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Game of Thrones is Fantasy, there is no doubt of that, yet its connection with history – the comparison to Hadrian’s Wall, the Wars of the Roses et al is just too close to ignore. Occasionally other such novels crop up. They are not history: there is no historical setting, no historical time or place. Not even any historical characters, yet when reading, the narrative is so expertly written that it feels as if it should be historical. For The Scribe’s Daughter, this is one of the rare times when we here at Discovering Diamonds step away from our accepted genre and review a novel because it is too good to not review.
The Scribe's Daughter is an incredible first novel, well polished and well presented, an excellent example of independent, self publishing. If only all Indies could be this good there would be no more quibbles about the, often sneered-at, status of being an indie author. It is also an example of why traditional publishing houses rarely pick this sort of book up - because it is too much of a 'round peg' to fit into the mainstream's somewhat narrow marketing 'square peg'.
Kassia is living a hand-to-mouth existence with her sister in the capital city of a kingdom she calls home. A thief by necessity, Kassia just about manages to keep her landlord happy and her sister protected. But everything changes when a well-dressed stranger gives her an outlandish amount of money to undertake work that she cannot do. She is not such a thief that she takes the money without attempting to learn the skills she needs to do the work. And when an even more well-dressed stranger steps in and buys her a horse, her world will never be the same again.
The author of his novel struggles to place it in a genre but for me it sits nicely in Fantasy, accepting that fantasy is a very wide genre and not all fantasy has to include dragons and raising the dead. There is no Game of Thrones-style magic, but there is intrigue and plot aplenty. The reader is taken on a journey by Kassia and just as she is unsure of everything, so is the reader - not sure who is on which side, not sure even what the sides are, and nothing can be taken for granted.
The first person narrative flows beautifully, so beautifully that when reading it I forgot it was an indie book and I forgot it was a review book, and not one I picked up for myself.
And the version I read included a piece of the sequel to this novel, and that in itself leaves one gasping for more - but no spoilers here except to say I can't wait to read it.
If you like George R.R. Martin and Sarah J. Maas, this is absolutely for you. Definitely a brilliant diamond of a discovery!
Now and again, Discovering Diamonds chooses to review a book which is not strictly Historical Fiction, yet nevertheless has all the elements of the genre, such as Fantasy-based stories. And I'm glad that we do because otherwise I may not have come across The Scribe's Daughter by Stephanie Churchill.
Kassia and Irisa are sisters, orphans scrubbing a living in a big city. Irisa is the quiet one, but Kassia, whose story this is, is the loud and streetwise one, stealing food or money from the markets to supplement their meagre income making and selling trinkets. Until one day a rich man brings some bracelets he would like repaired. Kassia does not question why they should have been chosen: a substantial (to them) amount of money has been offered and taken. Unable to fulfil the request immediately, Kassia decides to travel to a nearby deserted mining town in search of a forge where she can do her work.
And here she meets Rem and his son, handsome Jack and the lives of the sisters changes forever.
This is a beautifully written book, with rich and powerful descriptions of people and places that make you feel that you are there; yet they do not intrude on the pace of the story but add to the tension as it build throughout the tale. I loved the way that Kassia gives nicknames to the people she meets when she does not know their names: Lackey Man, Smug Man and so on. Kassia is an admirable heroine – feisty, brave and very down-to-earth.
There are many facets to this story and I don't want to give too much away, but it is also one of political intrigue, many dangers for Kassia and her companions and an ending that you will not see coming and that leads neatly to a sequel – though this is demonstrably a stand alone in it's own right.
Very highly recommended
© Richard Tearle
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