Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Author
Read: March 15, 2015

On a muggy August day in 2002 Alexandra Lind is inexplicably thrown several centuries backwards in time to 1658. Life will never be the same for Alex. Alex lands at the feet of Matthew Graham – an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland. She gawks at this tall gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises that she is the odd one out, not him. Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her frightening new existence. Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew – a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own, and at times it seems his past will see them killed. How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to?

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I owe my introduction to The Graham Saga to Amy Bruno at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Anna Belfrage was not a name I’d known before receiving an invitation to review the author’s sophomore release and while I remember thinking Like Chaff in the Wind looked vaguely interesting, I also remember wrestling down a significant amount of skepticism. I never expected to fall in love with the world Belfrage created, to connect with her characters or become thoroughly captivated by their experiences, but that is exactly what happened. 

To make a long story short, I loved the book and inhaled installments three through seven as soon as they were published. That said, it wasn’t until early 2015 that I decided to backtrack. Book one had taunted me for two years and I didn’t feel right tackling the series finale without knowing where Alex and Matthew’s journey began. My timing couldn’t have been better as the action in To Catch a Falling Star is closely related to plot points introduced in A Rip in the Veil. Linked as they are, I couldn’t help feeling the two served as beautiful bookends to the series and while I feel book one the most challenging in terms of content, my understanding of the how the novels progress allowed me to appreciate the intent and purpose of the novel in a way that is probably much different from those who approached the books chronologically. 

First and foremost, I want to note A Rip in the Veil is historically lighter than the rest of the series. Don’t misunderstand, there is plenty of period detail in these thirty-seven chapters, but Belfrage’s focus is in developing the relationship between hero and heroine. On a macro level this makes perfect sense as their partnership is the cornerstone of the series and requires solid development. The same can be said of the attention Belfrage pays time nodes, their nature and function, but I can see where fans of historic fiction may feel those elements received too much emphasis when considering the novel as a standalone. To this, all I can say is push forward before passing judgement. Trust me on this, it makes a lot of sense of the stories progress. 

The book is character heavy and frequently shifts between a number of narrators. Some may find this a little overwhelming, but I personally loved the movement and perspective Belfrage’s alternating POV afforded. I appreciated the insecurities the author established in both Alex and Matthew and how she wasn’t afraid to showcase lovers with flaws, quirks and personal demons. I also appreciated the care Belfrage took in crafting her antagonist and while I can’t say I’ve much affection for Hector Olivares, I can admit him exceedingly well-developed. He is an adversary with layers of rage and a personal vendetta as deep and complex as the centuries it spans. 

In sum, I loved the book as much as I did its successors. I could kick myself for waiting so long to read it, but that’s neither here nor there. A permanent part of my library, I can’t recommend the book or series highly enough. Thoroughly enjoyable, fun and imaginative. 

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“Like man before the fall from grace,” he said, his hot breath tickling her. “And this is our Eden spread before us.” He turned her to face him. “This is your life now, here, with me. It’s time, Alex, to let the old life go.”
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