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Daughter of Mystery

(Alpennia #1)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  751 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force.

Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit
Paperback, 376 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Bella Books (first published January 14th 2014)
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Frogqueen As a reader, it seems to me that Alpennia is rather well watered and hilly, in the shadow of the mountains but mostly down in the foothills. She has v…moreAs a reader, it seems to me that Alpennia is rather well watered and hilly, in the shadow of the mountains but mostly down in the foothills. She has vivid memories of the Napoleonic wars and counts the Austro-Hungarian empire as a near and powerful neighbour. That her mountain borders makes a natural travel route for Austro-Hungarians is also interesting. Linguistically, she looks to Latin with elements I associate qualitatively with Southern France.

I initially envisioned Alpennia wedged in between the Veneto and Northern Illyria (say a chunk out of modern Slovenia), but more lately, it feels to me like somewhere in the Piemont for a confluence of landscape, climate, as well as a political geography and bits of local history. Maybe reaching around Turin and down to the sea, with the mountains on two sides?

Still, other indications, both in terms of language, French cultural elements and named travel routes make a location in some place like the Languedoc or the Avignon/Drôme region conceivable. However, the landscape, climate and some social elements don't feel right to me. Grenoble might be more like it, but again, the travel routes make no sense.

So chucking it all, what about an independent Navarre? On the one hand, that would give us the Pyrenees and a route along the coast to Marseille... but I'd say Alpennians speak something more like Langue d'Oc or Langue de Si than Euskara, and I don't see how France, the Austria and the Germanies and Rome can figure in such a location without Spain sticking its oar in....

Which brings me back to the Piedmont. Perhaps the answer is that in a fantasy one might well obfuscate such matters to remind us it's a story not a treatise. But yes, I'd be curious to know what maps Ms. Rose Jones has by her desk.

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Lex Kent
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2 Stars. This was extremely well written. It was almost like a piece of art. At first your not sure what your looking at, but then all the details unfold in front of your eyes. You realize how much you actually like it, how beautiful it really is. That's the best way I can describe this book. To be honest, I did not care for the beginning. Lot's of names and titles to process, sent my head spinning. But once things become established, you really start getting into the story-line. I also had ...more
K.J. Charles
Mar 01, 2015 added it
Shelves: f-f, fantasy
Excellent stuff. Very well realised kingdom with an intriguing magic system, twisty plot, lovely slow burn f/f romance (all closed door), very nice writing. Just what I felt like reading, and thoroughly satisfying. And there are more in the world!
First thoughts:

5 stars! Didn't think i would like this after the first couple of chapters almost put me to sleep. :) But once I got used to the prose and realized the import of what had initially seemed like pointless minutiae, it was just Wow! simply amazing writing and world building. Loved the incredible attention to detail, logic, language and imagery. All of that plus a gripping tale of impossible love, mystery, intrigues, treachery and even magic! If only all period romances were like this
Shira Glassman
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ppl who wish Austen or Brönte had written magical femslash
Jane Austen and Charlotte Brönte never wrote about 19th century German lesbians having adventures with swordfighting and religious magic, and we have been the poorer for it until Heather Rose Jones came along. At its core it takes the "marriage of convenience" trope into the constrictive world of upper-class women who haven't reached the age of majority--Margerit winds up legally responsible for her godfather's bodyguard, Barbara, upon his death or else her legacy from him is forfeit. Barbara, i ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amazing world building and a slew of courtly intrigue. I struggled to keep the honorifics and families straight. Many layers to this political landmine along with the worthiness of titles and estates, inheritances and beliefs. A complex book but nothing complex about the romantic attraction between Margerit and her armin or duelist Barbara. As much as it made my brain hurt at times I fell under an Alpennian spell. Throw a few rogues and social climbers amidst the pure and innocent scholars seeki ...more
Heather Rose Jones is a master and in building Alpennia, she delivers a world that feels authentically European of a time gone by. Her use of language makes it feel like we’re reading something by a 19th century author (with, of course, more magic), much like Susanna Clarke does in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I also appreciated that while Daughter of Mystery has a romance, it is NOT a romance novel. It’s historical fantasy at its finest, with enough action, adventure, and mystery to keep th
Just a man's point of view
Wonderful reading. Masterful universe creation and wrapping. Deep characters, a well matched couple, I really loved both, the reflective and sweet Margerit and the fiery, passionate Barbara.
A dystopian universe with a hint of original, unusual magic.
My only regret is that there's not more action. Because when Barbara springs into action it's pure fun!
Nick Imrie
Sometimes I think about the great women of history, and how terrible it is that so many of them were cut down in their prime or prevented from acheiving more by poverty or family duties. How different would things be if those women had had the resources and freedom of men? In Daughter of Mystery, Margerit receives a surprise inheritance from a previously uninterested godfather, and promptly sets about acheiving her dream of escaping the marriage market and going to university.
After the initial e
4.2 stars. Saying this was not a light read would be an understatement of the century. The paragraphs are often the length of a page and the language used is heavy and archaic at times but with intent of course since it is a historical novel with light fantasy elements.

The so called mysteries are in the center of attention yet for two thirds of the book it never really is clear what exactly a mystery is. It involves a lot of jargon related to Christianity and what I understand to be an original
This was an amazing book. I'm not one for mysticism and religion, but there were so many other plot elements that I do enjoy - mystery, political intrigue, family dynamics, the law, romance. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. ...more
Para (wanderer)
Daughter of Mystery has been this month's pick for one of the bookclubs I sometimes participate in. Historical fantasy f/f romance seemed amazing, it has been recommended to me before, plus it's pride month, so I thought why the hell not now? Except...this is not really romance. It calls itself one, but there's 1) less of it than in most regular fantasy books not billed as romance, 2) it literally all happens only in the last quarter of the book, and 3) the ending is abrupt, unsatisfying bullshi ...more
Wow! Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery has left me speechless. Such intruigue, such superb world building, such great characters, so many twists and turns, so many players, such an elaborate plot to puzzle together.

I can’t begin to write down my feelings about this book and do it justice. If you want a really in dept and well worded review, please take the time to read what Shira Glassman had to say about it because she mirrors my thoughts perfectly (I’m not being lazy here, just overwhel
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was reading a book that was super dark and heavy, and I realized that I needed something lighter instead. Scrolling through my Kindle, I found Daughter of Mystery. It seemed like it’d be just perfect for the moment. And it was.

Daughter of Mystery is a historical fantasy novel with a romance between two women. Margerit Sovitre is an orphan girl whose guardians are anxious to see marry well, even though she has no wish to marry. Her future changes for ever when her wealthy godfather, Baron Savez
LG (A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions)
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the women in Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor
Daughter of Mystery is set in the fictional European country of Alpennia, sometime in the early 19th century. Chapters alternate between Barbara’s perspective and Margerit’s. Barbara knows she’s of noble birth but has no idea who her parents are. Her father lost everything due to his gambling debts and sold her to Baron Seveze when she was only a baby. She is now the baron’s armin (formal bodyguard/duelist).

Margerit Sovitre is the baron’s goddaughter, although he generally hasn’t been in her lif
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, queer
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

It took me ages to get round to reading this, but it turned out to be pretty delightful once I finally did, and I want to read more set in the same world. (Good thing there is more!) It’s basically around (I think) 18th century Europe, only with magic, and it’s set in a Ruritania-like fictional European country, with mixed European elements to the language and culture. The two main characters are two rather different girls: one girl from a well-off but not noble fa
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about this book's Jane Austen-comedy-of-manners-in-a-Central-European-fictional-world scenario. I loved the robust, intelligent writing, the palpably furnished natural and architectural spaces, the skilful simulation of a distinct linguistic universe, the persuasive evocation of an archaic social structure with a deeply sophisticated cultural heritage, the romance. Yes, there was nothing explicit (the principal characters were too well-mannered to jump one another's bones when ...more
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Part (lesbian, not explicit) romance, part swashbuckling court intrigue, part magical fantasy, this delightful book reminds me a bit of the Deryni series mashed up with the Prisoner of Zenda, as the magical elements are tied to religion, which is a type of fantasy I've always enjoyed, and the invented country of Alpennia is basically a Ruritania. The romance between a bookish accidental heiress and her bodyguard with a mysterious past is not the main focus, which as I'm not a romance fan suited ...more
Darlene Vendegna
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was a lovely surprise. Yes it's published by a press that publishes novels written by and for lesbians, and yes the romance that very subtly develops is between two women, BUT it is not the main focus of this story by any means. It is a novel of chivalry, intrigue and betrayal. Anyone who enjoys well written historical fiction with a strong female protagonist will enjoy this. Ms Jones creates a realistic country with believable characters and an element of magical alchemy that enriches ...more
Dec 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. A slow start and many family names to keep track of, but once I got past the first half of the book, I really started to enjoy the story. I like that we get POVs from both the female leads. No explicit scenes, everything is suggested rather than shown. This book reminds me of cooking with a slow cooker - initially you only see the ingredients and hope for the best, but a few hours later the raw materials turn into the most delicious meal :) hard to put down!
Sara Norja
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A charming comfort read. Historical-inspired fantasy with a queer relationship at its centre? Yes please! The story started out a bit slow - although that's rather in keeping with novels of the time period Jones emulates here - but it picked up and I was really into it by the end. I would've liked more descriptions of the setting and some other stuff. But I'm looking forward to reading the next books!

OH and I forgot to say that the religious magic was extremely cool, I hope there's more of that
Cat M
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book and I'm definitely looking forward to the next two books in the series.

Barbara and Margerit are both fantastic characters and watching them grow and change over the course of the book was a delight, as was the slow, difficult progression of their love for each other. The obstacles to their relationship - maturity, class differences, societal expectations- never felt artificial or contrived, but instead were integral to the larger plot.

And that plot was excellent. What starts a
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
This. Is not. A romance novel.

It's okay historical fantasy. A bit boring at times, I'll admit, but not bad.

The romance doesn't happen till the last fifth of the book, and even then it's unsatisfying. I always like a good F/F romance, and it being pride month makes it the perfect time to read it! But it just wasn't there enough. At all. I just needed more!

The historical aspect was good! There were lots of balls, manners, and rules to abide by, and this kept me reading the book till the end (and,
Bryn (Plus Others)
Sep 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: spec-fic
A queer Ruritanian novel of manners and romance; enjoyable but it never caught fire for me, in part I think because novels in which the tension is provided by 'When will the villain act and what will they do?' are not my favourites -- too much like real life, in which pleasant people are attempting to live reasonable ordinary lives but always braced for the axe to fall and things to be destroyed. The worldbuilding is excellent, the characters are good and interesting, the writing smooth and easy ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gaskell and Orczy fans
So the short form is - a fun adventure novel with a sweet more-or-less-historical (1830s/1840s imaginary middle European) fantastic romance.

Or at length....

It pushes my Sabatini/Orczy/Heyer buttons nicely. There are lovely mysterious plots and counter plots, mysteries of birth and motive, a few cinematic fight scenes, and some lovely drawing room and court room maneuvers. And, of course, the course of true love never did run smooth.... Bonus that the young women are the heroines and in charge of
I greatly enjoyed this book, but it is not one I would recommend to very many people, only because I don't think many people can appreciate it. This is classified as a fantasy novel, but it's written with the spirit of a 19th century historical fiction. Much of the plot involves inheritance, gossip, propriety, and navigating the complicated intrigues of wealthy and noble society.

It also involves a lot of discussions of magical theory. In their world, much as in Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and
E.M. Hodge
Sep 02, 2014 rated it liked it
In Daughter of Mystery, Heather Rose Jones, captures the essence of the sweeping epic often pervasive in speculative fictional works with the largess of language and intricacy of tale. Like other authors in this genre following in the wake of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jones encountered the difficulty of creating a world that is at once attentive to historical mythos and unique. In a way, finding a topic that can hold up to Bradley’s standard and transcend it becomes an arduous task. Jones sets the ...more
I really enjoyed this book overall, and just purchased the sequel! It is a very slow-burn political intrigue and romance, and I think the best aspect of the novel is the two main characters - they are well-written, distinct, sympathetic, and delightful voices that I was consistently invested in both of throughout the entire novel. The magic system was interesting, and the eventual unraveling of the plot was rewarding. It was a pleasant, fascinating read.

Overall, however, it was slow-burn enough
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I will admit I found the prose here a struggle, particularly the author's aversion to using commas between independent clauses (and complete abhorrence of semi-colons). It's neither standard contemporary style nor (at least to my eye) a successful pastiche of 19th-century prose. But clearly the story worked for me, because after the first 20% or so I stopped wanting to cover my Kindle with scrawls of red pencil. The characters are vividly drawn, each with their own agendas, sympathies, and under ...more
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Heather Rose Jones writes fantasy, historic fantasy, and historical fiction, including the Alpennia series with swordswomen and magic in an alternate Regency setting. She blogs about research into lesbian-like motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project which provides inspiration for her fiction. She has a PhD in linguistics, studying metaphor theory and the semantics of ...more

Other books in the series

Alpennia (4 books)
  • The Mystic Marriage (Alpennia, #2)
  • Mother of Souls (Alpennia, #3)
  • Floodtide (Alpennia, #4)

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“Barbara took her accustomed place by the door but as the singing began Margerit beckoned her over to her side. "I haven't been following much except that it's all ancient Greeks and battles and such. What's happening now?"
Barbara knelt beside her and leaned close to whisper so as not to disturb the rest of the party. A brief synopsis of what had gone before took up the time while the chorus escorted the principles to the centre of the stage. "I haven't seen this performance before," Barbara added, "but I imagine this will be the grand love duet." As the soprano began, she concentrated on the stage to follow the opening phrases. The chorus had abandoned the field to the principles who faced each other against a backdrop of fluted columns.
"O! What strange fate is mine!" Barbara paused as the signature line was repeated several times. "I loved you in the guise of Mars, but now I am betrayed by Venus. The iron in your glance turns soft beneath my touch. I am undone. O Venus, you are cruel to mock me so." It continued on in the same vein until it was the mezzo's turn. Her lyrics ran much parallel with the soprano's. With less concentration required, Barbara ventured a glance to see Margerit's reaction. Margerit turned at the same moment and their eyes met as Barbara whispered Ifis's lines.
"O! What a strange fate is mine! In the guise of Mars I love you but now as Venus I'm betrayed. The Iron in my soul turns soft beneath your touch." Unconsciously, Margerit placed a hand on hers where it lay on the arm of her chair. "Fire runs through my veins - I am undone." Fire indeed ran through her veins. Her hand burned sweetly where Margerit touched it and she dared now take it back. Her voice grew husky. "Why do the gods mock me with desire I cannot sate?" Their eyes were still locked and Margerit's lips had parted in a little "o" of wonder. "O Venus, have mercy on one new come to your shrine."
When the soprano joined again for the duet, Margerit breathed along with her, "O! What strange fate is mine!"
With effort, Barbara wrenched her gaze away.”
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