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Mar 23, 2015

The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy #2) by Patricia Bracewell

Monday, March 23, 2015

Emma of Normandy's story continues...

The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy #2) by Patricia Bracewell
Published by Viking, February 5, 2015
Hardcover 448 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

Read my review of the first book in the trilogy, Shadow on the Crown

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.
Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

I waited two years for this novel to come out and it was very much worth the wait. In the previous book of Emma's younger days as a Norman bride to the English King Æthelred we were introduced to a volatile era in England's history as it struggled to withstand numerous Viking attacks. While Shadow on the Crown was fast paced and exciting, The Price of Blood delves more into the personal conflicts of the marriage of Emma and Æthelred and more about the political factions that affected the country.

Characters reappear, such as Lady Elgiva, as she makes up much of this book's story when she is able to hide from the king and his newest henchman Eadric, stirring up trouble from afar unbeknownst to the king. Eadric himself is not making many friends as he is a new favorite of the king's, offering him unwise counsel and using harsh tactics to get his way. The princes have little say in their father's court and Æthelred is described as being a paranoid and nervous king. Emma tries her best to survive among the many threats to her safety and that of her son, and is portrayed as a strong and capable Queen even when her king gives her little space in the court.

I can only hope for the final installment in the trilogy to bring us both a climax and a resolution to the saga of Emma's life and the events of her time, as The Price of Blood has set this reader on the edge of her seat waiting for things to blow up in the royal family. What the author does by filling in the blanks of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles is nothing short of amazing as she brings to life an otherwise forgotten time period; something I am especially grateful for as the historical fiction genre seems to have become bloated with novels of Tudors and Plantagenets. The writing of Patricia Bracewell may well possibly be compared to some of my other favorite story tellers such as Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Penman....if the final installment pulls it off as a marvelous conclusion to the trilogy. Sadly I will have to wait and see another long few years.

Mar 17, 2015

Mar 2, 2015

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Monday, March 02, 2015

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark (Reissue) September 2014
512 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

A mystery trapped in time..
 In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D'Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed.
Now, two generations later, Alessandro D'Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather's masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands-at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D'Ascanio's magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake's disappearance-and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro.
But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia's fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back...

When I received this book in summer of 2014 I was extremely excited to read another novel by Susanna Kearsley. I had really enjoyed the few that I read in recent years which were reprinted via Sourcebooks Landmark. Her novels have hints of Rebecca DuMaurier tones set in contemporary settings which always intrigues this stuck in historical fiction reader.

This particular novel involves the theater, Italy, and a possible ghost of an actress from many years ago who bears the same name of our contemporary first person character. Celia Sands' character is easy enough to like, but during the entire novel I wished I knew what she looked like and I wished I felt like I cared more about what happened to her. Celia had a big hang up about her famous mother, and she was raised by two gay men which made for an endearing backdrop to the character, but that was almost all we get out of the characterization of our main protagonist. At twenty-two she gets a chance to go to Italy to act in a play written for her namesake. Celia slowly -- very slowly-- develops friendships and relationships with the other actors while hints of treachery and ghosts flit in and out of the story line.

I first attempted to read the novel the moment I received it, but I got bored so much that I had to put it down a few weeks later. I tried again five months later and hard to restart from the beginning. It was still a struggle to really want to read the novel, but I persevered. It took quite a while to get going, though I'm not really sure the plot line did get going. If you haven't read any of Kearsley's novels before, don't start with this one. I would definitely recommend any of these others that I have reviewed previously here at Burton Book Review:

The Splendour Falls
The Firebird
The Shadowy Horses