E. A. Haltom, 2015
New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.
Premise: Lady Gwendolyn has been doing a fine job managing her husband’s estate while he is overseas with King Richard. But with mercenaries sympathetic to Prince John passing through and machinations from her sister-in-law, Gwendolyn will use a superstition, her own stubbornness and her unorthodox training to protect her people.
Spoilers ABOUND below, FYI.
I was going to cut this book some slack because I assumed it was YA, but I’m not seeing that on any of the promotional pages.
I might have enjoyed this at age 12. Now, not so much. It’s not that it’s terrible. It’s that it’s terribly cliche.
Gwendolyn doesn’t just know how to use a sword. She’s also great at it, despite the first chapter being the first time she fights in earnest against someone with deadly intent. She’s also secretly the heir of King Arthur. I almost put the book down for good at that point, rolling my eyes.
The historical elements are thin at best. The reactions of characters and their ideals felt falsely modern around gender and sexuality. Gwendolyn’s recollections of a conversation between she and her husband about sex made me almost quit the book a second time. There is a whole plot thread about the fact that she is secretly a virgin. Why is this the case? It only causes trouble for her. Is it just to make room for an annulment and a romance in a potential sequel? I can't think of any plausible in-world reason, so it feels unnatural and forced. It didn’t do this book any favors that I read it within six months of reading The Summer Queen (actual grounded historical fiction set in the same time period).
The magical elements were okay, but it might have been a better book if all the magic had all turned out to be a lie.
The writing is serviceable most of the time, but occasionally swings between describing too much and not enough.
I did not believe the ending at all. The characters depart under a cloud, practically fleeing from an angry crowd, then disappear. And they return injured, having caused the death of the local earl’s son, their only sympathetic witness a little boy who had been friendly with them earlier and people just took their (lying) word for what happened? REALLY?
Overall, not a recommended read.
1 Star - Didn’t really like it, almost a DNF