When I read and reviewed the first book in Santa Montefiore's Deverill Chronicles Trilogy, The Girl in the Castle, I knew this was a series I was going to love! Grand historic details and settings and dramatic situations made this a family saga that I couldn't get enough of. When the second book in the series, The Daughters of Ireland, came up for review I jumped at the chance to read it. What had happened to Kitty and Celia Deverill, Bridie Doyle, and Jack O'Leary since we left them? Had Jack and Kitty found a way to be together? Had Bridie found happiness? Jumping into this world was once again a delicious experience as so many secrets came to light and our beloved characters' search for personal vengeance and/or happiness lead them down some unexpected paths.
The Daughters of Ireland picks up shortly after The Girl in the Castle ended and thrusts us right back into the hearts and minds of the Deverills and the people of Ballinakelly, the small village in Ireland where so much of this story takes place. While I will of course recommend anyone new to the series read the first book first - why not, it's wonderful! - it isn't required as Montefiore does an excellent job of summarizing what happened in the previous installment for those new to the series (or, like me, who might have forgotten some of what happened). Once again I was amazed to see how much detail and attention was given to the various storylines going on with our characters and how epic this story felt even though it only spanned about 13 years. When I was through I was amazed so much had happened within such a small amount of time!
I don't want to say too much about the plot as I might accidentally give something away, however I will say that none of these characters seem to quite get what they want, or what they believe they want anyways. There are so many emotions being battered around between them and so much anger or jealousy or pride that they end up hurting each other in some horrible ways, which doesn't end up giving them the satisfaction they thought they would have. Being the middle book of a trilogy there really isn't a huge amount of resolution of these larger issues and some of these characters come off quite badly at times, but what I enjoyed most of all were the new voices that got mixed into the already well-liked players and the promise of further development of their storylines in the third book, The Last Secret of the Deverills, which recently released in the UK and which I hope comes out in the US very soon.
Being that the historical details of historical fiction are typically my favorite parts, I'm somewhat surprised to say that my favorite part of this historical fiction novel were the supernatural elements. One of the central storylines of this series is the fact that the Deverills are living under a curse placed on the first Lord Deverill by the witch Maggie O'Leary, which dictates that no Lord Deverill will ever leave the castle until an O'Leary once again owns the land. What this means is that every single Lord Deverill that has died has been trapped within the walls of the castle. And we get to see and hear what is going on with them! We also get to see the last Lady Deverill, Kitty's grandmother Adeline, who has passed away and refuses to move on until she does what she can to influence those still alive to break the curse. I really enjoyed Adeline in the last novel (when she was very much alive for most of it) so was very happy to see her still play a part in the story development. Something else that I found fascinating were the short chapters sprinkled throughout that sent us back to the late 1600s and let us watch the events unfold that would inevitably bring about the curse on the Deverills.
Finally, as with the first novel, The Daughters of Ireland is bursting with beautiful details not only about the settings but about the customs and culture of this time period, especially when it comes to the advancements in America. Think flapper girls, speakeasies, and mobsters, which make quite the interesting foil for the more old-fashioned and traditional world the characters inhabit in Ireland.
The Daughters of Ireland is a beautifully written edition to the Deverill Chronicle series. While I didn't love it quite as much as The Girl in the Castle (it would be hard for me to love a book that more advances the story then really starts or finishes anything as much) I still did love it and enjoyed seeing how these characters moved and changed over these years. As I said above, I think I'm most excited to see where the new characters we have been introduced to will go in the final novel in the series and really can't wait to get my hands on it! Excellent historical fiction with a little bit (or a lot) for anyone to enjoy. ...more
I really enjoyed Ella Joy Olsen's debut novel, Root, Petal, Thorn, when I reviewed it last year and, reading back over that review, I'm amazed at how similar I feel about this newest novel. Olsen has this amazing way of pulling you in by your emotions and sensitivities and slightly battering your heart before giving it a little balm of hope and forgiveness. Where the Sweet Bird Sings once again deals with a woman facing the unthinkable and trying to find her way - with some stumbling - down the path she was meant to travel.
From page one Olsen fairly gutted me with the particular heartbreak our main character, Emma, was going through. The loss of a child is one tragedy that no one wants to even think about for fear that it will happen to them, and Olsen makes you face it and ride along as her characters try to work their way out of the devastation and destruction the tragedy naturally seems to bring about. Topping this off with the death of her beloved grandfather and, when cleaning out his home, the discovery that he might not have been who she thought he was and, therefore, that SHE might not be who she thought she was, is almost too much to think of one person facing at one time. However, face it Emma and her family must and it was quite interesting watching the mysteries and revelations unfold on Emma's quest of discovery.
My favorite aspect of the story would have to be the time given to the DNA and genetic discussion not only surrounding her son's disease - one that her and her husband carried within them and gave to their son - but that of her family history and the hidden secrets within their shared cells. When I was in college I found these topics fascinating and that appeal resurfaced when reading Where the Sweet Bird Sings. This also became the jumping off point for Emma's journey to discovery and what drove the mysteries at the heart of the story.
Something else that I very much enjoyed and which I wasn't expecting was the reappearance of some of the characters I so enjoyed in Root, Petal, Thorn. I don't want to say too much here as it's so much fun to discover surprise connections between books and I don't want to ruin that for anyone, but I will say that I didn't expect the connections between these two novels and was delighted to see one character in particular pop back up again and let us see how she was doing.
Speaking of characters, while I did enjoy the people introduced in Where the Sweet Bird Sings, I have to say that I didn't love them as much as those I found in Olsen's debut novel. I found Emma, at times, to be quite selfish, irrational, and wishy-washy, especially when it came to her trying to decide how to proceed - or not - with her husband. He, on the other hand, was so patient and caring that it made it even harder to not want to shake Emma up and demand she stop looking inside herself and look outward at what she was going to lose if she didn't work through her indecisiveness more quickly. Being someone who tends to be happy and content with what I have I just couldn't relate to Emma's tendencies to change her mind on the slightest whim.
Slightly frustrating characters aside, Where the Sweet Bird Sings in a beautiful and heartfelt novel about loss, grief, and discovery of self when it seems like that is the last thing that can ever be discovered. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a story that makes you dig into your own feelings and fears and work through those emotions as the story progresses. Ella Joy Olsen is definitely an author to enjoy!...more