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Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion by Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield

a year of ravens

A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion by
Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
ARC, e-book, 440 pages
Knight Media, LLC
November 13, 2015
★★★★ ½☆

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Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Stories

Source: Received for review as part of HFVBT tour

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

 A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

Last year I read the two historical fiction collections that were released in this new style of anthology where each story interconnects with each other: Grand Central and A Day of Fire. I loved both of these collections for how each short story stood on its own and then how they tied together to comprise a greater novel as a whole. So when I heard that some of the authors from A Day of Fire were getting together to write a novel of Boudica’s rebellion, I knew I was definitely reading this one – and I am so glad that I did.

So I want to take a few minutes to say a couple things about each story before I cover the collection as a whole.

The Queen by Stephanie Dray

This first chapter starts off with some backstory provided by Queen Cartimandua. She is the queen of a rival tribe in Briton and she supports that Romans in their quest to bring Briton under control. Hers is also the first perspective that we see Boudica from and that is from a sort of inside/sort of outside view. Her style of rule serves as a foil for Boudica and serves to set up the perspective of the Romans toward the Britons and vice versa. I found myself really liking Cartimandua and wanting to know more about her life.

The Slave by Ruth Downie

Ria is a slave within Boudica’s tribe and she again stands to serve as a sort of inside/sort of outside perspective. Unlike Cartimandua she is a part of the Iceni tribe, but is just a slave.

The Tribune by Russell Whitfield

The first thing I can say of this chapter is, oh the language! It is quite foul language, however it serves to set you right within the mindset of a soldier’s life quickly. This is a chapter that serves to establish a view of idealism vs. reality within the Roman ranks. There were some well written battle scenes here that ease the reader into the battles to come.

The Druid by Vicky Alvear Shecter

This was a powerful chapter – very powerful. The chapter features as druid, Yorath, and a Roman soldier and the interplay between them is some of the more powerful of the book. I was sad throughout most of this chapter, for both parties involved.

The Son by S.J.A Turney

I think that Andecarus was my favorite character from the entire novel. He is similar to Cartimandua because he straddles the line between Roman and Briton, but his conscience is more torn. Cartimandua is doing what she believes is right for her people; but Andecarus is an Iceni who spent a significant portion of his life among the Romans and his loyalties will certainly come into question here.

The Warrior by Kate Quinn

Kate had the climactic scene in A Day of Fire and she has it again here too, and handles is magnificently might I add. Duro, right hand man to Queen Boudica leads the warriors into the battle against the Romans. But the best part of this chapter is that of the interplay between Duro and his newly acquired Roman slave. I found the reaction of his Roman slave toward her captor to be interesting because they are very human. The sides don’t exactly matter; it was refreshing to see the humanity here despite the circumstances.

The Daughters by E. Knight

This chapter serves to bring the story full circle and we see the results and aftermath of the rebellion. It is a gut-wrencher for sure. However as much as I felt for them, I didn’t love the chapter. While it was an appropriate choice of closing narrators – the daughters of Boudica, I think I would have liked their perspective a little bit earlier in the novel.

I think that the choices of narration characters were spot on. There were those that represented the Roman legions, supporters of Queen Boudica, Britons who are outside the rebellion, and then those who straddle the line of humanity. The chapters alternated almost every chapter between a Roman and Briton perspective which served to keep a balanced view of the rebellion. It was both a frustration and an excellent writing choice to not have Boudica narrate a chapter herself. It would have been easy to have her narrate the great battle scene – the pinnacle of her rebellion, but at the same time, it is more powerful to see the information from the outside because no matter how close to the queen they are, they will always be an outsider in some form. I loved the structure of this novel and the tale told of the little guy going up against the behemoth of Rome.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ITunes


Also from The H Team:

The H Team is a loose collection of historical fiction authors that unite to write short story collections. Some of the authors previously collaborated for the following book:

a day of fire

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
[My Review]


Find The H Team: Facebook

Follow the Tour!

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On Twitter: #AYearofRavensBlogTour   #HistoricalFiction   #Boudica

On the HFVBT Website


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a Celtic inspired set of silver tone metal and red Swarovski crystal beads, including a necklace, bracelet, and earrings inspired by the setting of A Year of Ravens! Please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form that can be reached herePlease note that this is a tour-wide giveaway and as such I have no control over the giveaway in and of itself.


  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in the US and UK.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.





Copyright © 2015 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

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Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot
ARC, e-book, 384 pages
Thomas Dunne Books
December 1, 2015
★★★★ ½☆

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review for HFVBT tour

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

If you have read novels on the life of Catherine de Medici the events in Medicis Daughter will not be new to you, however the first person perspective of Marguerite, Catherine’s daughter, should be a refreshing take on it. The novel only covers an approximate 10 years of Marguerite’s life, from her relative obscurity away from court until just past her marriage to Henry of Navarre. I actually appreciated this fact because even though Marguerite had an interesting life even after this time period, this was a defining moment her life and formed who she would become. Through Marguerite’s eyes we see a coming of age story from a young, innocent girl into a woman of the Valois court who makes decisions for herself, goes toe-to-toe with her powerful mother, and ultimately who becomes a strong woman. You get a distinct sense of her growing awareness though out the novel; she starts out a very naïve girl who finds that first blush of love thrilling and willing to do anything for it and over time begins to see the multi-faceted nature of people that maybe does not impress her so much. Upon realizing that she has been virtually used and manipulated by basically everyone around her, she makes her first truly individual decision in sticking with the husband that she never wanted for reasons that she would never have been capable of realizing at the beginning of the novel.

When I first opened the pages of this novel, I thought “oh, first person…great”. I am not the biggest fan of first person narratives for the same reason that many do not like this perspective – the limiting nature and scope of the story. Sometimes authors have to use a variety of tricks to bring important information into the narrative. In Perinot’s Valois court, accomplishing this task felt natural enough. For Marguerite, she is kept away from much of the back room deals, but her friends have close access, and are able to bring information to her that she would not have been privy to. Early on, it is established that here are hidden passageways and listening holes throughout the court that Marguerite takes advantage of on occasion. Knowing that Catherine was always on top of the intrigue, I could whole-heartedly believe that these things existed in her courts, which allow Marguerite to discover some information herself without feeling out of place.

I have read a few novels that take on the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, but Perinot really gives it a perspective I had not viewed it from before. First, and again, you are seeing it through the eyes of a relative innocent in the court. There are a couple forewarnings for Marguerite, but she really has no idea what is coming, she just has a feeling that something is coming. You have the emotional revelation for her of being just a puppet on a string to her mother’s and brother’s political and religious game and the emotions of the heart too. This serves to color her reactions to the events in a way that would be markedly different than any story told from the perspective of her mother, Catherine, or her brother, King Charles, who were both deep into this political plan. And, the way the event is seen through Marguerite’s eyes lends a whole new intensely dramatic lens to the story. Very well done.

The Author’s Note at the end of the novel pointed out how thru Marguerite we see Catherine de Medici in a different light – that of the lens of the eternal mother-daughter struggle. For quite some time Marguerite is not privy to all of the behind the scenes machinations that Catherine is a part of but there is still that eternal teenage angst that keeps the tension between the two.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


Also by Sophie Perinot:

sister queens

The Sister Queens
[My Review

a day of fire

A Day of Fire
[My Review]

Find Sophie Perinot: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads


Follow the Tour!

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On Twitter: #MedicisDaughterBlogTour   #SophiePerinot   #HistoricalFiction

On HFVBT Webpage



Copyright © 2015 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: The Gift-Wrapped Bride by Maureen Lang (12 Brides of Christmas)

The gift wrapped bride

The Gift Wrapped Bride by Maureen Lang
Book 4 of the 12 Brides of Christmas series
Kindle e-book, 47 pages
Shiloh Run Studios
October 27, 2014

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Genre: Historical fiction, Short story, Christmas

Source: Personal purchase

Sophie Stewart’s family has just moved to Chicago to join her brother and help start a church. Sophie is an artist with big dreams, but she feels her parents are pushing her to marry someone like Noah Jackson, a young man from their Ohio hometown. But forgiving the past and recognizing Noah’s maturity and changes may take a miracle.

I have noticed a trend in these little romance novellas – the boy always needs to prove himself to the girl who is dead set against him – and that is the case here too. Sophie has a real chip on her shoulder right from the word go. She reminds me of the typical young woman who does not want to leave the town she lived her whole life in for a big city. While she doesn’t want to be in Chicago, she certainly doesn’t want to have to interact with Noah, and boy who picked on her in the past. But Noah appears to be a changed man here and is eager to show that the Sophie. These two seemed so far apart in terms of personality that it was a little bit of a stretch to see them come together in the end – even if Noah is a changed man!

I loved that Sophie was an artist. She wanted to make her art her life, but her family saw it as more of a passing fancy. We frequently see strong women in westerns, but they still typically hold the traditional female professions, such as a teacher. So wanting to be an artist is a little outside the regular wheelhouse, but quite refreshing. Noah was determined and willing to go the distance to prove that he had changed from that young boy Sophie once knew.

Definitely an interesting story line, even if I didn’t entirely believe it.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Also in the 12 Brides of Christmas Series:

the advent bride

The Advent Bride (Book 1)
By Mary Connealy
[My Review]

the nutcracker bride

The Nutcracker Bride (Book 2)
By Margaret Brownley
[My Review]

The Evergreen Bride

The Evergreen Bride (Book 3)
By Pam Hillman
[My Review]

the yuletide bride

The Yuletide Bride (Book 5)
By Michelle Ule

the gingerbread bride

The Gingerbread Bride (Book 6)
By Amy Lillard

the nativity bride

The Nativity Bride (Book 7)
By Miralee Ferrell

the christmas tree bride

The Christmas Tree Bride (Book 8)
By Susan Paige Davis

the festive bride

The Festive Bride (Book 9)
By Diana Brandmeyer

the christmas star bride

The Christmas Star Bride (Book 10)
By Amanda Cabot

the snowbound bride

The Snowbound Bride (Book 11)
By Davalynn Spencer

the fruitcake bride

The Fruitcake Bride (Book 12)
By Vickie McDonough

Find the 12 Brides: Website | Facebook



Copyright © 2015 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Winner of Mistress of the Court

As is typical with my giveaway winning posts, it's a little overdue! 

I have the winner of the giveaway for Mistress of the Court by Laura Purcell....and that winner is....Erin!!

Congrats!  Hope you enjoy the book!  Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway!


Copyright © 2015 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review & Tour Giveaway: Spirit of the Highway by Deborah Swift

01_Spirit of the Highway (1)
Spirit of the Highway by Deborah Swift
Book 2 in The Highway trilogy
ARC, e-book, 181 pages
Endeavor Press
September 24, 2015
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Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Source: Received for review with HFVBT
England 1651
England has been engaged in a bitter Civil War for nearly ten years. Ralph Chaplin, a farmer’s son, has fallen for beautiful copper-haired Kate. There is only one problem – he is a Roundhead soldier and she is a Royalist lady.
Tired of bloodshed, Ralph volunteers to fight, sensing that the Battle at Worcester will be a chance to finish the fighting for good. He longs for peace, so he can forge a secure future and find a different, more equal way of life for himself and Kate.
But War is not what he imagined, and soon he has made a deadly enemy; one who will pursue Ralph and those he loves, and wreak vengeance. What’s more, Ralph finds he has as many enemies at home, as on the battlefield.
Told by Ralph’s ghost, Spirit of the Highway is the stand-alone second part of the Highway Trilogy based on the real life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, Highwaywoman

The first thing I have to say about this book was how refreshing it was to have a male protagonist/narrator. Not only is it a little more rare to have a male protagonist in historical fiction, but it is even more refreshing that it is in a young adult directed novel. I think this needs to happen more often. Only a small portion of the novel is set in a warfare setting, which is another rarity in male led novels. I feel that the author handled very well a balance between political, military, and relationship elements in the story that would appeal to both men and women.

Spirit of the Highway is the second book in The Highway trilogy and I feel that it is certainly beneficial to read these books in order, despite it being mentioned in a couple places that it could be a stand-alone novel. Whereas the first book, Shadow on the Highway, is focused on the story from the perspective of Abigail Chaplin, Spirit of the Highway tells the story from the perspective of her brother, Ralph Chaplin. There is an expectation of some knowledge of the characters here, and the reader would not have as deep of an understanding of the choices the characters make without the experience of book 1. You would not be able to understand the love between Lady Katherine and Ralph without having experienced their time with The Diggers in book 1. You would not have the background of how Abigail fits into her position with the Fanshawes. I think another area where the reader would benefit from the experience of the first book is regarding the politics of the time – the English Civil War and who The Diggers were. It is only addressed in a passing in book 2, but very well established in book 1. You could certainly appreciate the story, but I think it is a much deeper understanding with book 1 under your belt.
The story opens with the ghost of Ralph telling the reader what is going on – which was a little of a shock to me. It set me in the mindset that my protagonist was going to die at some point in the book. I also wasn’t really sure how this element would be carried out – overall, I think it worked. It wasn’t long before I forgot about the fact it was the ghost telling the story and it was still surprising when “the event” happened.
I found book 1 to be a little more adventurous and exciting while book 2 to be a little more low key, however the two books work well together.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by Deborah Swift:
the lady slipper
The Lady’s Slipper
the gilded lily
The Gilded Lily[My Review]
a divided inheritance
A Divided Inheritance[My Review]
shadow on the highway
Shadow on the Highway (Book 1, Highway Trilogy)
[My Review]

Find Deborah Swift: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Pinterest | Goodreads | G+

Follow the Tour!
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On Twitter with Hashtags: #SpiritoftheHighwayBlogTour  #HistoricalFiction  #YA  #England

Tour-Wide Giveaway
There is a tour-wide giveaway up for grabs - I am not the coordinator of this giveaway, if you have any questions, please contact the tour coordinator at the HFVBT page.
To win a signed paperback of Spirit of the Highway please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Three copies up for grabs!
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Copyright © 2015 by The Maiden’s Court