Friday, August 4, 2017

Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 3, 2017

The Victorian Empire has declared war on the Zulus if they don't accede to their outrageous demands. The clock is ticking down to the appointed hour. With no idea why the British are marching three massive columns of men and guns towards them, one Zulu general is prepared to take an impossible risk. But the life he's gambling with isn't his own... The sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, 15 year-old Elizabeth Jones is taken in by the Zulus, the people of the sky. Six years later, her white skin becomes useful to the Zulu army as they try to work out why the Victorian Empire has pointed their war-machine at the Zulu nation. Elizabeth is suddenly Zululand's most important spy. While infiltrating the British camp, Elizabeth's disguise as a young soldier is uncovered almost immediately by Captain Jack Burdell. However, he believes the tale she spins of searching for a missing brother and shields her from discovery, allowing her to bunk in his tent and giving her a job as his batman. Burdell is war-weary and disillusioned - no longer willing to follow regulations at all costs. But as Elizabeth and Jack explore their growing attraction to each other, the two armies move towards their inevitable clash. Elizabeth is torn between the guilt of betrayal and her fierce loyalty to her Zulu family, and when Zulu and British meet on the battlefield, both she and Jack find their hearts and their lives caught in the crossfire.

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Michelle Diener’s Daughter of the Sky was new territory for me. I knew virtually nothing about the Anglo-Zulu War prior to reading the book, but I was intrigued by the prospect and couldn’t help taking interest in the novel. Looking back, however, I have to admit to feeling the novel’s characters and themes outshone the history on which it was based.

I don’t mean to discount Diener’s illustration of the British invasion of Zululand or the Battle of Isandlwana, but politics don’t take centerstage here and I don’t want to mislead readers by implying otherwise. Elizabeth and Jack are caught up in the conflict, but their stories hinge on the morality of their circumstances, how they identify themselves, and the decisions they make when their loyalties are torn.

Daughter of the Sky is not standard fare by any means and while the story was lighter than I’d hoped going in, the narrative proved well-worth my time and I definitely recommend it to fellow readers.

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She’d been a spy for minutes and was already a failure. The only way out now was pleading. Or running.  
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