24 February 2018

It's the Weekend

No reviews over the weekend 
but did you miss...

Can one fall in love with fictional characters?
by Anna Belfrage
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23 February 2018

Katharina: Deliverance by Margaret Skea

shortlisted for Book of the Month

AMAZON UK £3.99 £7.41
AMAZON US $5.39 $17.36

Biographical fiction
early 16th Century

First, a confession. All I really knew of Martin Luther was an impression of a man in monk's garb (incorrect) nailing parchments to church doors in the dead of night (also incorrect) and schoolboy giggles when reading about a diet of Worms. Thus, when this book arrived in my inbox, my heart rather sunk a bit for it is not a period that I am particularly well-versed, or even interested, in.

However, any misgivings I may have had were dispelled completely by the time I had reached the second page. The quality and style – written in the first person and the present tense – didn't so much grab me as to physically haul me back through the centuries and wouldn't let me go until I had read every single word.

Katherina von Bora is taken from her home as a five year  old to a Cistercian nunnery in a faraway town on the wishes of her new stepmother. Speech is sometimes allowed, but she learns to communicate by signing and excels at the skills she is taught. Illicit tracts written by Martin Luther are smuggled in and Katherina and her friends slowly become influenced by them and they doubt their beliefs.  The chance to abscond presents itself and several of the nuns take advantage of the opportunity and are transported to Wittenberg. Katherina is, by this time, a young woman and has already taken her vows. She is taken in by a rich family and soon approached by a young man who presses his suit. But it is not to be.

Interspersed with the story are italicised segments where Katherina is older and obviously ill, for her ramblings in these often lead to the next part of main story. The author skilfully blends these pieces in and they are never intrusive.

There is so much to enjoy in this sparkling novel that brings the characters to life, including the rather dour Martin Luther, but most especially Katherina's progress from child to woman. The book ends with their marriage and I was delighted to see that a sequel is due to be released later this year and I am excited about that for there is a lot more of Katherina to be told.

Very highly recommended

© Richard Tearle

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22 February 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of: The Leper King by Scott R. Rezer

AMAZON UK £1.99 £9.05
AMAZON US $2.70 $15.50

AMAZON CA $3.99 $19.35

fictional saga / fantasy
12th century/crusades
Holy Land

Book 1 of the Magdalene Cycle

Baldwin IV is an easy protagonist to admire. He is still a boy when he becomes King of Jerusalem during a turbulent time. Throughout his short life, and through sheer strength of will, he deals with challenges that would test older, healthy men. Baldwin is tormented by his leprosy, and the author graphically describes his worsening condition. Eventually, he comes to terms with his imminent death and even comes to understand why he has been afflicted. He is wise and brave beyond his years, dutiful and serious but occasionally mischievous. In spite of his youth and disease, he leads his armies against the enemy, Salah-ed-Din (Saladin) who is making gains in the Holy Land. In other books of the period I have read, Salah-ed-Din is portrayed as a rather shadowy enemy of the crusaders. In this book, he emerges as a full-bodied character with his own point of view. 

In fact, all the main characters are three-dimensional. As Baldwin’s disease progresses, the princes of Outremer jostle to gain an advantage in the next reign. Menace, intrigue, rebellion, magic and the supernatural in the form of Mary Magdalene as an immortal spiritual guide all play a part in this dark tale. I could have enjoyed it more without the magic, but it is an integral part of the story, and I’m sure many other people will enjoy that aspect. The balanced portrayal of the two sides in the struggle is refreshing. The author has added a touch of authenticity by using Arabic names for people and places. This is done from the pov of Salah-ed-Din.

There are a few grammar errors, but nothing too distracting.

© Susan Appleyard

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