Shadow of the Raven: Book Review

Shadow of the Raven: Book One, Sons of Kings
Shadow of the Raven: Book One, Sons of Kings

Shadow of the Raven is  beautifully written, edited and formatted. I received a free kindle copy  of this historical novel from the author, Millie Thom, in return for a review .  Shadow of the Raven is Book One of the Sons of Kings trilogy.

The story follows the early years of Alfred of Wessex and the fictitious Eadwulf of Mercia – the sons of kings.

The unfamiliar names are hard to grip at first, but ring with charm – Morwenna, Ocea, Aethelnoth, Thrydwulf, Burgred, Sigehelm, Beorhtwulf, Beornred, Aethelbald, Osbuh, and Aethelswith! The Old English for Alfred is Aelfred or Aefraed. I’m happy the author stuck with Alfred.  A handy cast of Characters helps you keep track.

The story opens in 851, at a time when the fierce Danes (Vikings) routinely plundered Western Europe. Betrayed by one of their own, the Mercians fall to the Danes. His father slain, young Eadwulf is taken away as a slave. Morwenna, his mother, is also captured. Much later, their brief reunion is one of the most poignant scenes in this tale.

We are given a glimpse of Alfred the Great’s early life. When we leave him,  he is barely nine years old but we see how a trip to the Holy City when he was only four shaped his beliefs.  Two years after his mother dies, young Alfred accompanies his father on a second voyage to Rome. Before they leave, King Aethelwulf splits Wessex in two, setting a son to rule each part in his absence. This abdication makes things difficult on his return in 856.

Earlier, in May 853, Alfred’s sister Aethelswith marries Burgred, now King of Mercia, sealing the liaison between the two kingdoms.

It is difficult to believe that Eadwulf of Mercia isn’t a real person telling his own tale – his new life of slavery in a bewildering Danish culture is so richly portrayed. Reviled by his first master’s wife, he finds himself befriended by a new master until he falls in love with the wrong girl. To save his life, Eadwulf must leave, and find his way home to Mercia. But first, there is a matter of revenge to be sorted. I wonder if his savage upbringing will have consequences on his return.

I loved Bernard Cornwell’s  Saxon Tales, and looked forward to Millie Thom’s Book Two, beginning in 864, confident she will give a stirring account of the next few years as portrayed in this map of the time.

512px-England_Great_Army_map.svgBy Hel-hama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons   (Based on Stenton ‘Anglo-Saxon England’ chapter 8 and Hill ‘ An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England’ p40-1)

Shadow of the Raven: Book One, Sons of Kings
Shadow of the Raven: Sons of Kings, Book One
Pit of Vipers Sons Of Kings, Book Two

Fortunately I did not have to wait long for Book Two! The Pit of Vipers has just been released.  I could have asked for a review copy, but I hold the standard of the author’s research and her writing in high regard and was only too happy to buy myself a copy as soon as I saw it available.

Millie Thom’s blog gives the prices and links to Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Both books are available on Amazon Australia Kindle.

Book Review: Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears

arafura 1My attention to this book resulted from visiting the author’s blog. I  followed up with a visit to  Amazon to take advantage of the  handy ‘look inside this book’ function.  Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears, written by Susan Lattwein, hooked me from the start.

Since I couldn’t leave this first Arafura novel unread, I eventually purchased myself a version, after I worked out how to get the Kindle for PC to work with the Linux on my laptop. I couldn’t think  of anything worse than trying to read a novel on the PC itself, though I have no trouble spending all day reading blogs!

This is the product description on Amazon …

Nobody said the build-up would be easy.
No body….

Sensible schoolteacher Kat is planning to marry when her long-term fiancé finds the time.
When the mysterious and damaged Adam arrives in town, Kat is jolted well out of her comfort zone. Despite her loyal intentions, a dead body and enough pre-monsoonal weather to strangle a Kat, she must wrestle with an instant attraction that is emotionally risky and absolutely, definitely fraught.
Arafura will appeal to female and male readers who enjoy quirky, witty suspense with dark edges.

Well, that seems a fairly apt description. The ‘build-up’ is the building up of the weather in the top-end of Australia. Apparently, it sends people crazy.  Add a dead body into the mix and things really heat up.

I do have to read this novel again, as some parts  went over the top of my head. Perhaps the foreshadowing was a bit too subtle: I was confused. I feel some of this will make more sense in Book 2. I felt the opening scene lead me to expect a different type of story, and it was only when the book ended that I found out the next scene was actually a dream sequence. When Kat woke up, I thought it another day ( I’m not sure it is the author’s fault.)  I’m still puzzling over the bikini top scene and wonder what the later scene in the petrol station was all about. I’m hoping the second reading will clear that up.

See, I couldn’t put it down and I read too fast. I devoured the 243 ‘real’ pages over two nights.  I shouldn’t keep reading when I’m tired.

Good points. It’s a great story, I love the romance triangle and the unresolved mystery, too. The main characters were believable, and that’s the main thing.

I am happy with the ending – another benchmark – and I love it enough to buy Arafura 2: Unfinished Business.

arafura2

Edited later:
I’m a dill.  Pictured the second  Arafura up top, instead of the first. [blush]

A Children’s Book: Lily’s Wish

Cover image from the publisher's website
Cover image from the publisher’s website

My copies of Barbara’s wonderful children’s book, Lily’s Wish, arrived in todays mail. Naturally, I read it but it caught me out  because I read it like an adult. I didn’t take the time to drink in the delightful pencil and watercolour drawings on that first pass, as a child would.  Reaching the last sentence, I realised I had missed something important and I had. I had overlooked the very thing that makes this book so special – Lily’s gift to her grandma.

This is what Barbara’s publisher, New Frontier Publishing, has to say about Lily’s Wish.

 

Lily’s Wish
Written by Barbara Pyett and illustrated by Serena Geddes
Paperback
ISBN: 9781921042829
32 pages
Reading Age: 4 – 8
Release Date: January 31, 2012

Lily has a special Christmas wish, but only one person can make her wish come trye [sic: that’s a worry!]. She writes him a letter and another and another. He writes back, but will he grant her wish? Do you believe he can? Barbara Pyett’s magical Christmas tale about a selfless young girl and her inspirational wish is brought to life by Serena Geddes’ delightful illustrations.

Here is a peek inside – I think I’m allowed to do this for the purposes of reviewing, even in my poor fashion.

lilyIgnore all the shadows on the page – that’s just me – and I didn’t want to squash the book flat, and risk spoiling the brand new look. But you get the idea, the illustrations are gorgeous, all pink and pretty.lily2
Lily’s Wish can be purchased from the publisher ($9.99 plus postage) or online book stores such as Fishpond ($14.95, free postage Australia)

I love Barbara’s dedication to her grandchildren, and to all grandchildren separated by distance from their grandmothers. If you have children in the reading age range (4 – 8) then you can’t go past this as the perfect Christmas present, either in its own right or as a stocking-filler.

[Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in Lily’s Wish, its publisher, or Fishpond.]