Thursday 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. "


Family drama/witchcraft
14th Century

"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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