Wednesday 20 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Shadows Of Hemlock by K M Pohlkamp

" T
his is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane and Ms Pohlkamp has lost none of her ability to produce a good story."


Fictional Saga / Thriller / Alternative
16th Century
Gaulshire, a mythical shire in Tudor England

Set in a mythical English county in the 1520s Tudor-type England, Aselin Gavrell had once been the apprentice to assassin, Lavinia Maud. Now she is the Master. To gain the confidence in her abilities as well as the patronage of an important client, she must commit four murders. But more important to Aselin is her acceptance as a Fellow into the Guild as they will not accept her credentials on the recommendation of her former Master. They set her a task: find an antidote to hemlock, Aselin's preferred method of assassination. And she has just four months to achieve this.

Aselin has learned well from Lavinia but, if anything, is more arrogant and cynical than her predecessor. More calculating, too. She uses people without conscience until, that is, she realises that she has been used in turn. She is willing to 'use her feminine whiles' to achieve her short term goals whereas Lavinia looked down upon that ploy. 

What follows is a dangerous adventure in which Aselin confronts her own demons, is betrayed and betrays in return as she moves to achieve her goals.

This is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane and Ms Pohlkamp has lost none of her ability to produce a good story, although it is not history in the strict sense of the word, and there are some very un-Tudorish anachronisms and phrases,
 but then, this novel is not, I assume,  actually set in Tudor England, just a sort of mirror-image alternative version of the period and places. I spotted some typos in the pre-published file I read, but these have been corrected for the final version.

My only criticism – and it is a personal one – is the invention of the English Shires that feature in both books, a real Shire would have done no harm to the tale telling, and brought in an extended feeling of realism. 

Shadows of Hemlock can easily be read as a stand alone novel, but I would really recommend reading the previous volume first, not only for the deliciously evil manner of the protagonist, but because the first chapters of this book is a spoiler for the stark and dramatic ending of the first.

© Richard Tearle

Pre-publication PDF ARC edition reviewed

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