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Search tags: historical-fantasy
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review 2019-01-16 22:09
What Angels Fear / C.S. Harris
What Angels Fear - C.S. Harris

It's 1811, and the threat of revolution haunts the upper classes of King George III's England. Then a beautiful young woman is found raped and savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient church near Westminster Abbey. A dueling pistol discovered at the scene and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experience in the Napoleonic Wars.

Now a fugitive running for his life, Sebastian calls upon his skill as an agent during the war to catch the killer and prove his own innocence. In the process, he accumulates a band of unlikely allies, including the enigmatic beauty Kat Boleyn, who broke Sebastian's heart years ago. In Sebastian's world of intrigue and espionage, nothing is as it seems, yet the truth may hold the key to the future of the British monarchy, as well as to Sebastian's own salvation...

 

Perhaps a 3.5 star book?

Certainly good, but maybe not exactly my cup of tea. Probably because of the time period, which so many people seem to adore. I, however, have a complicated relationship with the time of carriages, cloaks, dueling pistols, and severe class distinctions.

I also went into this expecting a paranormal angle of some sort, which was completely off base. Yes, our hero, Sebastian St. Cyr, has a couple of special abilities, but as the author explains at book’s end, this is from a documented genetic condition, not a paranormal cause.

If you enjoyed this book or this time period, I would recommend Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia or Veronica Speedwell series. Also try E.L. Tettensor’s Nicolas Lenoir duology or The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod. These last two have distinct paranormal aspects, which made them preferable for my reading tastes.

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review 2018-12-31 22:47
The Leper of St. Giles / Ellis Peters
The Leper of Saint Giles - Ellis Peters

A savage murder interrupts an ill-fated marriage set to take place at Brother Cadfael's abbey, leaving the monk with a terrible mystery to solve. The key to the killing is hidden among the inhabitants of the Saint Giles leper colony, and Brother Cadfael must ferret out a sickness not of the body, but of a twisted mind.

 

I do love Brother Cadfael and his calm ways of solving the mysteries of his community. It helps that he has been a man of the world and has experience that those who took Holy orders early in their lives are missing. His knowledge of the behaviour of his fellow man, both positive and negative, makes him uniquely qualified in the monastery to undertake these investigations.

I wonder if a medieval Abbott would truly be so accepting of Cadfael’s adventures, but they make an excellent story series, so I’m glad that Peters came up with the idea. I love the way that she documents the details of daily life during this time period, and gently teaches the reader a bit of history along the way. A very pleasurable way to expand one’s knowledge.

I’ll look forward to reading the further adventures of the good Brother and learning more when I pick up the next book in the series.

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review 2018-12-14 16:09
12 Days at Bleakley Manor / Michelle Griep
12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas - Michelle Griep

When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, BENJAMIN LANE.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

 

A sweet Christmas story, easily read in one evening. It’s a combination of historical fantasy, Gothic romance, and mystery story, set in a big ole English edifice, Bleakly Manor. Me thinks it owes a bit to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, as a number of people are anonymously invited to the Manor for the 12 Days of Christmas with promises of rewards should they stay the full 12 days. Their host is not in evidence and the rules quickly change: only one guest will get the reward, the person who makes it to the 12th day. Things quickly begin to happen, eliminating guests by choice & by happenstance.

The Gothic romance aspect involves the two main characters, Clara Chapman and her former fiancé Benjamin Lane. Clara considers herself abandoned at the altar and left penniless. Ben has to be rescued from prison, where he has been merely surviving, wondering why Clara hasn’t come looking for him. The mystery includes deducing who has done this to them and why. Clara is your classic Gothic heroine, orphaned, poor, and separated from her love by a grave problem.

There are interesting details involving the Victorian celebration of Christmas and a seasonally appropriate message about caring for others and the nature of love.

If you’re looking for a cozy Christmas mystery, you could do much worse that 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

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review 2018-10-25 16:19
Grave Mercy / Robin LaFevers
Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

 

My book club’s November selection--it was a lot of fun. It may have suffered a bit in my reading experience because it followed right on the heels of an exceptional book, Daughter of the Forest. By contrast, I found the premise and the plot fun and entertaining in Grave Mercy, but the writing was not quite as lovely.

But still, who can resist a convent dedicated to the old god/saint Mortain (Death)? The concept of a convent teaching assassination skills tickled me right from the beginning. The main character, Ismae, is straight from the turnip farm and begins the adventure tremendously naïve, but she orients herself quickly. I loved her self-confidence and willingness to make difficult decisions.

Best of all, I loved her evolution from the rule-following novice to a woman who learns to trust her own brains. She figures out who the real traitor is and deals with the situation without help or guidance from the Abbess. Ismae’s understanding of Mortain develops and grows with her, as she comes to understand that the old god desires more for his followers, not just simple obedience. He wants them to use their heads and their hearts too.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-18 15:00
DNF- So Much Wangst, So Little Action and Immersion

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

 

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I tried to get into this one and struggled for literally months to finish it, but I give up. This book doesn't hold my attention at all.

 

What intrigued me to pick it up forces me to put it down. Tying the Guy Fawkes legend into an urban fantasy Victorian/Gregorian English setting is an appealing idea, but the lack of urgency in the story, the endless inner monologues and piecemeal explanation for what Color Magic is all about and why there's such trouble between the differing factions will have you losing interest fast.

 

A big letdown for me was the characterization, especially Emma. While the whiny, emo protagonist Thomas was bad enough- granted he had a sense of urgency with his condition, but that only seemed to come whenever the author arbitrarily decided she needed to insert some drama- Emma almost felt like a betrayal. Maybe I missed something, but the sudden reveal of Emma as a black woman killed any further interest I had. It felt cheap & forced, especially when there was not even a hint to this beforehand, so why the deception? To make Thomas seem more sympathetic and juxtapose the rivals/bad guys as more eeeevil. When you club your readers upside the head with cheap tricks to try and make them feel for the characters, you've lost.

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