RaveBookreporterPuhak pulls off a singularly difficult feat...The critically acclaimed poet and writer manages to bring to life two women whose stories have genuinely been obscured by time and propaganda and polish them off, revealing the gleaming individuals beneath. She pushes aside the myth and theological agenda surrounding early medieval chronicles to create realistic and compelling stories of Merovingian queens Fredegund and Brunhild ... In doing so, Puhak avoids the all-too-tempting trap of smothering their stories in dry facts or what-ifs and explanations that we don’t really know what happened. On the flip side, she doesn’t make too many massive leaps in logic, crediting her subjects with remarkable achievements but explaining what it is about these people and their extraordinary world that made their successes and failures possible ... an intriguing look at a little-known period in history and is more than deserving of a wide readership.
MixedBookreporterThe Forgotten Kingdom kicks off with Britain deeply divided between the \'Wisdom Keepers\' --- Druids --- and the savage Christians, echoed by the divisions between Languoreth and her own family and friends ... However, Pike doesn’t succeed in bringing to life a vision of a religiously divided Britain. Her vague rituals and mythologies are a pale echo of those in previous Arthurian fantasies from [Marion Zimmer] Bradley, Nancy McKenzie or any number of other authors. The Wisdom Keepers and Christians are painted with too-broad strokes. As a result, the central conflict of religions, upon which other strife is based, doesn’t ring true. Still, Pike’s characters are individually compelling, and it will be interesting to see how the story concludes in the final book of the trilogy, which is expected to release in the U.S. in September 2023.
RaveBookreporterThe Bone Shard Daughter brings together the best of fantasy, romance and science fiction, melding them into one glorious one-stop shop of speculative fiction. Not even numerous main characters and point-of-view hopping can stop this beautifully constructed story from shining…well, like a shard of bone in the moonlight ... Stewart builds a compelling world with a fascinating magical system and raises thought-provoking questions that readers will use to examine their own world and life. The Bone Shard Daughter is a stellar and insightful read.
PositiveBookreporterBowen returns to good form here ... She does a nice job of channeling Daphne du Maurier’s novel without lifting its themes and characters wholesale; this classic influenced, but does not overwhelm ... There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking in terms of plot or character development, but longtime fans will be pleased.
PositiveBookreporter\"In her debut novel, Empire of Sand, London-based author Tasha Suri crafts a dazzling epic that is sure to enthrall fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike. Set in a world inspired by Mughal India, the book presents an engaging, relatable heroine who struggles to survive in a world seemingly designed to destroy her ... Suri beautifully sketches Ambha and its people into a vivid, lively universe that makes readers want to dive in and understand the history of every palace Mehr enters, every daiva that appears. So it’s understandably disappointing that the nature of dreamfire, the Amrithi relationship with the daiva, and the rites Mehr and the other Amrithi enact aren’t fully explained. The world-building is teased but not fulfilled, leaving readers wanting more and feeling frustrated that they might not understand how Mehr manages to do what she does. Either way, Empire of Sand is the first book in a series that this reviewer is certainly excited about.\
MixedBookreporter\"While Cooney’s central thesis is compelling, it is hard to reconcile the supposed smoothness of Egyptian succession with greed and desire for power that surely arose from the higher nobility ... Thankfully, Cooney does weave in the archaeological record quite frequently—but so much has been lost to history, so she must conjecture where possible. And that makes it hard to create a fully fleshed-out portrayal of each queen’s life and motivations ... Overall, Cooney creates an intriguing entry in the ongoing discussion about women’s political roles in ancient Egypt. Sometimes, when striving to apply her singular thesis about a unified political motivation to different women throughout the millennia, her argument wears a bit thin.\
C W Gortner
RaveBookreporterIt descends into the infamous tragedy that befell the imperial family. But The Romanov Empress isn’t a sob-fest; rather, it’s a lush character study of Maria Feodorovna and the fatally flawed life she cherishes to her dying breath ... Gortner tightly weaves international contradictions into the foundations of Minnie’s character, making this impetuous royal a realistic character ... Gortner lavishes just as much attention on the emotional highs of his heroine’s life as the eventual agonies ... Gortner has constructed a masterful portrait of imperial Russia ... individual tragedies rock the whole family unit, one that is doomed to fail oh-so-beautifully.