For King and Country: The Saga of Thistl...
Maybe you should just read the synopsis first...go on, I'll be back when you're done *taps foot*.
See, the mistake I made was not reading this synopsis first and diving straight into the book based on the cover and the description of the author (don't judge me, I know there are a lot of cover whores out there just like me). Speaking of the cover, Karen designed all the covers of her books herself and I think she did a GREAT job at it! They're original, artsy and nothing like: hey, look, here's a background of a random forest with an even more random picture of a frowning gorgeous girl in front of it. So yes, fabulous!
Back to the synopsis. When I started reading this book, I was totally convinced I was reading Dark Age Fantasy. Mythical creatures in the Scottish highlands...yum! The first 15% was amazing. I even shouted it out on Twitter because I couldn't contain my excitement. Then, all of a sudden, I read:"The largest of them was lifting a set of defibrillator paddles."
To which my reaction was:
*runs to synopsis* AA-HA! Twenty-seventh century post-apocalyptic Scotland!! This was totally my bad because I just wasn't prepared for it, and it took me quite a while to switch my mindset to "Okay, this is taking place in the future".
However, no matter how hard I tried to do this, it still kept confusing me. The combination of medieval equipment and high tech just kept throwing me off. I mean, they're living in a castle and sleeping in stone cells with a chamber pot, yet when they get out of bed, they switch on the (electric!) lights and take a modern shower. I just could not wrap my head around that, and it distracted the heck out of me during the second part of the story (roughly from 15-50%).
After that, either I got better at finally putting things into perspective, or the story just got better again *shrugs*. You'll have to read it yourself to become the judge of that.
Besides there being a lot of horses or horselike creatures in this book, most of the characters also have a familiar, usually in the form of a mythical beast. I absolutely loved those, especially Rannoch, Mòrag's half unicorn/half lion (well, maybe not exactly because it's a bit more complicated when it comes to their gene pools, but at least you'll get some sort of image of what he looks like). I certainly hope to see more of him in the second book!
When it comes to the other characters, the female ones are definitely the most interesting. When Karen told me her female characters are literally strong, instead of the metaphorically 'strong', I was fascinated right away, and the elaboration of the characters did not disappoint.
There's Mòrag, the protagonist of the story, of course, whom I can really appreciate for not being a wuss and doing what she thinks is right while disregarding any form of authority over her. Yet my favourite character would be General Rozzen. She reminded me a little of How To Train Your Dragon
's 'Big Boobied Bertha' even though her physique was nothing like it. Just a strong woman in all ways who won't take shit from anyone, yet always remains fair and good-natured at the same time.
Somewhere around 85% of the book, the romantic part unfolds. This was very predictable in the Cinderella sense of romance, and not my cup of tea, which was too bad because I just felt like I was back on track again. Thankfully, the ending was less predictable, even though I had to read it a few times to fully makes sense of what on earth was happening there.
So all in all, there were some pretty awesome things and some not-so-awesome things in this book for me. I was really fascinated by the mind link system which is used to communicate telepathically, but can also be used for other things. I guess if I have to describe it, it's a bit like the Force in Star Wars. You can heal, help and fight with it, but if you cross over to the dark side, you can also totally destroy someone just by using your mind. Very cool!
The story entails some beautiful pieces to a puzzle, yet I feel like they've been smashed together with a hammer sometimes just to make them fit. Scenes merging without a natural flow to it is something which I felt occurred quite a few times as well. I still enjoyed reading this book, though, and will rate it with 3 brownies accordingly. I'm very curious about book two now and hoping the pieces to a beautiful puzzle will make for a better fit!
Highly recommended for horse lovers: if you love horses, you're most likely going to love this book!A big thank you to Karen Gray for providing me with a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review!