Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

#1 in the Rosemarked series
Pages: 400
Released: November 11, 2017
Publisher: Disney
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I really wasn't planning on reading this book either, but this is twice now that Disney has sent me a book I didn't plan on reading and I ended up enjoying it a whole lot. So, points to you, Disney.

The thing is, while the plot sounds right up my alley (fantasy, conspiracy, hate-turned-love romance, war, spies, etc.), Livia Blackburne's books and I have a love-hate relationship. I adored her short story Poison Dance, and I was so excited to read the series it was setting up, but when it came to the actual novel I couldn't even finish it. It felt like it was written by a completely different author. I figured the short story was a fluke and I pretty much wrote off anything else she wrote. Which is why I hadn't even bothered considering Rosemarked.

And, to be honest, it was all smooth sailing. There was this distance with the characters that made their narrative voices feel muffled and monotone. Sure, there was emotion, but it felt dull and muted like it was underwater. Had the book not been so long, giving me enough time to really get to know them better and become invested in their stories, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

But, the book is long, and so we got to spend a lot of time together. The chapters alternate between Zivah and Dineas's narrative focus and that switching combined with fairly short chapters and a slow-burn plot kept me engaged. Their voices were distinct enough, though I appreciated the chapter headings indicating who was speaking. By about halfway through I solidly cared about them and that feeling only grew as I read more.

As the plot progresses the emotions run deeper and deeper and I found myself invested not just in the characters and the story, but also in the idea. I know that doesn't make much sense, but there's an almost philosophical conundrum the characters experience that made me wish I was reading this with a book club so we could discuss all the angles and ramifications. 

The plot and world building are intriguing and I enjoyed reading about them in their own right. The crows, snake, and disease were interesting and well thought-out. I could wish for a little more depth to the empire/conquered peoples, but maybe that will unfold more in the sequel.

I was disappointed when the book ended because even though it was long, I wanted to keep reading. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next one.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review: Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Pages: 514
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: 2011
Received: Own
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Goodreads

I'm pretty sure this is the first Elizabeth Chadwick book I've read, and I have many others on my TBR. I've heard great things about her and so my expectations were high.

Sadly, I met Sharon Kay Penman first. Her recounting of The Anarchy was so much more visceral. The tension between Matilda and her husband was crackling. The scope of the war was huge and devastating.

Elizabeth Chadwick's version just fell flat in comparison. It seemed apologetic for Matilda's temper and Geoffrey's violence. While it seemed like she tried to humanize the characters, there was always an emotional distance and they felt very much like characters rather than people. The only exception to this is of Henry I's second wife. I liked her characterization in this book a lot and wish the book had been about her instead.

I had been hoping for heavier historical fiction with excellent characterization, but instead this felt fluffy and very surface level. More like Christy English and Anne O'Brien than Juliet Grey or Susan Kay. That isn't terrible, but it was more of a forgettable book than I was hoping and expecting.

Well, I won't write off Elizabeth Chadwick just yet and I'll give her other books a shot. I probably would have liked Lady of the English a lot more if I hadn't had the comparison. And, really, if an author is going to suffer in comparison, they can do far worse than to have that comparison be against Sharon Kay Penman. 

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