reviews

Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood

Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood

For millennia, two women have been blamed for the fall of a mighty civilisation – but now it’s time to hear their side of the story . . .

As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but luxury and plenty. With their high birth and unrivalled beauty, they are the envy of all of Greece.

Such privilege comes at a high price, though, and their destinies are not theirs to command. While still only girls they are separated and married off to legendary foreign kings Agamemnon and Menelaos, never to meet again. Their duty is now to give birth to the heirs society demands and be the meek, submissive queens their men expect.

But when the weight of their husbands’ neglect, cruelty and ambition becomes too heavy to bear, they must push against the constraints of their sex to carve new lives for themselves – and in doing so make waves that will ripple throughout the next three thousand years. (publisher)

The book is told from the alternating pov’s of Helen and Klytemnestra. I liked the first part, which concentrating on their childhood and getting to know the characters. The Trojan War part was shorter and felt somewhat rushed.

I liked Klytemnestra’s chapters much more than Helen’s. Helen came out as a spoiled, thoughtless, and silly girl to whom things “just happened”.

There were some parts of the mythology missing that left some gaps in the story. There is no wooden horse, instead, the city is just suddenly sacked without really explaining how this came to be. How did the soldiers get inside Troy? There were no mentions of Kassandra’s visions, which are a huge part of Kassandra’s story. Although, it was nice seeing the friendship between her and Helen.

Despite all this, I quite enjoyed the book. Just not as much as I thought I would.

3/5

Published: Hodder & Stoughton (July 22, 2021)
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

reviews

Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and Catherine I, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the world’s loveliest Princess and the envy of the Russian empire. Insulated by luxury and as a woman free from the burden of statecraft, Elizabeth is seemingly born to pursue her passions.

However, when her mother dies; Russia is torn, masks fall, and friends become foes. Elizabeth’s idyllic world is upended. By her twenties she is penniless and powerless, living under constant threat. As times change like quicksand, Elizabeth must decide whether she is willing to take up her role as Russia’s ruler, and what she’s willing to do for her country. (publisher)

Elizabeth is a daughter of Tsar Peter the Great and Tsarina Catherine I, whose life changes when her father, mother and fiancée all die close together. She needs to learn how to survive during the years with changing rulers amidst the court intrigues. Peter tried to westernize and modernize Russia during his reign, which wasn’t well-received by everyone. So, when he dies, some people try to bring back the old ways, which also affects Elizabeth’s life.

This is the second book in a series but works well as a stand-alone. I haven’t read the first book, which tells the story of Elizabeth’s parents but could follow easily. I haven’t read a book about Elizabeth before, so this was a nice change.

The book follows adolescent Elizabeth trying to survive the court politics but sadly ends when her reign starts. I would have liked to read more about her reign. There are some magical elements in there which seemed a bit far fetched. But it’s not a huge part of the book so it didn’t matter so much.

My one problem was that it wasn’t always clear how much time has passed. At some point, it becomes clear that some years have passed but it’s not always clear how much time. But all in all, it was an enjoyable, quick read and I do want to read the previous book too.

3/5

Published: Bloomsbury Publishing (July 8, 2021)
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

reviews

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga 1) by John Gwynne

A century has passed since the gods fought and drove themselves to extinction. Now only their bones remain, promising great power to those brave enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo across the land of Vigrið, fate follows in the footsteps of three warriors: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman pursuing battle fame, and a thrall seeking vengeance among the mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods. (publisher)

I was very excited to read this, and I wasn’t disappointed!

We have 3 POVs: Orka, Varg and Elvar. Orka, a former warrior, wants to just live a peaceful life with her family. But that life is disrupted when her husband is killed, and her son stolen. Varg is a former thrall (slave) who wants to avenge his sister’s death and joins Bloodsworn, a warband. Elvar is a daughter of a jarl who joined a warband in search of glory.

I have to say that there is a fair number of characters. And I can already see myself wondering who all these people are when reading the next book. I kept wondering how these 3 main characters will get together.

It took me some time to warm up to Orka but in the in she was the character I was most interested in. I wanted to, and still want to, learn more about her past. At first, she seems very strict and harsh towards her son, and you could tell there’s a story behind that. I found Varg to be the less interesting, many of the other characters in his group were far more interesting. I’m interested to see how the betrayals will affect Elvar in the future and how that storyline evolves.

I liked the world-building and writing. By looking at the cover you would think there are a lot of dragons but that wasn’t the case. Maybe in the next book? This was my first read by Gwynne, even though I’ve had Malice for some time. But I can’t wait to read the next book.

4/5

Published: Orbit (May 6, 2021)
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

reviews

The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier

The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier

Marj Charlierís The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church.

At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By the end of the sixth century, even this is eroding as the church begins to eject women from the clergy and declares them too unclean to touch sacramental objects or even their priest-husbands.

Craving the legitimacy thwarted by her bastard status, Clotild seeks to become the next abbess of the female Monastery of the Holy Cross, the most famous of the womenís cloisters of the early Middle Ages. When the bishop of Poitiers blocks her appointment and seeks to control the nunnery himself, Clotild masterminds an escape, leading a group of nuns on a dangerous pilgrimage to beg her royal relatives to intercede on their behalf. But the bishop refuses to back down, and a bloody battle ensues. Will Clotild and her sisters succeed with their quest, or will they face ex-communication, possibly even death?

In the only historical novel written about the incident, The Rebel Nun is a richly imagined story about a truly remarkable heroine.

Clotild is an illegitimate daughter of Frankish King Charibert. After her father’s death, she is sent to a monastery called Holy Cross in 6th century Poitiers. It’s believed to be the safest place for her. When the previous abbess dies, Clotild is believed to be the next abbess. But instead, bishop Maroveus appoints Lebover to be the next abbess and life under her rule sets out to be a difficult one when she cuts food rationing drastically.

Christianity is still a fairly new thing, and she has learnt about herbs and traditional gods and goddesses from her mother and grandmother. Around this time the church has started removing women from any positions they held in the church. Because women are seen as “unclean”. Clotild has accepted Christianity and her life in the cloister, but little by little she starts to question the churches decisions and how they treat women. Many of the women are at the monastery to avoid unwanted marriage, bloodthirsty relatives or prostitution rather than their devotion to religious life.

6th century France is certainly not a place that is often featured. It was great to read something from Merovingian time. I was a bit hesitant towards the book since it’s set in a monastery, but I didn’t mind it at all. It didn’t feel preachy or boring at all.

The bishops and kings weren’t interested in listening or believing what the nuns were saying. They just assumed Clotild was jealous of Lebover. So not much changed there… Just be more pious and obey men. No matter if you starve because apparently it brings you closer to heaven or something.

My one problem was the romance plot which I thought was unnecessary. But other than that, I really enjoyed the book.

4/5

Published: Blackstone Publishing (March 2, 2021)
Format: eBook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

Marj Charlier began her writing career at daily and mid-size newspapers before joining the Wall Street Journal as a staff reporter. After twenty years in journalism, she pursued her MBA and began a second career in corporate finance. The Rebel Nun is her first historical novel, and her eleventh published novel.

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reviews

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive. (publisher)

Sadie’s family is living in the Krakow ghetto during WWII. But they manage to leave before the inhabitants are transferred to the concentration camps. With another family, they hide in a sewer beneath the city. At first, they think that they will be there just a while before moving somewhere else, but soon it becomes evident that there is nowhere to go. Ella is from a well-to-do gentile family and living with her stepmother who is throwing parties to Nazis. She catches glimpse of a girl in the sewers, they become friends and Ella helps by bringing some food for them.

The book is largely focused on the people hiding in the sewers, so we don’t see the concentration camps or much about what’s happening in the city. So, in that sense, it’s a bit different book from many other WWII books. We have both Sadie’s and Ella’s POV and for once I liked both just as much.

It was nice to see the growth of both girls during this difficult time. Especially Ella, who was from an affluent family, saw a whole different world when she went to the other side of the city and befriended Sadie.

There were few scenes that I thought were a bit far fetched. Mainly the idea that the girls could converse through a sewer grate in the street multiple times with no one noticing. But overall, it was a well-written book. This was my first book by the author, but I had heard good things about her books. I definitely want to read more from her.

4/5

Published: Park Row (May 4, 2021)
Format: eBook
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss