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The Sworn Virgin

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  537 ratings  ·  140 reviews
What would you do if your father was suddenly and mysteriously murdered, leaving you alone in 1910s Albania?

When 18-year-old Diana’s father is mysteriously shot dead in the cobblestone streets of 1910s Albania, Diana must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Mirlinda.

Nearing starvation, Mir
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published March 2nd 2016)
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Kristopher Dukes Janie, thank you so much for asking, and for reading "The Sworn Virgin."

Years ago, I read an article in The New York Times about the last remaining sw…more
Janie, thank you so much for asking, and for reading "The Sworn Virgin."

Years ago, I read an article in The New York Times about the last remaining sworn virgins in the mountains of Albania. Immediately, the basic conflict of "The Sworn Virgin," based on the true tradition, popped into my mind: What happens when you must choose between your love, or your life?

I began researching the culture of the Albanian mountains, learning how traveling into the mountains in 1910, from a Western point of view, was like traveling back thousands of years in time. Understanding the rules of Eleanora's world shaped the context of the characters, and how Eleanora could be true to her time -- but a rebel, as well. (less)

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Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Impressively researched and deftly plotted. One of the pleasures of historical fiction is learning about a new time and place, and here we’re transported to 1910 Albania, where gender roles are rigid and society is ruled by convention. Eleanora, our main character, rebels against gender conventions in a fascinating way, by becoming what’s known as a “sworn virgin,” meaning she’s suddenly treated like a man. One of the difficulties of writing about a place that’s so conventional is how to break f ...more
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
You can read all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.

As a avid reader of historical fiction, I was first attracted to The Sworn Virgin because it introduced me to a subject I knew nothing about – the sworn virgins of Albania. While I’ve read many novels with strong female characters that dared to reject their traditional societal roles, I had never read one set in Albania so that was also a big draw.

When I began the book and learned that Eleanora and her father, Fran, traveled together as healers
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mostly well done story on a tradition I had no clue existed (and sounded really interesting). So when I had the money to get this I pounced, and started reading it the day it came in.

The story kept my attention and I zipped through it pretty quickly.
Loved the setting
Loved that Eleanora was an artist
Liked how the story ended.

I was pissed at the way Eleanora treated Meria... I don't blame her for being angry (I probably would be too... Meria had the best intentions, misguided or not..
Interesting book on the harsh Law [Kanun of Lekë] of the mountain tribes of Albania, from a woman's viewpoint. I had already read Broken April by Ismail Kadare and wanted to compare how the two different genders might have lived under these brutal rules of blood feud and [in this novel] the "correct" deportment of a woman--subservient and second-class. Set in 1910, a feisty girl, Eleanora, a talented artist, and possessed of an independent spirit, dreams of breaking away from this stifling atmos ...more
Sara Sturdivant
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The main character Diana is one of the most relatable characters I have had the chance to read in a stoking. Her perseverance for equality and opportunity for women independence is relentless. In the beginning I was a little confused by the story development of Diana because it was a little unclear but once you get past the fifth chapter everything begins to tie together. At least it did for me. Overall a well written story and I would highly recommend it to all my friends especially those who
Rosemarie Jacobson
A powerful story asking what it means to be a woman and about what it means to be a woman.

Eleanora is like Scarlett O'Hara - you may not alway like her or what she does, but you will respect her strength!

I found the setting fascinating - I have never read anything about Albania before, let alone the remote mountains.

The story ends on a cliff hanger - hoping the author writes the sequel, and soon!
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book sounded promising and interesting, but I hated every character and it was super boring. Diana was one of the most whiny annoying characters ever,and her step mother was just stupid. The big twist was incredibly predictable, and kind of gross haha.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This was a very intriguing book in that I’m not sure that it was like anything else I have read. That being said, I found it very difficult to relate to Eleanora and was frustrated by her decisions to be extremely selfish at times. It was tough, because Eleanora was trying to be an independent and strong woman, but really tripped up multiple times throughout the book. She is quite young, and does manage to grow throughout the story. I was expecting the book to go in a different direction based o ...more
Matt Jacobson
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible story of a woman's strength. The world in which Eleanora struggles sounds to strange to be true, but little details like her not knowing what a fork was, widespread illiteracy, and the rustic architecture and decoration of the homes the characters live in brings this story to life.

It's always fun to read and learn about an otherwise unknown place. Along with learning about life in the remote mountains of Albania, the dramatic story shines through, and I am still wondering where th
Christine C.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a fan of fictional stories with strong female characters, and this one is exceptionally well written. The story was so riveting that I couldn't put the book down once I started to read it. I was very inspired by the strength and courage that Eleanora had. I look forward to reading Ms. Duke's next book. ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"The Sworn Virgin" is the story of Eleanora, a woman who chooses to live as a "sworn virgin," a tradition that will allow her to basically be the master of her own destiny and be in control of her own life as long as she keeps to her promise. But promises are hard to keep and love may find her whether she wants it to or not.

I was very interested in the custom of "sworn virgins" in Albania. It is a concept that I had never heard of before. It's so interesting to me to learn about new customs like
Marlene Rogliano
The Sworn Virgin is beautifully written and leaves you wanting more. I enjoyed Diana's complexities and the interesting Albanian facts which I was unaware of such traditions. The ending was a surprise and I'm looking forward for more of Dukes novels! Hopefully a sequel!! ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Here is something this book does well: its setting, and the culture within which it’s purportedly working, is compelling. The role of the sworn virgin is a fascinating one and should leave a lot of room to really dig into complex ideas about tradition and gender, as well as leaving lots of space for a compelling romance.

Here’s what the book does not do well: fulfilling the promise of the premise.

The pacing in this book is a disaster. Eleanora doesn’t choose to become a sworn virgin until about h
Full review here. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Eleanora is an 18-year-old woman, precocious as all hell, who lives with her father and her step-mother in Albania in the early 20th century. Eleanora's dream is to study art in Italy, a dream that was not commonly held by young women in her mountain village in 1910. Her step-mother has very specific wishes for Eleanora, which involve getting married as a good young woman ought to do, though her father w
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read, won, arc
When Eleanora’s father is killed and her stepmother secretly arranges for Eleanora to marry a cruel man, she takes advantage of an unusual way to avoid it. Eleanora takes the sworn virgin oath; she takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life. In this way, she has the right to live as a man; she becomes the head of her household, can work for a living, can carry a gun. She can participate in the blood feuds of the mountain tribes of Albania and she may not be killed unless she forsa ...more
Janie Carroll
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lover of historical fiction, this is the first for me....Albania. Tradition and laws of the land for this country are shocking to us in the 21st century but fascinating nevertheless. Eleanora's is a strong and resilient woman who perseveres through many adversities. I love this character for always believing in herself and knowing in her heart what she has to do to survive. Ms Dukes has created a well written novel and I see a definite future for this author. I'm very much hoping this will a s ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs-read
I really adored this book.

I firstly want to thank Kristopher Dukes for providing me with a copy of her book (yes, HER. Such a badass name for a badass woman.)

I secondly want to gush about how much I loved this story and how much I loved Eleanora. Let me start by saying that I knew absolutely nothing at all about Albania in the early 20th century. What a cool setting for a book. So original. I knew nothing of the mountain village cultures and the roles that males and females played in society. F
Apex Reviews
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When many think of stories involving blood debts, endless family feuding, and revenge, they often envision a strong male protagonist at the center of it all who eventually comes out as victorious by the end of the tale. But in Kristopher Dukes’ novel, A Sworn Virgin: Broken Promises, the game is changed when a woman, leading not only as the main character in the story, but in her life as well, is forced into facing (and surviving) this type of world on her own.

Dukes’ novel takes place in 1910s
April Paz
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From start to end this book caught my attention, all the details really transported me and helped me visualize all of the surroudings.

I've found it to be incredibly interesting since it details so much of Albania's history and culture back then and the amount of action and drama in it. Being from a Latinamerican background I could relate to Eleonora's fight for her independence. Her determination is inspiring too.

It left me wanting for more...
Tony Parsons
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1910, Albania.
Fast forward; Diana’s (18) father Frenk (Dr., Baba) had been shot/killed.
She had planned on being an artist in Italy.
Mirlinda (Diana’s stepmother, nee Aganis) was devastated also.

Diana had inherited his fancy rifle.
The Thethi tribe & the Gjojika tribe were in a blood feud.
Diana needed to sell some bracelets, so she/Mirlinda could survive.
Diana would also like to pretend to be a man so she can acquire the privileges of that gender.
Diana (aka mountain fairy) confronted Martin (A
Clare O'Beara
I was astonished by how quickly and easily I was swept away to Albania of the early 1900s. The mountain villages are no easy place for women, while men live by a macho code which includes honour killings for revenge. Attractive, talented artist Diana is pampered by her indulgent father with his doctor's income. But sudden tragedy leaves her responsible for herself, with only his rifle.

The mountains have a custom that if a woman swears to be a virgin all her life, she can live as a man, hunt, sh
Lady Willpower
Jul 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Such a waste of time with a story going nowhere. Set in Albania in 1910 based on a girl Eleanora initially portrayed as a spoilt brat under the guidance of her father. She then becomes a 'Sworn Virgin' and starts physically and emotionally abusing her stepmother.
Neither Eleanora nor her stepmother are characters anyone would warm to and to be honest had no interest in their lives. The concept of 'sworn virgin' was interesting but this story ruined it.
Eleanora then takes up with a male stranger
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a free download of this book from Story Cartel, thank you!
This book was a pretty good read for me. I didn't like the very end, as I didn't want the story to end that way. I generally like strong female lead characters, but I found myself not really liking Diana very much by the end.
It was interesting to read about the customs of that time and culture. I think Diana's story would be much different if the story were set in this day and age.
I would recommend this book to others and I wo
This one is a hard one for me to rate, because I liked it a lot….right up until it ended! The ending alone is enough for me to recommend it to book clubs….just so I have someone to discuss it with!

Other than the ending, I really enjoyed the story. It was interesting to read about the tradition of the ‘sworn virgin’ being given the rights of a man. This reminded me a lot of the bacha posh of Afghanistan, which I read about in The Underground Girls of Kabul and The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. The
Thomas Farber
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
So what I really liked the most about the book is the historical background and aspect. It’s rich in detail and sheds a light on the customs in Albania. I loved the descriptions of the setting, the clothing especially and how family life was at the time. Despite that Eleanora lived differently from others in the village, traditions are deep rooted, strong and followed to the exact detail. It’s all about maintaining family honor and if disgraced, the way to gain it back is likely with someone kil ...more
Beth Menendez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. I had no idea this tradition existed in Albania where women can take a vow of chastity and wear men's clothing in order to live life as a man and have their own rights. I loved how strong Eleanora is -- a perfect heroine that's strong as well as strong-willed. The imagery and descriptions by Dukes was so vivid I really loved escaping away into another world. ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel began with such promise! The author did extensive research into a little-known tradition in the mountains of Albania in which a woman could become a "sworn virgin," taking a vow of chastity which granted her (for life) the rights of a man, as long as she did not break her vow.

I imagined that Eleanora would become a strong leader, campaigning for rights for all women, not only sworn virgins, but the author chose another path.

The story begins in 1910 Albania, when Eleanora's father is k
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Kristopher Dukes was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Her work has been profiled in Amazon's Book Review, Kirkus, and Elle magazine.

She lives in Manhattan Beach, California, with her husband, Matt, and Doberman, Xena.

"The Sworn Virgin," published by William Morrow, is her first novel, and was nominated for two awards.

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