Historical Fiction, Reviews, World Literature

Review: An Irish Country Doctor (Irish Country #1)

An Irish Country DoctorAn Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My mother and I share a love of stories from the British Isles – TV shows, books, or movies, it doesn’t matter – so after reading this first installment of Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series, she recommended it to me and I decided that March was the perfect time for this story.

All’s well that ends well in this delightful tale of a small Northern Irish village as seen through the eyes of a newcomer in the form of a young doctor apprenticed to the village’s GP. The novel is filled with the requisite oddball characters and funny moments I expected but because of the novel’s medical framework, it also deals with the realities of small-town medicine, and life and death. The point of view of Dr. Laverty, too, lends the narrative some weight with a message about not judging people – or places – too quickly. All in all An Irish Country Doctor is a joy to read, especially if you want to travel to another time and place for a nice escape.

Although I haven’t yet read any, reading An Irish Country Doctor brought to mind James Herriot’s series of memoirs based on his life as a country veterinarian and the TV show based on them that I did watch as a child.  So if you like stories with a sense of humor,  and a delightful cast of characters set against a medical backdrop like An Irish Country Doctor, you may also enjoy Nick Trout’s The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs.

View all my reviews

Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Reviews

Review: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3)

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

The Winter of the Witch, the third installment of Katherine Arden’s wonderful Winternight Trilogy is a gorgeous, thrilling, heartbreaking, horrifying, magical, and, yes, romantic conclusion to the series. As with the first two books, The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, there are plenty of elements of the fantastic mixed seamlessly with the historical. This combination echoes the many dualities explored throughout the series – nature vs. civilization, Christianity vs. paganism, tradition vs. being true to your nature.  While the series doesn’t necessarily reconcile all of these conflicts, the conclusion is deeply satisfying – even in its most heartbreaking moments.  I only wish there was more of Vasya’s tale to read.
View all my reviews

Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Reviews

Review: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2)

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Arden’s descriptions in this second novel of her gorgeous Winternight Trilogy of Vasya’s world are as stunning as they were in the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale but what she describes is far from beautiful. From the oppressiveness of medieval Moscow to the violence of the times, The Girl in the Tower is a more brutal read with a bit less magic and more of the realities of the era, especially as they pertain to women.
It was often as infuriating for me as the reader as it was for Vasya to read about the way women in feudal Russia (and everywhere in these Dark Ages) were seen as property or prizes that were little more than vessels for carrying heirs. As modern women, our frustration comes not just from the lack of rights and choice women suffered 500+ years ago or the knowledge that in many cultures women are still treated that way. What is frustrating is that even in cultures not governed by religious strictures, we often still feel that lack of choice and that some people still view women as prizes to be won.
I make it sound like The Girl in the Tower is a feminist rant but, while there is a feminist undertone, it is a gorgeous folklore based fantasy that serves as a riveting exploration of nature versus civilization as well as a fascinating glimpse of a time and place not often observed. I am already reading the third installment of the trilogy and cannot wait to see where Vasya’s tale goes next.

If like me, you enjoy novels that combine fantasy with folklore and history, I highly recommend this series, beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale.  When you’ve finished with this trilogy (as I soon will be 😞), I recommend Juliet Marillier’s beautiful Sevenwaters series, starting with Daughter of the Forest

View all my reviews
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Reviews

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1)

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

A great read is one that has you craving to know what happens next while wishing that the story would never end. When it does it, however, you are left wanting more. The Bear and the Nightingale is one such book. I long to read more about the characters, more about the lore that inspired the tale, and more about the history surrounding the story. I rushed through the haunting story of the family of a wealthy landowner in the far north of what is now Russia as they struggle to survive a clash between their old beliefs of spirits that dwell in the surrounding forest and the creatures that protect their homes, and the still-new Christian religion, anxious to know what would happen to the family, especially Vasya, who is more attached to the old ways than even she knows.
I’d had this book on my TBR list for a while and I’d almost picked it up at the library a few times; it was only when I saw that the third book in the trilogy was a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award that I decided that this first book would be a good winter read.  I’m so glad that I did and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.  Arden’s writing is gorgeous, transporting me almost immediately from the mild south Louisiana night to the great northern forest and the seemingly endless winter. The lore which battles with the new ways is fascinating, leaving me with a desire to read the folk and fairy tales that inspired Vasya’s story. It was a perfect read for a long winter’s night.

I’ve really been looking for some good fantasy fiction over the past few years and I particularly enjoy the fantasy fiction that combines history and mythology or folklore like The Bear and the Nightingale does.  If you like this fantasy/history/folk tale combination, I highly recommend Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series.  The first book in the series, Daughter of the Forest, in particular, has a lot in common with The Bear and the Nightingale.  

View all my reviews

Adventure, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Romance

Review: Beauvallet

BeauvalletBeauvallet by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2.5of 5 stars

I’ve had Georgette Heyer’s books on my to-read list since reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Ain’t She Sweet? in which one of the heroine’s favorite authors is Heyer.  I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed, however, by Beauvallet. The story of an English pirate during the reign of Elizabeth I who falls in love with a Spanish noblewoman whom he returns to Spain after attacking the ship she’d been on with the promise that he would return for her to make her his bride is pure escapist literature.  But I hope that is not one of Heyer’s best.

The romance left much to be desired, and the action sequences – something you’d expect plenty of in a novel about pirates – were quick and not all that thrilling. As for the characters, Nicholas Beauvallet is fun like an Errol Flynn (or rather, given that Beauvallet was originally published in 1929, Douglas Fairbanks) character, though not too swoon-worthy, Dominica is intelligent, strong-willed (reminiscent of Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series but with less daring-do), and Joshua, well, I can’t decide whether he is the heart of the narrative or simply annoying. As for the rest of the cast, they are, with the exception of Dona Beatrice, totally unremarkable.

Georgette Heyer is know for having basically created the Regency Romance genre but this novel is set in the Elizabethan era.  If you are interested in more romantic fiction set in that era, I would turn to Philippa Gregory and her series of novels about the royal lives of the Plantagenet and Tudor houses.

View all my reviews