20 July 2019

The Weekend

No reviews posted at the weekends - 
why not browse some of the titles you may have missed?


A good article every Indie writer should read
by Alison Morton

A Book Reviewer's Frustration
or 
how to present your book properly to a reviewer
click here 

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19 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of THE GHOST GARDEN Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead

The Ghost Garden (The de Chastelaine Chronicles Book 1)

"With vampires, imprisoned spirits good and bad, and a haunted rose garden, this is a Gothic romp of a novel complete with light versus dark, love and loss, and revenge."

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
 (The de Chastelaine Chronicles Book 1)

Supernatural
1920s
England

In 1925, Cecily James, lonely wife of the brutal and austere headmaster of Whitmore School, attempts to contact the spirit of her brother, killed at Ypres ten years before, through a séance. Instead she encounters Isabella, a 17th century inhabitant of Whitmore Hall, who was condemned to death by her own husband for a crime she didn’t commit.

At the same time a malevolent force, which has long affected the dominant males of the house, gains strength, and Cecily’s marriage takes a turn for the worse. Into the strained atmosphere comes Rafael de Chastelaine, a replacement Latin master, who is a far better gardener than he is a Latin scholar.
Kindred spirits, Raf and Cecily learn Isabella’s story and vow to release her from her entrapment, though that seems to enrage the evil that occupies the clock tower, and what starts as a fight for one ghost becomes a bid to reunite two long-dead lovers, and to destroy the darkness which threatens Cecily and the entire school.

With vampires, imprisoned spirits good and bad, and a haunted rose garden, this is a Gothic romp of a novel complete with light versus dark, love and loss, and revenge. The creeping sense of evil is very well portrayed, and the conclusion satisfying. The relationship between Raf and Cecily is full of humour (though Cecily’s discussion of a cache of ‘saucy’ love letters verges on the unnecessary and inappropriate for the scene), and their willingness to fight for and alongside each other promises well for the continuation of the series. 

Be aware that there are sexual descriptions, and some violence.


© Lorraine Swoboda




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18 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of ALTDORF: THE FOREST KNIGHTS by J K SWIFT

ALTDORF: The Forest Knights: Book 1

"
I enjoyed this book; the action is pretty much non-stop and the characters, especially Thomas, are well structured and thought out."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

Book One

Fictional Saga/adventure
14th Century
Switzerland

All Thomas wants is a quiet life. He and his companions have been at war in the Holy Land for nigh on thirty years in the service of the Knights of St John. Together they return to their homeland and go their separate ways. Only the giant, Pirmin, remains with him.
.
Thomas has bought a ferry service that crosses the lake for whomsoever needs it and he and Pirmin set about restoring it. Pirmin is a restless character and soon finds good lodging at the local inn, his board paid for by his work on the innkeeper's behalf. Here he meets the outlaw Noll Melchthal, young and charismatic. Thomas will have nothing to do with the fugitive and is now rarely seen in the village. Seraina is a druid priestess with healing gifts and other powers.

Meanwhile, in Hapsburg, Prince Leopold, younger brother of King Frederick, has plans of his own. He intends to build a fortress at Altdorf, near the village, for there will be profit in both trade and tolls for him. All these characters will come together in J K Swift's exciting tale which has its foundations in the (probable) myth of William Tell.

I enjoyed this book; the action is pretty much non-stop and the characters, especially Thomas, are well structured and thought out. One or two little niggles with anachronistic vocabulary that would not have been known in those days, but this did not spoil the overall feel of the book. The ending is complete with no loose ends; nevertheless, there is a sequel and I look forward to reading it to discover what happens next!

© Richard Tearle


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17 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of SERENITY SONG by Finn Dervan

Serenity Song

"We see the story of the policeman's murder unfold through the eyes of the men who were responsible and the portrayal of those people and the times are vividly and convincingly recorded."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


 Thriller
1920s and Present Day
Ireland and Glasgow
Historical Fiction

History teacher James Lucas buys a book as a reference for his lessons, a book written by a self-confessed IRA terrorist during the years following World War One. The author describes how he murdered an evil RIC policeman; a man whom James recognises as his great grandfather, a man whom he knows little about because the family have always been tight-lipped about this particular ancestor. Suddenly suspended from school thanks to an inadvisable and false Instagram image of him and a former student, James has the perfect opportunity to investigate the claims of Brendan O'Rourke, author of the book.

Leaving his wife at their home in Yorkshire, James travels to Ireland and the town where the murder took place. But his enquiries do not go unnoticed, even when his investigations take him to Belfast and later Glasgow.

We see the story of the policeman's murder unfold through the eyes of the men who were responsible and the portrayal of those people and the times are vividly and convincingly recorded. The cause they fought for is neither condemned nor exonerated; it is as it was. The ripples that James causes spread to modern day Glasgow and put not only James' life in danger, but also that of his wife.

So we have a tense thriller dealing with a still sensitive subject. My only quibble was that I felt that some of the loose ends concerning the Glasgow segment were not really cleared up satisfactorily enough. Nevertheless, the  action is fast, the characters more than convincing, the plot well researched and neatly divided between the two time spans.

© Richard Tearle


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16 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Black Camp 21 by Bill Jones

Black Camp 21

"
This book is historical fiction with a capital ‘H’. It’s a fictionalised account of the end of the Second World War in Europe, of the camps in Britain where German military prisoners were held, and of the persistence of fanatical self-delusion that refused to die in the minds of the captured SS."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


Family Drama
WWII 1945
Europe

"All over Britain, POW camps are filling up with defeated German soldiers. Every day, thousands more pour in on ships from France. But only the most dangerous are sent to Camp 21 - 'black' prisoners - SS diehards who've sworn death before surrender. Nothing will stop their war, unless it's a bullet. As one fanatic plots a mass breakout and glorious march on London, Max Hartmann dreams of the oath he pledged to the teenage bride he scarcely knows and the child he's never met. Where do his loyalties really lie? To Hitler or to the life he left behind in the bombed ruins of his homeland? Beneath the wintry mountains, in the hell of Black Camp 21, suspicion and fear swirl around like the endless snow. And while the Reich crumbles - and his brutal companions plan their assault - Max's toughest battle is only just beginning"

This book is historical fiction with a capital ‘H’. It’s a fictionalised account of the end of the Second World War in Europe, of the camps in Britain where German military prisoners were held, and of the persistence of fanatical self-delusion that refused to die in the minds of the captured SS. These were young men who dreamed of a Nazi resurgence that could rescue the War, even beyond D-day and in spite of Hitler’s death. The story is told mainly through the eyes of a fictional character. It builds to a brutal act that, by its nature, exposed and illustrated the mindset of those SS prisoners in a way that mere words could never do.

The book is well written (although with some temporal confusion at the start and a somewhat cavalier attitude to point of view in places.) There are some rather gory scenes, so perhaps not for the sensitive or squeamish reader.

In an early scene, two friends meet after a long separation. One says to the other: ‘I met the Führer, Max. He spoke to me.’ A kernel of subtext that tells us everything we need to know about the speaker.

The book pulls no punches. I found certain passages in the early chapters reminiscent of Sven Hassel’s uncompromising accounts. I recommend this book as historical fiction, but also as a solid account of a little-known post-war episode in British history.

As an interesting read it is quite brilliant.

© J J Toner


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15 July 2019

A Perfect Stone by S. C. Karakaltsas

shortlisted for Book of the Month 


A Perfect Stone

"
This is a fictional story but based on actual events, and the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society, without ever becoming maudlin."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


family drama
20th /21st century A dual time line 
Greece  / Australia 

Nine-year-old Dimitri is exposed to the senseless brutalities of war when his father is taken away to prison for no apparent fault. Later he becomes one of thousands of children forcibly removed from their homes to save them from becoming victims of the Greek civil war. Accompanied by a few brave women, Dimitri and his friends make a gruelling trek through the mountains without adequate food, clothing or shelter and are exposed to bombs dropped from “blackbirds” as well as the risk of a chance encounter with soldiers who might or might not be sympathetic. The heroism and compassion of the children is awe-inspiring but never defies belief.

The story of the trek and Dimitri’s assimilation into a new life in a new country is told in the memoirs of Jim, an octogenarian of failing memory, who nevertheless retains a sense of humour. After a stroke puts Jim in hospital, his over-protective daughter, Helen, helps him to confront a past he has hidden and overcome a guilt he has carried for decades.

This is a fictional story but based on actual events, and the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society, without ever becoming maudlin.

I didn’t know there was a Greek civil war. And although I vaguely understood that children were sometimes evacuated for their own safety, I never gave a thought to how those children felt about being separated from their parents and how they may have suffered in other ways. I now know that P.T.S.D. is not confined to soldiers.

This book is the best kind of historical novel: engaging, enlightening and thought-provoking. Kudos to the author for a well-told tale.

© Susan Appleyard
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13 July 2019

The Weekend

No reviews posted at the weekends - 
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12 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The White Knight by JJ Toner

GooThe White Knight: A Kommissar Saxon Story

"T
his novel is absolutely worth the time to read. A gripping story with plenty of twists and turns, it is a careful portrait of the controlling powers in Germany just before the Second World War. "

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

Mystery
1936
Germany

I had been a fan of Kommisar Roland Saxon since reading Zugwang so I leapt at the chance to read more of this brilliant character.

Saxon, a police commissioner in Munich, is seconded to Berlin to help out with security for the 1936 Olympic Games. His predecessor has mysteriously vanished and he is unsure why or where he's gone. The Third Reich are in control and signs of what is to come are already visible, the cleansing of the streets of undesirables just the start. Saxon does as he's told in arresting vagabonds, prostitutes and other people who can't account for their presence, and is required to send them to what is a concentration camp, but his interpretation of the law differs to his SS colleagues and he is not at all convinced that the detainees will ever see freedom again. When people start to go missing and letters from The White Knight are being hand-delivered to the police, Saxon starts to get suspicious and he reasons that maybe all is not as it seems. He must tread carefully or he may suffer the same fate as his predecessor.

Although not quite as polished as Zugwang (I spotted a few typos), this novel is absolutely worth the time to read. A gripping story with plenty of twists and turns, it is a careful portrait of the controlling powers in Germany just before the Second World War. The layers of authority are mind-boggling and would be hilarious if it were not accurate and the precursor to full Nazi control and a police state, so many different police authorities and the army, all vying for importance, myriad uniforms and titles. 

Despite the setting and the connotations that one wants to draw, this is not pro-Nazi in any way. It, instead, highlights that ordinary Germans were over-taken by a minority that forced themselves on the public, that not everyone agreed with Nazi party policies; many tried to get away, and that the Jews were persecuted even at the Games. Saxon may be German, but he's no Nazi. He is a police officer who cares for the right of law but wielded with a gloved hand, with humanity that he finds lacking in the Gestapo and the SS that he's forced to work with.

With the D-Day commemorations still vibrating as I write this, it was a timely read, a reminder that it was ordinary Germans who suffered first and many liked what was happening to their country no more than the Allies. 

A great read, thought-provoking, startling even, and a great story that really engages.

© Nicky Galliers




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11 July 2019

Lantern for the Dark by Jessica Stirling

Good Reads Revisited


Lantern For The Dark: Book One (Frederick and Clare)

" I really enjoyed this book. There is a fair amount of 'author's voice' but it is used to wicked, delicious effect as Stirling describes the vast array of characters who come and go but, crucially, who also have a part to play"

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


Mystery
1700/1800s
Scotland

In Georgian Glasgow, a seventeen-year-old mother stands trial for her life...
Clare Kelso has been locked in the Tolbooth, accused of murdering her own infant son. The baby's father has vanished and she has no one to turn to.
Maverick lawyer Cameron Adams, summoned from Edinburgh to defend the guilty, soon comes to believe that the frail girl who refuses to defend herself could be a murderer's second victim.
The key to the truth lies with Frederick Striker. Gambler, seducer, adventurer, he alone can save Clare from the gallows. If he wishes to . . .

And then we rewind. The opening pages of the book are set in the prison but then we are taken back to the time when Frederick Striker appears in Glasgow and gradually we see the effect he has not just on Clare's life, but the wider society. I really enjoyed this book. There is a fair amount of 'author's voice' but it is used to wicked, delicious effect as Stirling describes the vast array of characters who come and go but, crucially, who also have a part to play in the seemingly irrevocably-tangled plot. However, the plot does unravel, slowly and satisfyingly and the final revelation was a total surprise. For some time I had been trying to work out 'whodunnit' and was genuinely at a loss to guess. The book is peppered with people from high society (with high and low morals!), petty criminals, innocent victims and those out for revenge. Acerbic comments and one-liners abound, and the historical setting is very well-drawn. Witty, but full of drama and pathos, this is a great read. So much so that I am currently about three chapters into the sequel.


© Annie Whitehead


Good Reads Revisited


Have you an 'old favourite' historical novel? 
Send #DDRevs a review and we'll post it!
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Our Occasional ON This Day Fact

on this day, E. B. White was born
author of the wonderful children's book Charlotte's Web
first published in 1952.

A Book well ahead of its time
for it was sending text messages via the web...

Charlotte’s Web


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10 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Earl of Huntingdon by NB Dixon

Earl of Huntingdon (Outlaw's Legacy Book 3)

"It’s always fun to read a re-imagining of any beloved story, and to see it done in a way that is socially relevant is a treat. "

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA

Romance/ LGBT
12th Century
England

Earl of Huntingdon is the third in the Outlaw’s Legacy series, a re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend by NB Dixon. In this installation, Robin of Huntingdon, formerly of Locksley, is an earl, a former outlaw pardoned by King Richard for his lawless ways. He had married Marian, the heiress of Huntingdon, though his heart was given to one of his companions, Will Scathelock. Now, years later, Robin is facing an old enemy from his Crusading days, Roger of Doncaster, who had been promised to Marian in his youth and never forgave her or Robin for coercing her marriage to Robin instead. Roger is determined to do all he can to destroy Robin, whose only solace now is in the arms of the man whose heart he broke.

The action begins with a new group of outlaws in Sherwood. The difference here is that these outlaws are truly bad people, raping, pillaging, and plundering from the innocent. The new sheriff of Nottingham, Matthew Picard, is as inept as Guy of Gisbourne ever could have been, and does nothing to stop them. Robin takes matters into his own hands and dispatches the outlaws himself with the aid of his loyal men...and Will Scathelock. However, the outlaws were connected to a spy in Robin’s midst working with Roger of Doncaster to bring Robin down and killing the outlaws sets in motion a chain of events neither Robin nor his men could have anticipated.

This was an utterly unstoppable read. While I confess I’ll read just about anything labelled “Robin Hood,” that doesn’t mean all such are actually well written or entertaining; Earl of Huntingdon, however, is both. I enjoyed the rich historical details, such as the training the men did in the lists and at the tiltyard, or the ways in which castles could be besieged. Adding in the historical details in this way make these novels, which are based on legend, spring to life, making it seem that much more possible that people like Robin Hood really could have existed.

The characters were all interesting and well developed. I loved how very human Robin was - he was conflicted in wanting to do right by Marian and by what I think was his genuine affection for her, but also his desire for Will and wanting to be with the man he truly loves. He isn’t a perfect person, and never tries to be, and it makes him that much more believable.

Marian is not always likeable and her reasons are understandable. She’s endured many losses and suffered a lot of heartache, which makes her rather shrewish at first. We get to know her more as the book goes on and I grew to like her more. Having Marian be less likeable than she often is in more traditional versions makes this novel compelling and more relatable - it reminds readers that she is a woman of her time and subject to the whims of the men in charge of her, and yet she has endured it all as best she can.

All the secondary characters - Will, John Little, Tuck, John’s wife Daphne, Alan a Dale, and so on - have distinct personalities and foibles of their own. Daphne in particular is a woman to be reckoned with. She’s awesome, even though her role in this novel was relatively minor.

Roger of Doncaster is a complex antagonist. He is so incredibly hateful towards Robin that, without having read the previous books, I am left to wonder if he is supposed to have been closeted. He hates Robin and other gay men so much, and bases his hatred for them in his religious devotions, that it makes me wonder if the hatred isn’t really supposed to be a projection of his own self-loathing. That possibility wasn’t really addressed in this book, but it did make me wonder as I was reading.

My only quibble, and it is minor, is that a couple of the secondary antagonists are a little stereotypical. Picard, for example, is very good at being a stupid fop and not much else. It makes him a rather boring antagonist because he is one-dimensional. There didn’t seem to be much else going for him. Again, this is a minor issue and didn’t detract from the rest of the plot overall, other than it made a few things a little predictable.

It’s always fun to read a re-imagining of any beloved story, and to see it done in a way that is socially relevant is a treat. It brings new discussion into the mix and raises a lot of interesting new questions to the traditional story everyone is familiar with. The chemistry between Robin and Will is unmistakable and fierce, but not over the top. As a non-reader of romance in general, I appreciate it when the romance isn’t actually smacking me in the face. The romance and sex in this novel were, I felt, very nicely done for both the gay and hetero couples.

I do feel I would have enjoyed the book even more had I read the previous two in the series. However, I do not feel like I was lost, plot-wise, for having missed them. Enough of the backstory was given so that any gaping plot holes were filled in, though I do feel like I missed out. I enjoyed the book enough that I went and purchased the first two in the series. Even without having read the first two in the series, I still happily recommend this book even as it is, and am looking forward to reading the whole series in order.

© Kristen McQuinn


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9 July 2019

CORONACH by Kimberley Jordan Reeman

shortlisted for Book of the Month


Coronach

"I found it difficult to put this book down such was the hold it had on me. Everyone and everything was real. "

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

Epic/family drama
 1700s
Scotland and Jamaica


"SCOTLAND, JULY 1746: an army of occupation ravages the Highlands, committing atrocities with consequences that will reverberate across generations. From this bloody cataclysm, the battle-hardened English soldier Mordaunt saves an infant who will become his heiress and his obsession, and on his shattered estate a traumatised Franco-Scottish laird, Ewen Stirling, offers refuge to a boy damaged by unspeakable horror. These lives, bound by fate, unfold against the turbulence of the eighteenth century in a magnificent, uncompromising saga of love and the human cost of war."

Scotland is savagely destroyed and The Clearances begin. Mordaunt is a Lt Colonel and Ewen Stirling is a minor laird who escapes the atrocities that Mordaunt witnesses and, indeed, in which he partakes. Both of these men take in children who have survived – Margaret to Mordaunt and Malcolm for Stirling. In time, the paths of those children will cross. 

Malcolm is a bit of a tearaway, but eventually settles to administrate his adopted father's lands, alongside James, Ewen's true son. There is little love between them. Margaret is taken to the north of England, but, upon hearing of the circumstances of her adoption, she returns to Glen Sian to seek her father. She and Malcolm meet and eventually marry. To say more would spoil the plot.

I have categorised this as 'Epic' and indeed it is. The stories of these characters is told over a period of some 45 years, the landscapes sweeping and the writing consummate with that description. 
  
It is almost a cliché to say that I lived in those cold climes of the Highlands when the action was set there, that I cared immensely for the welfare of the main characters, but the honest truth is that I truly did. Sitting, reading,  in the warm sunshine of my garden, I would shiver when winter reached Glen Sian, the fictional setting for most of the book.

The standard of the writing encompasses the vast spectrum of the English language; the thoughts of each character are written with depth and thought, confirming the characters of each of them. For the most part, it is Margaret's story and her passages are written in the first person whilst all else is in third person.

Which leads me to what may be off-putting to some potential readers: there is a lot of head hopping and in many cases it is unclear for a while as to which character is being featured – only Margaret's contributions are obvious. Some characters are absent for long periods of  time and one can tend to forget what has happened to them in the past. The book is very long indeed – just shy of 800 pages in paperback, yet I struggled to find any natural breaks where separate volumes could be ended or begun, such is the fluidity of the story. Having said that, there was one section that might have been transferred to a further volume as the location and introduction of new characters came as a surprise and, for me, a bit of a ponder about 'why' for a time.

Nor is this a book for the squeamish or sensitive. The violence in the first section of the book is extreme, frequent and very graphic. Also, the sexual scenes throughout may cause discomfort to some readers. Not that these are gratuitous (in my view) as sometimes we need to accept the realities of war, even in fiction, and that sex is not always a beautiful thing.

I found it difficult to put this book down such was the hold it had on me. Everyone and everything was real.  At times it might be considered slow, yet the quality of the prose won't allow you to skip a word.

And a final warning; don't read the end until you get there; it is dramatic and unexpected - one of the best last pages I have ever read.

Very highly recommended, but beware the warnings. Stick with it, though,  and you will have read a book that will stay with you for a very long time.

© Richard Tearle




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8 July 2019

The Broken Circle by Anna Castle

The Broken Circle

"A truly delicious short story giving us a glimpse into the lives of the Maya in sixteenth century Yucatan."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US
AMAZON CA

short story (20 pages)
16th Century/ Mayan Culture

"Ix Cahum finds a way to tend her bees and keep her small world turning after Spaniards and plague sweep destruction across the Maya lands."

A delicious short story

A truly delicious short story giving us a glimpse into the lives of the Maya in sixteenth-century Yucatan. The main character is a beekeeper, faithful to the rituals and seasonal cycles followed by generations of ancestors before her. There are few still living in her village; her husband and children and many others have succumbed to the Espan Yols’ pox. The author delves into the Mayan religion, their centuries-old belief that their gods will keep all of nature running smoothly, their reliance on their priests to interpret the stars and to intercede with the gods on their behalf. It was wonderful to get a flavour of one Mayan language, Yucateco, presented to us by a distinguished linguist. The connectedness of everything Mayan, is apparent – and tragic. 

Without the priests to pray to the gods, and to instruct the people, how will they know when to sow and when to harvest? How will they survive – the precious few who still remain? 

© JJ Toner


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6 July 2019

The Weekend

No reviews posted at the weekends - 
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5 July 2019

The Column Of Burning Spices by P.K. Adams

Shortlisted for Book of the Month
The Column of Burning Spices: A Novel of Germany's First Female Physician (Hildegard of Bingen Book 2)

"I enjoyed how the relationships between Hildegard and others were developed. Volmar, who was her confessor in reality, was given a deeper place in her life. It is not part of the historical record, but the way it was written was believable and within the scope of acceptable behavior for a Benedictine nun. "

AMAZON UK 
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA 

Fictional Drama
12th Century
Germany/ Rhineland

The Column of Burning Spices is the second in PK Adams’s duology about the renowned medieval holy woman, Hildegard of Bingen. This picks up right where the first book, The Greenest Branch, left off and covers the latter part of Hildegard’s life when she was writing and creating the works for which she is most well known. 

Where the first book had given Hildegard an interesting background and a plausible, fictional, history that filled in gaps in the historical record, this second book continued with what is known of her and fleshed her out in a human way. I don’t feel that there was quite the depth of character as there was in the first book, but this is simply because there was so much that Hildegard did in her life that it is impossible to capture it all in the scope of one novel!

Authors have to make a choice - are they going to focus on her music or her scientific writing? On her struggles with the men of the church or on her charitable work? Adams did exceedingly well with what she chose to include. The details were sufficient for Hildegard fans like myself, while also serving to whet the appetite of readers who may not be as familiar with her, hopefully inspiring them to go out and learn more about her. 

How Hildegard dealt with the troublesome men of the church was handled deftly, and accurately. One of my favorite parts of the book, as well as an actual event in her life, was  the question of the burial of a man who had been excommunicated and then forgiven. He was buried, then the canons demanded that he be exhumed and reburied in unconsecrated ground. Hildegard refused because she said his sins had been forgiven. The canons told local authorities to exhume the body, so Hildegard and her nuns went around and removed all the grave markers from the cemetery. I love that so much. She sounds like my granny, a salty old besom. The canons placed Hildegard, her nuns, and the abbey under interdict, so no Mass could be performed and, worse for Hildegard, no songs could be sung. But eventually, she won and they could have their Mass and music back. 

I enjoyed how the relationships between Hildegard and others were developed. Volmar, who was her confessor in reality, was given a deeper place in her life. It is not part of the historical record, but the way it was written in the book was believable and still within the scope of acceptable behavior for a Benedictine nun, and raised a poignant “what if” for them both. 

Similarly with Ricardis, Hildegard’s personal assistant. The two women had a close bond in real life, prompting some scholars to speculate that Hildegard was a lesbian. I  think that is a naive assumption; she lived almost entirely in the company of women from the time she was eight years old and most of the men of her acquaintance were her adversaries. It is no wonder that she formed her closest bonds with other women. I do disagree, however, with how the author handled Ricardis leaving the convent - no spoilers, so I will say no more, except, if the author's suggestion had been the case, I doubt very much whether Hildegard would have continued to write to her friend asking her to come back. That part of the novel didn’t fit with the existing historical record, for me to  accept.

Overall, however, the the novel was very pleasing - Hildegard of Bingen is hands down my favorite medieval holy woman, and favorite medieval woman second only to Eleanor of Aquitaine. The first installment had a slight edge of being stronger, but this one was still a Diamond read and I  heartily recommend both books to anyone interested in this fascinating woman, or to anyone who has never heard of her and would like a starting point to learn about her. 

© Kristen McQuinn



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4 July 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Her Kind by Niamh Boyce

Her Kind

"
This book is laced with period detail, mystery, and an atmosphere of danger prevails throughout. "

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

Family drama/witchcraft
14th Century
Ireland

"1324, Kilkennie A woman seeks refuge for herself and her daughter in the household of a childhood friend. The friend, Alice Kytler, gives her former companion a new name, Petronelle, a job as a servant, and warns her to hide their old connection. Before long Petronelle comes to understand that in the city, pride, greed and envy are as dangerous as the wolves that prowl the savage countryside. And she realizes that Alice's household is no place of safety.
Once again, Petronelle decides to flee. But this time she confronts forces greater than she could ever have imagined and she finds herself fighting for more than her freedom ...
Tense, moving and atmospheric, Her Kind is a vivid re-imagining of the events leading up to the Kilkenny Witch Trial."

This book is laced with period detail, mystery, and an atmosphere of danger prevails throughout. Petronelle arrives at the house of Alice Kytler, with her daughter in tow, seeking refuge. What is the connection between Petronelle and Alice? Why is Petronelle's daughter mute? Gradually, we find out, but against the backdrop of the mission of Bishop Ledrede to take Alice's power and influence from her. So, who is in danger - Petronelle, or Alice? Alice is the local money-lender and Ledrede wants her taken down a peg or two. It's no spoiler to say that this desire ends in a witch trial but, again, nothing is that simple. The build-up to the trial is tight with tension and still there is time for us to learn more of the back stories of the other characters. Read carefully: even the most trivial detail is in fact loaded with significance. This story is complex, rich, and satisfying.

I didn’t know much about this period of Irish history and was fascinated by all the detail. The author admits that whilst this tale is based on real events, she has used conjecture to fill in gaps. Yet I’ve no doubt that the portrayal of fourteenth-century Kilkennie (as spelled in the book) is as accurate as it’s possible to be. The description is vivid yet economical; with every scene it was as though I was in the room, an unseen observer. I liked the way the story was told from different viewpoints, which allowed the characters to be seen as others saw them. 

There are lots of hints dropped, and for every time I wondered ‘how, why, where, when’, there was an answer; no plot thread was left undone and there were some genuine surprises along the way. It felt authentic, it felt plausible, and not only was it a great historical read, it was a tightly-plotted story too. 

I thoroughly recommend this excellent book.

© Annie Whitehead



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