard. Grayling must learn to believe in herself and brave a hostile world in order to free her mother and the other magic users whose grimoires have been stolen. Recommended for ages 9-12, 2-1/2 stars.
I picked this book up because Pook sounded adorable (he’s probably my favorite character) and the story seemed an intriguing coming of age story. Plus I love Karen Cushman’s work, especially Alchemy and Meggy Swan, Catherine Called Birdy, and The Midwife’s Apprentice. So I had high hopes for this one as well. But I couldn’t get into it, so much so that I almost didn’t read it because it lost my attention very early on. Once the story got going, it was a little bit better. Hannah Strong obviously does not support her daughter or believe in her abilities, and therefore Grayling has very low self-esteem and no great opinion of herself. As someone who has struggled with this issue myself, I know how disheartening it can be and how limiting, and I hate to see girls undermined in books. But it is a quest story and Grayling does grow and come into her own by the end of the tale. The characters, as a whole, seem a little underdeveloped and the only one that Grayling had any attachment to was Auld Nancy, the weather witch. The author left the story rather open-ended, possibly paving the way for a sequel later on.
Disclaimer: I received this Advanced Reader’s Copy from the publishers, Clarion Books, via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. ...more
The story is set in the town of Rye, England and is set during the summer of 1914, right before the start of WWI. Beatrice Nash, a writer, is on a traThe story is set in the town of Rye, England and is set during the summer of 1914, right before the start of WWI. Beatrice Nash, a writer, is on a train heading for Rye and a job teaching Latin at a local grammar school. This is a time when being a female teacher was still a relatively new thing and patron Agatha Kent fights to get her the position. Mrs. Kent takes her under her wing, setting her up at the local boarding house and introducing her to her nephews Hugh Grange, a promising young surgeon, and his cousin Daniel Bookham, a handsome young poet. Beatrice is plagued by financial issues and must rely on a local slimy law clerk to free up her inheritance and try to get her father's academic work published, a job she can do herself but must rely on the town's local author to do for her. As the war breaks out, both Hugh and Daniel enlist, much to the dismay of the aunt, who has always treated the boys as her own. When Germany invades Belgian, refugees are soon added to the town and Beatrice's interactions with them will forever change her life.
I was very excited to read this book because I absolutely adored Simonson's first book Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6...). It reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey, which I started watching a little before starting this book. Especially Hugh's character who reminded of Matthew Crawley, not so much because of his profession, but personality-wise. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I thought the story went on for way too long and the story was very slow-moving. I loved all the social interactions between the different classes of people and the varied views on what was deemed proper for the time period, again very Downton Abbey in that respect and especially the relationship between Hugh and Beatrice. Daniel's story was very sad but true to what would happen to a man of his particular situation in the turn of the 20th century. Agatha Kent was a lot of fun to read about too, and I loved her character, even with the flaws.
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers Copy from Random House on Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. ...more
The book starts off with a teenaged girl named Amber talking about the end of her summer vacation in Cornwall at her family’s house, nicknamed Black RThe book starts off with a teenaged girl named Amber talking about the end of her summer vacation in Cornwall at her family’s house, nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall. The next chapter fasts forward to more modern day times with a young bride named Lorna and her fiancee Jon who are searching for the perfect spot to get married, and come across Pencraw Hall (aka Black Rabbit Hall). She cannot explain why but is somehow drawn to the old crumbling house, deciding that it is the perfect place (despite her fiancee’s misgivings) and is invited by the house’s owner to spend a few days there. From here the story jumps back and forth between the 1960s and modern times to tell Amber and Lorna’s story.
The Alton family, made up of Amber and her twin brother Toby are the eldest, followed by a younger sister named Kitty and a brother named Barney. Their parents are happily married and everything is as it should be when they head from Cornwall to London to their ancestral home of Black Rabbit Hall, where they always spend their entire summers. That is until tragedy strikes and their world is turned upside down. Lorna is fascinated with the house and its history, remembering that this was the house that her own recently-deceased mother used to take her to when she was little. However, as she becomes obsessed with learning about the house and the Alton family’s past, she is estranged from her own family. 3-1/2 stars.
It’s hard to believe this is the author’s first book. I thought it was rather good for a first attempt and thankfully the chapters are clearly labeled so you’re not confused when it jumps back and forth in time. I personally liked the gothic feel to the book, which reminded me of Emily Bronte and Daphne Du Maurier. The story keeps you in suspense for most of the book and makes the house almost another character in the book. I think my biggest gripe was that the story went on for way too long, and I nearly gave up on reading it because it was so slow in the beginning. Lorna’s character was a bit whiny and predictable, but at the same time you felt sorry for her. I liked the 1960s story the best, especially Amber’s mother and Peggy....more