Book Review – Cecily by Annie Garthwaite – historical fiction – highly recommended

Here’s the blurb:

Rebellion?’
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.

You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.

You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.

You are Cecily.

But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?

Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.

Cecily, the story of Cecily Neville up to, and including 1461, is a wonderful retelling of her story.

Having read Anne O’Brien’s The Queen’s Rival (see the review) last year, which offers Cecily’s story from the late 1450s onwards, I feel that this unknown woman has now been brought to life in wonderful detail. (If you have only read one of these two books then do please try the other one – you won’t be disappointed.)

Cecily is told from Cecily’s point of view, as such, there are some things that she can’t know or witness, and the author manages this incredibly skillfully. We know what Cecily does, and we know other events when she knows them. It’s a perfect way to ensure the reader, even if they know the history of the time period, doesn’t get ahead of themselves. 

Cecily is an engaging and headstrong woman. The author gives her a voice that we can understand, reflecting a quick intelligence and an ability to piece together events skillfully. Some scenes may feel rushed, and there is a refusal to dwell on the royal splendour of the court, but I think this added to the story. It is the interaction of the king, queen and the courtiers that’s important, not who was wearing what and eating what. This is absolutely my sort of historical fiction book.

I only wish I’d read it sooner.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.

Cecily is available now as an ebook, audiobook and hardback and you can purchase it here.

Book Reviews from Netgalley – The First Queen of England by M J Porter – historical fiction

The First Queen of England has been available on Netgalley for the last month, and it’s garnered some fab reviews. I thought I’d bring them together here, both good and bad, as not all of them are over on Goodreads!

So, as with all book reviews, here’s the blurb;

“Before Anne Boleyn stole the heart of a king and demanded marriage, another woman strove to wed an already married king of England. This is the story of Elfrida, who would become the first crowned Queen of England.

England is united under Edgar, but twenty years of uncertainty and a dwindling royal nursery, have left the royal family vulnerable to extinction. Edgar, a king at only 15 years old, has an acknowledged daughter and wife, but the dying ealdorman, Æthelwald, has commanded his wife to seek out the king, now in his early twenties.

True to her husband’s wishes, Elfrida pursues the King, nervous of her husband’s intentions, but trusting them all the same. When the king tries to make her his concubine, Elfrida refuses and withdraws from the court, only to find herself dreaming of the King, desiring his touch and his presence.

When the King seeks her out once more, she willingly follows him back to his court and finds herself plunged into a world of politics and self-interest where her future happiness rests not only on the king loving her but also on the goodwill of others with much to play for at the King’s court.

Bringing alive the characters of tenth century England; its young king, Edgar; its Ealdormen, Byrhtnoth, Æthelwine, and Ælfhere; the great reforming religious figures of Archbishop Dunstan, Bishop Æthelwold and Oswald and the great women of the period, Lady Elfrida, Lady Æthelflæd and Lady Wulfthryn, The First Queen of England evokes tenth century England at its most enigmatic, shining a welcome light on England’s first crowned queen, a woman who would go on to accomplish much, but who must first steal the heart of an amorous King and earn her place at court, and overcome the obstacle of the outcome of not only the King’s second marriage, but also his first.

The Mercian Brexit can be read as an introduction to The First Queen of England – offering an account of the very early days of king Edgar’s reign form 955-957.

The First Queen of England Part 2 and Part 3 now available – telling the continuing story of Lady Elfrida in late tenth century England.

The King’s Mother is also now available, book 1 in a new trilogy continuing the story of Lady Elfrida.”

I’ll start with the 5/5 reviews, and there are four of them, which is fab!

“I received an ARC from NetGalley. I loved this book. Loved everything about it. Cant wait for part 2. I did get confused here and there because the character names are so similar but once I got that down, it was easy to follow. I love to read about history and a story where a woman is still valuable even after being married once before is even better. I will say I knew nothing about this King or Queen of England but i am glad to know them now.”

“This is the first time I have heard about Elfrida’s story so this as a pleasant surprise. This novel had romance, drama, and political intrigue! I’m definitely looking forward to purchasing the sequel!”

“Lady Elfrida has laid her husband to rest. He has died at a very young age. She also is widowed at a young age. Though they had been married for several years there are no living children. She is sent back to her fathers home. Just before her husband passed he had mentioned the King. She discovers that she was supposed to have married the king, but her husband was besotted with her and kept her for himself. It was a happy union. Now she discovers that the kings wife and small daughter are to go live in a nunnery. He will be without a wife. When she meets the king she is instantly beside herself with the strong attraction they feel for each other. She knows that to be Queen she will have to become his wife and not a concubine. With the help of strong ladies from the court, who will advise her on what needs to be done, she will do everything in her power to become the first Queen of England. Well written. Has actual persons in the storyline. Interesting!”

“A wonderful and very interesting story about King Edgar of England and his third wife, Elfrida. Highly enjoyable! I read it in one night. A must for Historical Fiction Fans! Will definitely be reading book two in this series. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley! All opinions are my own.”

And then the 4/5 and 3/5 reviews.

“Extremely interesting and factual. Great insight to the culture that spawned the Tudor dynasty..  Will look forward to reading more by this author and will recommend.”

“I was disappointed in this book as I had thought it to be historical fiction…unfortunately, there was a lack of history. I feel King Edgar of England and Elfrida both hved stories of their own, but this book only centers on their passion, even that not very well. The writing felt uninspired, also. Only my opinion.”

The First Queen of England is still available on Netgalley for a few more days for anyone who fancies delving into tenth century England (until 25th May 2019), and I would like to thank all reviewers for reading and offering their opinions! I appreciate each and every one of them, (and yes, that does mean the not too enthused ones as well – not everyone can like everything –  I certainly don’t.)

The First Queen of England is available on Amazon now (and also Audible), along with Book 2 and Book 3, and the first part of a second series, The King’s Mother. Books 2 and 3 of the second trilogy will be published soon.

Book Review – The Seven by Peter Newman – fantasy – recommended

“Years have passed since the Vagrant journeyed to the Shining City, Vesper in arm and Gamma’s sword in hand.

Since then the world has changed. Vesper, following the footsteps of her father, journeyed to the breach and closed the tear between worlds, protecting the last of humanity, but also trapping the infernal horde and all those that fell to its corruptions: willing or otherwise.

In this new age it is Vesper who leads the charge towards unity and peace, with seemingly nothing standing between the world and a bright new future.

That is until eyes open.

And The Seven awakes.”

I received a free EArc from Netgalley and notice that this has just come out in paperback so I am sharing my review again!

After only a few pages, I decided to read the previous book in the series, as the world I discovered was both intriguing and quite alien. I thought I needed some back story, and indeed I did. My review for The Malice is here.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2011536175?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I should also perhaps have taken the time to read The Vagrant but impatience won out, and anyway, The Vagrant, unlike in The Malice, is a real part of this final part of the trilogy (I am assuming it’s the final part).

Anyway, back to The Seven.

The world created by Peter Newman throughout The Vagrant series is inherently alien. It feels new and strange and, on occasion, very, very weird. This, more than anything, immediately draws the reader in, for Newman’s descriptions are sparse in the extreme, and I was often left decrying his lack of description (which is weird for me because I often skip excess descriptions in books content to let my imagination hold sway). Neither is it just his descriptions that are sparse, the whole nature of the book is trimmed down so that you really have to read each and every word – there’s no skipping a bit because you sort of know what’s about to happen. There is also, in the grand scheme of things, little conversation. This ties with the ‘pared’ down nature of the planet that these people inhabit.

The characters in this final book – Vesper, Samael and Scout, The Vagrant, Jem, her daughter, Obeisance and The Seven, as well as The First, Neer and other characters from the earlier book (including The Buck although not as much as I might have liked) – are all scarcely sketched and yet all have very distinct characters. There is no need to’like’ any of the characters (not like in some books) and yet throughout the series you gain respect for them all – even when they might be being cowardly or acting contrary to what we might hope they do. This is a strength of the book – for all the weirdness and strangeness – these are people (I use that word lightly) that we can understand if not relate to.

I very much enjoyed the ‘backstory’ in The Seven. Throughout The Malice I found it a little distracting, but in The Seven, the back story is vitally important, and indeed, at the end, I would have liked to know more about Massala and her creations.

Book 3 is eminently more readable than The Malice – and I don’t think it was because I knew more about the ‘world’ of The Vagrant – I think the storyline is more recognizable and therefore flows better. Yet I don’t think the author ever quite gives the reader what they want – there is not really a happily ever after, there is just an ending, and one which is never wholly assured until it actually happens.

There are very good battle scenes, and very good ‘political’ scenes and yet through it all, the world of The Vagrant remains aloof – difficult to grasp onto. It is not a typical fantasy book and some might well struggle with it, but I think it’s well worth the struggle (The Malice took me a month to read because I struggled with elements of it – The Seven is a much quicker read) and it is refreshing to read something so very different and ‘new’.

The Seven is available now and can be purchased here;

Book Review – The Seven by Peter Newman – fantasy – recommended

“Years have passed since the Vagrant journeyed to the Shining City, Vesper in arm and Gamma’s sword in hand.

Since then the world has changed. Vesper, following the footsteps of her father, journeyed to the breach and closed the tear between worlds, protecting the last of humanity, but also trapping the infernal horde and all those that fell to its corruptions: willing or otherwise.

In this new age it is Vesper who leads the charge towards unity and peace, with seemingly nothing standing between the world and a bright new future.

That is until eyes open.

And The Seven awakes.”

I received a free EArc from Netgalley.

But that said, after only a few pages, I decided to read the previous book in the series, as the world I discovered was both intriguing and quite alien. I thought I needed some back story, and indeed I did. My review for The Malice is here.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2011536175?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I should also perhaps have taken the time to read The Vagrant but impatience won out, and anyway, The Vagrant, unlike in The Malice, is a real part of this final part of the trilogy (I am assuming it’s the final part).

Anyway, back to The Seven.

The world created by Peter Newman throughout The Vagrant series is inherently alien. It feels new and strange and, on occasion, very, very weird. This, more than anything, immediately draws the reader in, for Newman’s descriptions are sparse in the extreme, and I was often left decrying his lack of description (which is weird for me because I often skip excess descriptions in books content to let my imagination hold sway). Neither is it just his descriptions that are sparse, the whole nature of the book is trimmed down so that you really have to read each and every word – there’s no skipping a bit because you sort of know what’s about to happen. There is also, in the grand scheme of things, little conversation. This ties with the ‘pared’ down nature of the planet that these people inhabit.

The characters in this final book – Vesper, Samael and Scout, The Vagrant, Jem, her daughter, Obeisance and The Seven, as well as The First, Neer and other characters from the earlier book (including The Buck although not as much as I might have liked) – are all scarcely sketched and yet all have very distinct characters. There is no need to’like’ any of the characters (not like in some books) and yet throughout the series you gain respect for them all – even when they might be being cowardly or acting contrary to what we might hope they do. This is a strength of the book – for all the weirdness and strangeness – these are people (I use that word lightly) that we can understand if not relate to.

I very much enjoyed the ‘backstory’ in The Seven. Throughout The Malice I found it a little distracting, but in The Seven, the back story is vitally important, and indeed, at the end, I would have liked to know more about Massala and her creations.

Book 3 is eminently more readable than The Malice – and I don’t think it was because I knew more about the ‘world’ of The Vagrant – I think the storyline is more recognizable and therefore flows better. Yet I don’t think the author ever quite gives the reader what they want – there is not really a happily ever after, there is just an ending, and one which is never wholly assured until it actually happens.

There are very good battle scenes, and very good ‘political’ scenes and yet through it all, the world of The Vagrant remains aloof – difficult to grasp onto. It is not a typical fantasy book and some might well struggle with it, but I think it’s well worth the struggle (The Malice took me a month to read because I struggled with elements of it – The Seven is a much quicker read) and it is refreshing to read something so very different and ‘new’.

The Seven is available now and can be purchased here;