Here is my review of Weyward by Emilia Hart historical fantasy featuring three women from three generations and their fight to escape trapped their lives.
‘I had nature in my heart, she said. Like she did, and her mother before her. There was something about us – the Weyward women – that bonded us more tightly with the natural world. We can feel it, she said, the same way we feel rage, sorrow or joy.’ In 2019, Kate flees an abusive relationship in London for Crows Beck, a remote Cumbrian village. Her destination is Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great Aunt Violet, an eccentric entomologist. As Kate struggles with the trauma of her past, she uncovers a secret about the women in her family. A secret dating back to 1619, when her ancestor Altha Weyward was put on trial for witchcraft…
Weyward by Emilia Hart is an ambitious story about three different women at three different times but all three need to escape their trapped lives.
I received a copy of the book for a free and unbiased opinion
The story of three women suffering from surprisingly similar problems is at times harrowing. Kate in 2019 is trapped in an abusive relationship and has escaped to a cottage she has inherited from her Great Aunt. Violet in 1942 whose father controls her life to an extreme degree and Altha who as a clever independent woman in 1619 is accused of witchcraft.
I’m so pleased to be a part of the Random Things Tours blog tour for The Witch and The Tsar a historical fantasy by Olesya Salinikova Gilmore- an imaginative retelling of Baba Yaga’s story.
As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s.Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan— soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.
The Witch and The Tsar by Olesya Salinikova Gilmore- is a beautifully written retelling of Baba Yaga’s story turning her into a feminist heroine.
I’ve come across Baba Yaga and her mobile house as the evil witch in several fantasy books and TV shows, so it was refreshing to read a different on her story.
Yaga is the first-person narrator aware of her own immortality as a half-goddess yet also aware of her vulnerability as a half human and has a great love for Russia. It is this love for Russia and her love for Anastasia, the Tsarina that forces her to move from the safety of the forest into a battle to save the people of Russia from the Tsar or Ivan the terrible.
Yaga is the woman of place not just because of her magic but because she is a woman happy to be alone when marriage was the only way for a woman, a worshipper of the old gods instead of being a Christian and she does pay the price by being alone for a long time. I thought this was a realistic way of portraying a different version of her and possibly a nicer way of humanising a woman who is usually depicted as an evil and immoral witch.
The world-building and descriptions of Russia during this dark and cold time was detailed and beautifully written. The old gods and myths of Russia and interwoven in the main historical plot and plays a major part in the story rather than just being an add on. I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction based in Russia and after reading this I certainly will be reading more
There is plenty of action, brutal violence and unpleasantness as would be expected in a book about Ivan the Terrible but there is plenty of magic and romance- I loved the relationship between Vasily and Yaga.
The author has a detailed Glossary at the end ( which I wish I had picked up on earlier) which helped me keep track of the characters- sometimes the almost familiar names did make it hard to keep track of the characters ( this is in keeping with names of the period) as well as the old gods and their powers. And don’t forget to read the authors note at the end which was just as fascinating and puts the book in context.
References to deaths of children, threats of sexual violence
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the United States, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English / political science, and from Northwestern University School of Law with a JD.She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.
I loved this heart-warming fiction about family both found and real and a little-known historical event.
In the current time, there are moments when I feel the world has become a confusing and scary place but books like The Secrets of Rochester Place makes me feel a little happier and more optimistic.
I received a copy of this book for a free and unbiased opinion
The story is told from three points of view- Corrine, a first responder in the present day, Theresa, a child evacuated to England from Spain in the 1930’s and 40’s and Mary, an Irish immigrant to England in the 1920’s (through her journal).
The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor features an unforgettable heroine set in the first part of this century set in the Island of Pate,Kenya and China at the turn of this century. Here is my review of this historicalish fiction.
On the island of Pate, off the coast of Kenya, lives solitary, stubborn Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor named Muhidin, also an outsider, enters their lives, Ayaana finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life and the island itself–from a taciturn visitor with a murky past to a sanctuary-seeking religious extremist, from dragonflies to a tsunami, from black-clad kidnappers to cultural emissaries from China. Ayaana ends up embarking on a dramatic ship’s journey to the Far East, where she will discover friends and enemies; be seduced by the charming but unreliable scion of a powerful Turkish business family; reclaim her devotion to the sea; and come to find her own tenuous place amid a landscape of beauty and violence and surprising joy. Told with a glorious lyricism and an unerring sense of compassion, The Dragonfly Sea is a transcendent story of adventure, fraught choices, and of the inexorable need for shelter in a dangerous world.
The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor features an unforgettable heroine set on the Island of Pate, Kenya and China at the turn of this century and is vaguely based on a true-life event that was absolutely fascinating- a young girl from Kenya was offered a place to study in China after DNA analysis showed she was of Chinese ancestry. This isn’t that girl’s story, but Ayaana’s story is just as fascinating.
I’m so pleased to be part of the Racheal Random Resources blog tour for Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Olive. Historical cosy crime perfectly described as Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey but with added humour
Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby . If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart
There are times when you just need a nice, light-hearted book with just enough of an edge to keep you hooked and Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver fulfilled this perfectly.
Sunwise by Helen Wiseman picks up Jane’s and John’s story from where it left of in Widdershins.
When Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witch-finder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe. But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witch-finder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft. Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world.
Sunwise by Helen Wiseman picks up Jane’s and John’s story from where it left of in Widdershins (review here).
I really enjoyed Widdershins by Helen Steadman-a gripping historical fiction set in 1650 inspired by the Newcastle Witch trials.
Did all women have something of the witch about them?’ Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane will soon learn that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witch-finder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft. Inspired by true events, Widdershins tells the story of the women who were persecuted and the men who condemned them.
I’ve lived in the North-East of England for almost two decades now and I had very little knowledge of the terrible Newcastle Witch trials, so when I saw the blurb for Widdershins by Helen Steadman, I knew I had to read this book.
Here is my review of this cosy crime where Agatha Christie’s housekeeper has to solve a murder where the chief suspects are a group of crime writers. Here is my review of A Trace of Poison by Colleen Cambridge.
Phyllida Bright, housekeeper for Agatha Christie, must uncover a killer among a throng of crime writers. In England’s stately manor houses, murder is not generally a topic for polite conversation. Mallowan Hall, home to Agatha Christie is the exception. The neighbouring village of Listleigh has also become a hub of grisly goings-on, thanks to a Murder Fête organized to benefit a local orphanage. Members of The Detection Club—a group of celebrated authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha herself—will congregate for charitable events, including a writing contest for aspiring authors. The winner gets an international publishing contract, and entrants have gathered for a cocktail party when murder strikes . It’s a mystery too intriguing for Phyllida to resist, but one fraught with duplicity and danger, for every guest is an expert in murder—and how to get away with it.
A Trace of Poison by Colleen Cambridge was an easy to read and enjoyable cosy murder suggestive of Agatha Christie’s best mysteries.
I received a copy of this book for a free and unbiased opinion.
Reading this book felt like slipping on a comfy jumper. Warm and familiar- with the expected twisty murder, a range of eccentric suspects, everyone has a motive, lots of red herrings and a detective that doesn’t give up.
The mystery was complex, and I did not guess who the murderer was and the motive was ingenious.
Phyllida herself was an interesting Detective- unbending in her desire to help her employer even if it places her in danger, efficient and perhaps a touch unlikeable.
I liked how the author added diversity to the book without it being out of place for 1920s England.
I do have one very slight criticism- the use of the word cookie instead of biscuit (though I could be wrong and indeed they were eating cookies and not biscuits in the English sense).
Jago continues to be the reluctant spy but now on a ship bound for Philadelphia in Blue Water by Leonora Nattrass. Here is my review of this historical fiction set in the 1700’s.
I loved Black Drop (review here), so I was so excited to be approved by NetGalley to read Blue Water by Leonora Nattress which continues Laurence Jago’s story now a disgraced clerk. But you can enjoy this book without having read Black Drop.
I received a copy of the book for a free and unbiased review.
Laurence Jago continues to be a reluctant spy but this time he is now stuck on a ship bound for Philadelphia. He has been told his mission is to help the civil servant carrying a treaty that will make all the difference in war between the French and the British. But then the civil servant is murdered, so now Jago must find the murderer before he becomes the next victim.do the right t
The Empire by Michael Ball is lovely, warm-hearted read- here is my review of this historical fiction set in a theatre in the 1920’s.
Publication Date 13 October
Source: NetGalley and Bonnier Books
The Empire. Lord Lassiter bought it for his second wife, Lady Lillian and she supervised every detail of the restoration. The Empire is not just a theatre. From music hall to vaudeville, from revue to grand musical spectacular, it holds a special place in the nation’s heart. For its audience, for its actors and singers, for the stagehands, the front-of-house staff, for its backers and its debtors – and above all for its owners – it truly is a palace of dreams. And for young Jack Treadwell, struggling to adapt to civilian life after the horrors of the trenches, it’s a lifeline. When he receives a letter out of the blue inviting him to work at The Empire, he leaps at the chance. After all, it’s owned by the family of his former commanding officer, Edmund Lassiter. But as Jack soon discovers, it is not just the actors who are donning a disguise. With whispers of a cover-up, a scandal and sibling rivalry, tensions rise, along with the curtain. For there is treachery at the heart of The Empire and a dark secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it is too late, and the theatre that means so much to them all goes dark?
It has been a rough few weeks, so I was in the mood for an uplifting book and The Empire by Michael Ball was the book equivalent of snuggling under the duvet.