This anthology boasts some of my favorite historical fiction writers and ones who collaborated so well with their Pompeii-centric anthology A Day of Fire. There were some new voices (SJA Turney, Ruth Downie, etc.) added to the mix this time around and though new to me, they were fitting additions to the known talents of Knight, Quinn, Dray, and Shecter. Spanning just the year-ish long rebellion of the infamous Iceni Queen and told through seven disparate but relevant voices from both sides of the conflict, A Year of Ravens boasts some complex themes, fully dimensional characters, and remarkable storytelling.
There's a lot to admire about A Year of Ravens but there were three notable standouts as I made my way through the the early 450 page collection. Stephanie Dray's authorial talents bookend the anthology with two stories about a forgotten contemporary of Boudica's -- Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes. Cartimandua is a fascinating character (and was a real life client Queen of Rome.) Dray is of such talent that while reading her stories, I have to google all the fascinating details she peppers her narrative with. (Seriously - who would have thought Roman client-kingship so interesting?)
Dray makes the point that while you have heard of Boudica, you can't fully understand her or put her life in context without comparing the life of her contemporary queen Cartimandua. Dray fully proves her point with her powerhouse introductory addition. She skillfully brings the reader up to speed on what Roman-held Britain was like; how the various tribes rebelled, fought amongst each other, and then finally united after an unforgivable series of events. Boudica's legend has lasted a thousand years while Cartimandua's has not. With Dray's talent, this real-life woman provides an excellent foil for her more famous counterpart.
The four stories that followed Dray's The Queen (The Slave, The Tribune, The Druid, The Son) were good. A few were very good - The Slave by Ruth Downie and The Son by SJA Turney were four stars each. The other two (authored by Russell Whitfield and Vicky Alvear Shecter, respectively) were three-stars and just lacked the spark I felt for the other stories. Those two were also quite intertwined with another - both in terms of plot and with characters that inhabited both. I was interested in Agricola because of his role but found his narration somewhat stilted and overlong. I liked The Slave because it showed a different, unique view of Boudica -- from even amongst her own tribe. Her legend has lead people to remember and revere her but she was not perfect. She made mistakes and wasn't always what she is remembered to be, as shown in her treatment of Ria, the slave.
A Year of Ravens takes pains to show the horrors and complexities of rebellion and war. In trying to rid their shores of the hated Romans, the Iceni and their allies often resort to the same butchery and torture as the Romans did before them. And in return, the Roman reprisals are equally damning. Both sides have valid points of contention; both sides have wounds that demand redress. Duro, Boudica's premier warrior and Valeria, a captured Roman matron, especially show the differing views but vivid commonalities between the two cultures. In Kate Quinn's contribution The Warrior these points are made easily with the banter of the oddly complimentary and combative pair. Kate Quinn is a master of characterization, even with less than 70 pages to work with.
I first read E. Knight last year, with her excellent contribution to A Day of Fire, a short story titled The Mother. Her choice here was to give voice to Boudica's two wildly different but beloved daughters and it was impressively handled. Historically remembered as just "Boudica's daughters" Knight gives them names, voices, personalities, motivations and more. They come alive as Boudica does, but from their own point of view and in their own distinct voices as we never see or hear from their warrior mother. They are two vastly different kind of women and their POVs flash between the past and the present, but it's a streamlined narrative. Knight easily picks up the plot lines laid down by the six authors before her and weaves them into an expected but still original ending.
This was a fantastic anthology. The authors' various styles meld well together and foster a remarkably coherent tale for one told from so many varying techniques and perspectives. A Year of Ravens uses Boudica and her rebellion to propel the main plot but it's the little seen narratives and views used that make the anthology creative and memorable. A Year of Ravens is the kind of historical fiction that leaves you even more interested in the time, place, and people depicted than you were before. Boudica has long been a historical favorite of mine and I can definitely say that this anthology did her legend more than justice....more
I am having a hard time believing that a Kearsley novel didn't really work for me but there's a first time for everything?
To be fair, there were a fewI am having a hard time believing that a Kearsley novel didn't really work for me but there's a first time for everything?
To be fair, there were a few things about this that I enjoyed (a narrator with Aspergers, detailed historical fiction about the Jacobites at St. Germain-en-Laye), but it took far too long to get the plot going, and I never emotionally connected to any of the characters. I also didn't get any feels/swoons over the romance --- another big first for me and this author.
An interesting novel. Entertaining and fast-paced, but no without a few missteps. It's always nice to get a fresh perspective on the Tudor dynasty,3.5
An interesting novel. Entertaining and fast-paced, but no without a few missteps. It's always nice to get a fresh perspective on the Tudor dynasty, and using Princess Margaret for a narrator helps a lot in that regard. Ejoyable, an easy historical read, The Forgotten Queen is a sold effort.
Review and giveaway to come as part of the blog tour on the 30th!...more
A thoroughly satisfying mix of history, the paranormal, with a dash of romance to flavor, The Shadowy Horses does not disappoint. A bit more romance-orientated than my previous read by this author (Mariana), I can still easily endorse Susanna Kearsley as fast becoming one of my favorite authors; one that is adept at creating a wide array of individual characters, as well as intricately setting up an atmospheric read. She delivers every time, and this is no exception. If I was impressed after reading Mariana, I am entering full-on fan mode after finishing this offering from Kearsley in less than a day. Taking on the well-known mystery and search for the Roman Ninth Legion in Scotland, I was hooked early on. I simply could not put The Shadowy Horses down, but was conversely reluctant to finish once I was firmly engrossed in the novel.
Kearlsey's descriptive (and it is very descriptive - from the countryside to the "not-posh" sitting room, Kearlsey crafts an easily imagined setting) and detailed style is present and used with a dab hand from the first chapter, to the benefit of both the locale and for the wide array of characters on the page. Both suspenseful and engrossing, each aspect of the novel, from the mystery to the romance to the supernatural, were all summarily well-handled and solid, with none detracting from the streamlined plot. These were characters who came alive for me as a reader, all with varying degress of characterization, as well as ones who made me care about each of them. This is a dynamic cast, with each character fully distinct, and, by and large, even with psychometric/psychic Robbie, one that doesn't strain credulity or irritate the reader. I do wish there had just slightly more of an antagonistic presence for most of the novel, but the minor conflicts and issues that were there, were enough to create increasing tension throughout the story.
The first person POV of protagonist Verity Grey makes it easy to root for her through her struggles to accept what is going on in Eyemouth; her inner monologue reinforces the first impression of an impulsive, smart, and very independent woman who can more than handle herself. The strength of the novel, much like with Mariana, lies with main character Verity. The other elements of the novel are well-done and unique, but it is Verity who takes the cake (with some help from an accent Scotsman with a love of history!), and who will stick out in my memory. I appreciated the restraint with which the author took to the romance - it's a large part of the novel, but it doesn't drown the plot in melodrama or too much of a love triangle.
The final conflict (and revelation of the antagonist) was a bit dry (ha!), but a nicely rounded denouement makes up for that slight misstep. Though Mariana will remain my favorite Kearsley (for now!), I loved The Shadowy Horses and think that this is an author that continues to impress and grow as a writer. This is an author who is very talented with crafting believable characters, with creating an atmospheric setting, and with making the past come to life. Well done and I can't wait for my next Kearsley read!...more
I can see why so many people swear by this.... but I can also see why it's an incredibly problematic read for others. It's all down to personal preferI can see why so many people swear by this.... but I can also see why it's an incredibly problematic read for others. It's all down to personal preference, and though this book is made of things I love (time travel, historical fiction, complex characters, romance) it never engaged me. I was bored, A LOT. I was annoyed, a lot. Gabaldon does love her description and detail, both of which I enjoy, but in moderation.
Humans will be the hunted. Love will be tested. Vengeance will be had.
I need this book. This sounds amazing, based on just the first sentenPre-read
Humans will be the hunted. Love will be tested. Vengeance will be had.
I need this book. This sounds amazing, based on just the first sentence of the synopsis. I want it, precious, and I must have it. That, added to the fact that Elizabeth May seems to be made of pure awesome only makes me covet this as much as I wanted Daughter of Smoke and Bone last year. 2013 can't come fast enough - when can I pre-order?! Gimmegimmegimme.
India Black returns for a second outing - true to form, and full of the same humor and witRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.25 out of 5
India Black returns for a second outing - true to form, and full of the same humor and wit that made her so memorable and damned fun in the first novel. While I found this second in the series to be just slightly below the level of the first, India Black and the Widow of Windsor is still a highly entertaining, genuinely fun, and interesting new historical mystery. Here in round number two as a madam of espionage, India must once again go under covers (but not under the covers!damn and blast) with the charming but mysterious French as her ally in a fight to save the English Queen from angry, violent Scottish nationals. Full of the same voice, tone, and adventure as the first book in the seriers, fans from the original novel will find more of the same to love in this romp from talented author Carol K. Carr.
A strong followup to a wonderful first escapade, India Black and the Widow of Windsor is more focused on the mystery aspect of the plot, rather than the sheer adventure that took over the latter part of the first novel. While not a detriment to the novel as a whole, as the mystery is strongly constructed, hard to suss out, and full of red herrings to keep readers guessing, I missed the sheer audacity of the turns of events from the first novel. India lost none of her charm in the journey from book one to two, and her attempts to ferret out a spy within the castle of Balmoral are just as fun and witty as I had come to expect from the madam of many talents. My friend Audra compares her to a Victorian Bond Girl, and that is so appropriate it's ridiculous. Just as suave, if not as subtle, India is a joy to read during her travails to save Queen, Country, but herself above all. The plot may edge on the goofy side of things occasionally, but India herself is again the star of the show and with help from her alluring foil French, keeps India Black and the Widow of Windsor from falling victim to uneven sequel syndrome.
New, laugh-out-loud characters, old familiar faces, new villains and motives help to round out the 300+ novel with ease. I obviously could always do with more French on the page, but the new additions melded well with the frame and plot created for this. Like the first, though this is obviously India's vehicle, the secondary and tertiary characters are more than able to hold their own. I found the antagonists harder to suss out than in the first; I loved the interactions between India and the Marchioness; I loved the mentions of Disreali, the Queen, John Brown, etc. Weaving factual figures with such vivacity is one of Carr's many adept turns as the author of this inimitable series. The characters were and continue to be one of the many standouts of these books, and I love that each new novel has revealed more (if not much!) about the principal players.
India Black and the Widow of Windsor is a fine follow-up to its predecessor, if not quiiiite as much of an off-the-walls madcap adventure. Like before, the characters, the mystery, the adventures are top notch and finely tuned making for a fast, breezy read full of wit and humor. The wait for the e-short and the third book will surely kill me. India Black is not a heroine to forget and her most recent adventure with companions French and Vincent left often much about each character, all the while teasing with ever more hints about the pasts/presents? of the two very compatible adults. Not one to dole out immediate answers, Carol K. Carr sure knows how to dangle a hook and catch readers in her vivid imaginations and nuanced characters. I for one can't wait to see what else we learn about this daring duo in the forthcoming India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy. I can only hope it's as excellent as the first two so wonderfully crafted by this lawyer-turned-author. ...more