This coming May will be all about the historical fiction here on A Fantastical Librarian. There were some awesome releases in the past month and I still had some fantastic books in my TBR-pile that had been languishing there in favour of the new and shiny. So when I jokingly told someone that I needed to do an exclusive historical fiction month, I actually decided to do just that. I have a list of titles I want to read and some interviews and guest posts lined up. And it’s not just straight historical fiction; there is some historical crime and some historical supernatural suspense in there as well. So I hope you’ll enjoy the month, even if you’re not a regular historical fiction reader; I know I’m looking forward to getting stuck-in on these titles. Continue reading
By 15 April, 2014
Posted in article, historical fiction
A dead warrior king frozen in winter ice. Six grieving sons, each with his own reason to kill. Two weary travellers caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit.
In a time before our own, wandering bard Talus and his companion Bran journey to the island realm of Creyak, where the king has been murdered.
From clues scattered among the island’s mysterious barrows and stone circles, they begin their search for his killer. Nobody is above suspicion, from the king’s heir to the tribal shaman, from the woman steeped in herb-lore to the visiting warlord. And when death strikes again, Talus and Bran realise nothing is what it seems. Creyak is a place of secrets and spirits, mystery and myth. It will take a clever man indeed to unravel the truth. The kind of man this ancient world has not seen before.
Graham Edwards’ Talus and the Frozen King combines three of my favourite genres into one fascinating tale. The book is a historical crime fantasy, set in an era which I’d not read any books in since reading the first four books in Jean M. Auel’s Children of the Earth series, the Neolithic. As such is more fantasy than historical fiction, a fact corroborated by the author in his Author’s Note, since there just isn’t enough historic fact to create anything but speculative fiction. The Neolithic island community of Creyak did make for an interesting setting and created the ideal stage for what is essentially a locked room mystery. Living on an island without easy access to the main land, means that the murderer is most likely a member of the community. Continue reading
By 24 March, 2014
Posted in crime, fantasy, historical fiction, review
Sarah Grimké is the middle daughter. The one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimké is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble. She also knows that she cannot accept. And so, indeed, the trouble begins …
A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, and set in the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, THE INVENTION OF WINGS evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognise; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds.
After reading and reviewing The Secret Life of Bees I started The Invention of Wings with a bit of trepidation, because reviewing The Secret Life of Bees was hard and the book left me more than a little conflicted. Still, I’d heard a lot of good about Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel and it certainly sounded very interesting, so I dove right in and didn’t come up for air until I finished the book. Well, I did have occasional breaks to feed myself and the girls and entertain them and to reload the washer and the dryer, but other than that the book had me spellbound. Continue reading
By 3 March, 2014
Posted in historical fiction, review
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
The Golem & The Djinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Helene Wecker’s debut novel has been praised by many of the bloggers I follow, it made the Locus Recommended Reading for 2013 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it appear on several awards shortlists. And it’s no wonder, because it is a remarkable novel. A historical fantasy, the book is set in turn-of-the-19th-century New York, mostly in the Jewish and Syrian communities of that metropolis, though Wecker takes us along on long jaunts through the city. Written in beautiful prose and filled with wonderful characters, who have been haunting me ever since I’ve finished the book, The Golem and the Djinni is a book to savour slowly and deliberately. Nevertheless, I found it a fast read as I found myself immersed in the narrative and unable to put the book down. Continue reading
By 2 February, 2014
Posted in fantasy, historical fiction, review
1553: Harsh winter falls across the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower, but rumours of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person many consider to be England’s heir and only hope – her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.
Brendan Prescott’s foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings news that sends Brendan back to London on a dangerous mission. Intent upon trying to save Elizabeth, he soon finds himself working as a double-agent for Mary herself.
Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a shadowy opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit – where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister – nobody can be trusted.
I first encountered Christopher Gortner’s writing last year when I reviewed The Queen’s Vow, about Queen Isabella of Castile. I loved the book and I was intrigued with this next book, written under a slightly different name – his biographical fiction is published as CW Gortner – and with a different approach to historical fiction. I have a weak spot for historical crime fiction and this historical mystery is close enough kin to that as makes no difference. Not having read the first book in the series, an oversight I’ll have to rectify in the future, I was worried that I might have missed too much back story, but luckily this book stands alone pretty well and the important bits get re-introduced quite organically in the narrative. Continue reading
By 21 January, 2014
Posted in historical fiction, mystery, review
Adeliza Golding is a deafblind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father’s hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, whom she has christened the Visitors. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.
Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie’s beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.
One of my biggest fears is losing my sight. The thought of losing my vision and the ability to read and to watch my girls freaks me out even to contemplate. So when I read the above cover copy for Rebecca Mascull’s debut novel The Visitors, I was immediately captured by the visual of this little girl completely cut off from sight and sound and I wondered how Mascull would portray her and let her tell her story, as from glancing at the first few pages I’d seen the book was told in Liza’s first-person perspective. The answer to that question is beautifully. I found Liza’s story haunting and evocative and if it hadn’t been for the pesky need for sleep and the fact that I have two toddlers running around, I would have finished this book in one sitting. Continue reading
In the past two and a half weeks I’ve brought you my Anticipated Books for Winter/Spring 2014 and today I bring you the fifteen books I anticipate reading the most in the coming six months. As usual it’s a list of fifteen, as there are just too many good books to choose from and I always have a hard time getting the list down to the more usual ten books. Also as per usual, I’ve excluded many books I’m really looking forward to reading right out of the gate, for example all the new instalments in series I’ve been reading. If I loved the previous book in the series, it’s a good bet I’ll want to read the next one. Some examples of these are Tom Pollock’s final book in The Skyscraper Throne trilogy, Our Lady of the Streets, Douglas Hulick’s long-awaited second book Sworn in Steel and Stephanie Saulter’s Binary, the second book in her ®Evolution series. I also left off repeat offenders who also made the list last time, such as Mark Alder’s Son of the Morning. So below in alphabetical order by author is my list, with a little explanation of why I really can’t wait to read these books. Do you agree or would you have chosen differently from the lists I posted recently? Continue reading
We’re almost there! Welcome to the penultimate post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2014. Today I’m sharing the second half of my picks for books published for the YA crowd. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them! Continue reading