Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Lady Bornekova by Sara R. Turnquist

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 28, 2015

The red-headed Karin is strong-willed and determined, something she inherited from her father. She tries to keep her true nature a secret to avoid being deemed a traitor by those loyal to the king. Karin and her father butt heads over her duty to her family and the Czech Crown. She is then sequestered to the Royal Viscount’s hunting lodge. Not aware of everything that is happening, she becomes the target of an individual with murderous intent. Her heart soon becomes entangled though her father intends to wed her to another. The turmoil inside Karin deepens and reflects the turmoil of her homeland, on the brink of the Hussite Wars.

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I began Sara R. Turnquist’s The Lady Bornekova with absolutely no knowledge of the Hussite Wars. My imaginings were shaped by the author’s descriptions and the atmosphere she created within the narrative. I found the initial chapters vague in terms of plot, the author’s deliberate attempts to manufacture intrigue lacked polish, but I felt reasonably confident in my understanding of Karin’s situation and the period in which her story took place. That is, until I googled the Council of Constance. 

I didn’t have an exact date of reference, but my rough estimate is that the story began in late October 1414. To put this in perspective, Joan of Arc is two and the battle of Agincourt is barely a year away. Neither of these facts have anything to do with Turnquist’s story, but they do add a certain perspective for those with any knowledge of the age. Most, if not all, of Turnquist’s descriptions of social custom, fashion, architecture, and interior design were appropriate to a Victorian romance. She mentions wallpaper, empire waists, settees, drapes, a breakfast buffet and a four poster carriage, none of which are a characteristic of life in the early 1400s. 

Taking a few deep breaths, I steeled my nerves, and set about finishing the book, but my enjoyment dissipated as I noticed more and more historical anachronisms. I believe the book was reviewed in terms of grammar and spelling, but what Turnquist needed here was a content editor. The number of factual errors and period contradictions in this piece had me dumbfounded and while I give the author a lot of credit for tackling a lesser known event in a rarely seen locale, I admit the research that went into this piece left me disappointed. 

My issues, however, are not limited to historical accuracy. Turnquist employs multiple narrators in this piece, but she often draws on characters of limited importance. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’d have appreciated the story much more if the author had exercised more restraint and limited herself to two or three well-rounded and defined POVs. 

The characters themselves didn’t leave much of an impression on me and I didn’t find the politics particularly interesting. The dialogue didn’t strike me as authentic and I couldn’t have cared less for the romance. The book is readable and ambitious in terms of the material it covers, but I didn’t enjoy the time I spent with it and would have a hard time recommending it to fellow readers.  

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Lord, help me to remember You are in control and that vengeance is Yours.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Season of Mists by Jennifer Corkill

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Author
Read: July 13, 2015

The year is 1888. Justine Holloway finds herself an orphan after her parents die in a horrific fire. She is sent to live with her godparents, Harold Mendenhall and his sister Frances. On the boat ride home, she meets Amun Farouk, a handsome Egyptian Ambassador who is also sailing to England to meet her godfather. What Justine does not realize as she dons the veil of mourning is that Harold runs a secret organization under the nose of polite society, much to the dismay of his genteel sister. The Council was created for the protection of humanity from the Varius, refugees from a parallel universe who shift their form while others channel the forces of magic. They seek refuge in Victorian London, hidden in the slums, easily forgotten until a human ends up incinerated or sucked dry. Drawn into the plot against her will, Justine finds herself the object of a vampire’s lurid obsession. According to ancient texts, vampires kill humans for fodder, their blood and the air they breathe inferior, but this killer has other intentions for her. Does Justine’s survival depend on Amun or will he kill her to save humanity?

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Jennifer Corkill’s Season of Mists was one of those books that more or less found me. The author very kindly offered me a copy in exchange for an honest review and the rest is pretty much history. 

I’ll be blunt, the cover doesn’t do much for me. I’ve seen the same model on a lot of ebooks and much like the image that once graced Andrea Zuvich’s The Stuart Vampire, I don’t think the jacket does justice to Corkill’s story. 

Part paranormal fantasy and part historic fiction, the novel has a lot of fun material in it. Other reviewers have compared Justine Holloway’s adventure to The Mummy and Downton Abbey, but I personally think Corkill’s work closer to The Young Sherlock Holmes, you know, with a stronger female protagonist, shape-shifters and vampires.

In terms of style and technique, I won’t lie, the novel took me a while to get into. It wasn’t until chapter eight that I felt the story really took off so if you’re reading this, understand patience will be rewarded. Ideally, I’d have liked more in terms of world building, but I’m pickier than most and generally speaking, I found Corkill’s representation of paranormal London dark, engaging and fun.

All told, Season of Mists is a solid paranormal debut. Recommended alongside That Scoundrel Emile Dubois by Lucinda Elliot and Mozart's Blood by Louise Marley.

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"... trust me when I say humans are not the only species living in London. In fact, we are the docile ones in comparison.”
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