Book Review

Reading Challenge Update – February

I can’t believe that’s another month gone already! I just ticked a couple more books of my challenges this month – it was more a month of catching up on reviews and reading for relaxation than picking challenge books this month. The books I did read for the challenges this month though are all firm favourites of mine.

The Island – Victoria Hislop

This was my choice for the “read a book inspired by a place in a movie you’ve watched and enjoyed.” I am pushing things a bit here because I chose the setting of Crete taken from the “In-Betweeners” film, which I didn’t love, but the location was beautiful and I have been meaning to reread The Island for a while to refresh my memory before reading One August Night.

The Embroidered Book – Kate Heartfield

This little beauty is my selection for “a book with a magical element.” To be honest, I could have chosen any number of books off my shelf for this prompt as magical books are my “go to,” but I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of this gorgeous book by the publisher as part of the blog tour, so I just had to include it. You can read my full review HERE.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

I choose this as my “book that makes me happy.” I read this during a power cut in aftermath of Storm Eunice when I really needed a comfort read. I first read this book years ago, and have been meaning to re-read it for ages to jog my memory before diving into the rest of the trilogy, and honestly, I had forgotten how much I loved it.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl

This was my “book that is a memoir” selection, and is a book that was recommended to me years ago, but that for some reason I had never got round to reading. I am only halfway through, so I will share more in next month’s round-up, but for now I can just say that it is a very powerful book.

OTHER BOOKS READ THIS MONTH:

The Millionaire Murders by Rachel McLean

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn (read review HERE)

The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver

Rock Paper Killers by Alexia Mason (review coming soon)

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (review coming soon)

Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

The Butterfly Garden – Dot Hutchinson

Sparks and Shadow – Ceara Nobles (review coming soon)

In case you would like a reminder, here are the challenges that I am following.

Book Review

The Embroidered Book – Kate Heartfield

I am joining the blog tour for the exquisite historical fantasy novel The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield today. Many thanks to Kate and to Harper Voyager for my copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

“Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all.”

1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.

The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turn to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

The Embroidered Book is a beast of a book, but despite its size, I found I read it quite quickly as I was captivated by the story. Part historical fiction, part fantasy, The Embroidered Book is full of magic and intrigue, all based around one of the most interesting and turbulent periods of European history.

Kate Heartfield’s attention to detail and the level of research that must have gone into this project is incredible. It must have been a real labour of love, and I felt that this comes through in the writing.

I think Charlotte and Antoine’s stories would have been fascinating enough on their own, given their place in history, but the addition of magic and a secret society made this all the more appealing to me. Kate Heartfield weaves magic and history together so artfully that it seems more than plausible that these two astonishing women had access to hidden skills. It would certainly explain a lot of what went on throughout the period!

Despite knowing how this story must end, I still found myself on the edge of my seat, willing the sisters on to a different ending to their tempestuous relationship. I was totally under their spell from start to finish. Kate Heartfield is, quite simply, a genius.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022. Her debut novel won Canada’s Aurora Award, and her novellas, stories and games have been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, Sunburst and Aurora awards. A former journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.

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Book Review

The Hemlock Cure – Joanne Burn

Today I am reviewing the dark historical novel, The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn. Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group for my copy of the book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam keep many secrets.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive apothecary.

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her father’s rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe, Isabel’s ward, or the fact that she studies from Wulfric’s books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae will place them both in unimaginable peril.

And meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all . . .

Based on the real history of an English village during the Great Plague, The Hemlock Cure is an utterly beguiling tale of fear and ambition, betrayal, self-sacrifice and the unbreakable bond between two women.

REVIEW:

The Hemlock Cure is part historical fiction, part coming-of-age and part love story, making it a book that will appeal to different people on many different levels.

Joanne Burn’s decision to have the book narrated by Mae’s dead sister Leah as she watches over the people of Eyam made for a compelling hook, making me very curious as to how she and her mother died. The flashbacks to Leah’s own memories and the excerpts from Wulfric’s diary built on this mystery as Mae’s own story unfolded, making for a tale that I found hard to put down. Mae is a character that I quickly became attached to, and my heart broke for the life that she found herself living.

Whilst reading about a community ravaged by the plague, it is impossible not to draw comparisons to the situation the world has so recently faced. It was startling how little has really changed in the intervening years. Knowing that the book is based on fact, and that the people of Eyam really did lock themselves away from the world in an attempt to limit the spread of the plague made it all the more fascinating to read.

I think I went through the entire emotional spectrum whilst reading this book as I fell under the spell of the wonderful characters stored within its pages.

Book Review

The Rose Code – Kate Quinn

I am joining the blog tour for historical fiction novel, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn today. Many thanks to Kate for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be  a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.

Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything – beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzle beneath her shy exterior.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter – the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together…

As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Rose Code Cover

REVIEW:

I have been interested in Bletchley since visiting almost 12 years ago. Even so, picking up this book the morning after a certain interview, and with the Duke of Edinburgh ill in hospital, it took a while for me to separate real life from this fictional account and become truly absorbed in the story. These current events made me glad I read the author’s note at the end of the book to help me untangle fact from fiction.

Had I been alive during World War II, and if I had been clever enough, Bletchley is where I would have wanted to serve and this novel brings the passion of the people who did so to life. In Osla, Mab and Beth we are faced with three very different young ladies who form the most unlikely of friendships after being billeted in the same house. This friendship combined with the fascinating history of the work carried out under the strictest secrecy at Bletchley Park would have been enough for this book to win me over. The added mystery of the events that ripped these friends apart and led to one being locked in an asylum only added to this and made this a gripping read.

Heart-breaking and inspiring in equal measure, The Rose Code celebrates the hidden heroes of the war in glorious detail, and twines fact and fiction together seamlessly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate Quinn Author PicKate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs names Caesar and Calpurnia.

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more about The Rose Code.

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Book Review

Miniskirts Are Murder – Des Burkinshaw

Today I join the blog tour for Miniskirts Are Murder, the second in the Porter and The Gliss series by Des Burkinshaw. You can read my review of book one, Dead & Talking, here. Many thanks to Des for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Porter Norton, his friends and his sarcastic spirit guide, The Gliss, are on the trail of a young actress who went missing in Soho, London, in the Swinging Sixties. Still recovering from their last adventure in the battlefields of WW1, the gang are confronted by a transatlantic conspiracy.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Miniskirts Front Cover

REVIEW:

Since reading Dead and Talking back in 2019, I have been eagerly awaiting the return of Porter Norton, his spirit guide, The Gliss, and their quirky Scooby gang of Namita, Feng and Karin. I love the different dynamics in play among the group as they continue to get to know each other.

Although Miniskirts Are Murder is the second book in a series, it recaps the events of Dead and Talking sufficiently that it would read well as a standalone, although I think you would be missing out if you didn’t read Dead and Talking as well.

In the historic cases that Porter, somewhat unwillingly, finds himself investigating, Des Burkinshaw isn’t scared to tackle difficult subjects. I don’t want to say too much about the discoveries made in Miniskirts Are Murder because it is hard to do so without giving away the story, but it certainly doesn’t shy away from the seedier side of 1960s Soho. At times, the writing is a little heavy on telling rather than showing, but I think Burkinshaw gets away with it as it means we learn the history as our heroes do, and this is also countered with flashbacks to the scarily naive Ursa, Rose and Bella. Seeing Soho through their eyes really brought it to life for me.

Despite the truly horrific deeds that are uncovered over the course of the book, this still somehow manages to be a fun read, purely because of the wonderful characters that Burkinshaw has created rather than because he has made light of the situation which he most definitely has not. The dry humour that I so enjoyed in the interactions between Porter and his friends, particularly The Gliss, provides a much needed light relief to what would otherwise be very difficult subject matter to digest.

With so many periods of history to explore, and with Porter needing to atone for so much damage caused by his ancestors, this is a series that could run and run, and I really hope it does (I also think it would make a fantastic television series, just in case any TV folk happen to see this!).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DES DARKDes, 52, is a former Times journalist/BBC TV producer. Miniskirts are Murder is the second in the Porter and The Gliss Investigations series, following Dead & Talking in 2019. Des likes to live out as much of the stories as possible and spent 3 months in the US researching this novel. He runs a film school in London and has just been commissioned to write a limited season TV series intended for Netflix. He is also a keen musician and through work has jammed with people like Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne. He is married with 1 daughter.

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Book Review

The Crow Folk – Mark Stay

Today I am joining the blog tour for The Crow Folk by Mark Stay. Many thanks to Mark and Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations… A witches notebook.

And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities.

Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villages. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.

Fall in love with the extraordinary world of Faye Bright – it’s Maisie Dobbs meets The Magicians.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Bookshop.org

The Crow Folk Cover

REVIEW:

The Crow Folk is an unusual mix of genres, part utterly charming in a Darling Buds of May sort of way, part something else altogether with an army of the reanimated scarecrows who sent me straight back to my childhood when I was banned from watching Scooby-Doo because it gave me nightmares (I wish I was joking, but I am not).

In the people of Woodville, Mark Stay as created a wonderful community of characters, each of whom has their set role in the village, and a rich history behind how they got there. There are hints of scandals and squabbles going back through the years that show just how much thought has gone into creating this little slice of Kent, and which make it feel so real that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find it was a real place and the characters real people.

Our 17 year old heroine, Faye, is full of the exuberance of youth, feisty and determined, and it is impossible not to get swept up in her enthusiasm. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and will do anything for the people she loves. Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach are quite the double act and I loved their interactions throughout the book.

Pumpkinhead makes for a sinister and powerful villain of the piece and gave me something of a shiver down my spine throughout the book. Whilst his scarecrow companions unnerved me to begin with, I loved that they had their own personalities, some of which we got to know, and the story behind these personalities was both sad and lovely at the same time.

As you will know from past reviews, I am a big fan of magical realism, and the way in which the magic and the reality are combined in this book is simply wonderful. The setting in the early years of the Second World War is inspired, adding challenges for our villagers to overcome that just wouldn’t be present during any other period of time. I fell completely in love with this book, and I look forward to getting to know the people of Woodville better in the future.

Oh, and once you have finished reading this, go and sign up for the author’s newsletter. It is an absolute treat!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Stay Author Pic

Mark stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more on The Crow Folk.

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Book Review

A Sparrow Alone – Mim Eichmann

Today I am joining the blog tour for A Sparrow Alone by Mim Eichmann. Many thanks to Mim for providing me with a copy of the book, and to The Write Reads for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

1890’s Colorado. Desperate following her mother’s sudden death, thirteen-year-old Hannah Owens apprentices as domestic help with a wealthy doctor’s family in Colorado Springs. When the doctor declares bankruptcy and abandons his family to finance his mistress Pearl DeVere’s brothel, however, Hannah is thrown into a vortex of gold mining bonanzas and busts, rampant prostitution, and the economic, political and cultural upheavals of the era. Two of Cripple Creek’s most colorful historic characters, Winfield Scott Stratton, eccentric owner of the richest gold mine in Cripple Creek, and Pearl DeVere, the beautiful madam of The Old Homestead, come to life as this old-fashioned, coming-of-age saga unfolds, the first of two historical fiction novels by debut author Mim Eichmann — a tribute to the women who set the stage for women’s rights.

PURCHASE LINK:

Bookshop.org

REVIEW:

Okay, confession time. When I signed up for this blog tour, I somehow read the blurb for an entirely different book. If I had read the correct blurb, I probably wouldn’t have signed up, as this is not an area of history I am drawn to particularly. I think the old movies my dad is always watching have put me off. However I am so glad that I made this mistake, because I thoroughly enjoyed A Sparrow Alone.

Set in the gold rush camp of Cripple Creek, Colorado, Mim Eichmann seamlessly blends fact and fiction, weaving real events and people, such as the devastating fire that ripped through the camp and the colourful characters of Pearl de Vere and Win Stratton into the fictional story of Hannah Owens.

The characters are charming and the author details the landscape and community so beautifully that you can imagine yourself there. Hannah is a remarkable woman, coming from nothing and fighting for everything she deserves, against so much adversity both personally and in the societal norms of the period.

A Sparrow Alone has really sparked an interest in this particular period of history, and has made me wonder what other books I have bypassed, judging them on my preconceived ideas.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A graduate from the Jordan College of Music at Butler University, in Indianapolis, IN, Chicago-based author Mim Eichmann has found that her creative journey has taken her down many exciting, interwoven pathways as an award-winning published lyricist and songwriter, professional folk musician, ballet choreographer and now, historical fiction author. Her debut historical fiction novel, “A Sparrow Alone”, published by Living Springs Publishers on April 15, 2020, has met with extremely enthusiastic reviews and “Muskrat Ramble” which will be published on March 23, 2021, is its much-anticipated sequel. 

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Book Review

The Smallest Man – Frances Quinn

I am reviewing a fantastic historical fiction book today, as I join the blog tour for The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn. Many thanks to Frances and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour.

BLURB:

The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and The Familiars.

Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come.

Narrowly escaping life in a freal show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England forever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Bookshop.org

The Smallest Man Cover

REVIEW:

I have been lucky enough this year to read a number of books that I have found it hard to find the words to do justice to just how much I loved them. The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn is one such book.

It is impossible not to fall totally and utterly in love with Nat. The sadness that pervades his live, both because of  his stature and the fact that he was unwillingly separated from his family is heart-breaking. Although he often struggles with both of these facts, he is a wonderfully positive character who refuses to let his situation stop him from doing anything that he sets his mind to.

The Smallest Man is set during a particularly turbulent period of history, but one that I knew few of the details about. Reading this book has sparked my interest, especially in the young queen. Based in part on the life of Jeffrey Hudson, Queen Henrietta Maria’s dwarf, The Smallest Man is a fascinating tale, and I was interested to read which parts of the story actually happened to Jeffrey and which were entirely fictional. 

I would thoroughly recommend this book, not just to fans of historical fiction but to anyone who loves character driven books – Nat Davy is a man you just won’t be able to resist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Frances Quinn Author picFrances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly, and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and two Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @franquinn.

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs joining the tour for more on this fascinating book.

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Book Review

The Sin Eater – Megan Campisi

Today I am reviewing the historical fiction novel, The Sin Eater, by Megan Campisi. Many thanks to Mantle Books for my copy of the book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

Can you uncover the truth when you’re forbidden from speaking it?

A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town.

Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.

It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors.

Set in a thinly disguised sixteenth-century England, The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi is a wonderfully imaginative and gripping story of treason and treachery; of secrets and silence; of women, of power – and, ultimately, of the strange freedom that comes from being an outcast with no hope of redemption for, as May learns, being a nobody sometimes counts for everything . . .

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REVIEW:

Sometimes when you start a book, you know from the first page that you are going to love it. I had this feeling with The Sin Eater.

Although Megan Campisi’s book is a fictional tale, Sin Eaters existed in the UK until roughly a century ago. I had never heard of this before and it made my inner historian curious in much the same way as Stacey Halls’s The Familiars made me about the Pendle witches. The life of a Sin Eater must have been an unbearably sad existence, witnessing the absolute worst in people without any of the kindness. It is easy to see how, for May who thrives on her interactions with her community, this would seem the cruellest punishment imaginable.

The Royal family tree at the start of the book made it clear in my mind that the events were taking place in a fantasised version of Tudor England and my current obsession with the Tudors added to my enjoyment of this book. Added to this link to our own history, the clever way that well known nursery rhymes and fairy tales are tweaked to the reality of the book makes this fictional world feel incredibly real and possible.

The compendium of sins and corresponding foods included in the book makes for fascinating reading. It’s funny because even seeing the food list, I expected it to be a symbolic part of a ritual. It never occurred to me that the Sin Eater would actually have to eat everything and grow hugely fat. At a time when a large number of people would be fighting just to put scraps of food on their table it must have felt a very strange experience, and even more isolating than the enforced silence.

On top of the fact that the very existence lived by a Sin Eater is fascinating you have the added intrigue of the mysteries of the castle – who is poisoning people and adding the deer’s heart to their eating? What are they covering up? This mystery is drawn out enticingly right to the very end of the book, and whilst I would have enjoyed a book purely about the life of a Sin Eater, this added an extra dimension to hold my interest even more firmly. I loved how it is the very fact that May is uneducated and has to rely on what she sees that leads to her solving the mystery. The very thing that used to annoy people most about her personality becomes the most important part of her, and I found this to be very touching.

If you are a fan of Bridget Collins or Stacey Halls, I would say that this is definitely a book for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Megan Campisi is a playwright, novelist and teacher. Her plays have been performed in China, France and the United States. She has been a forest range, sous chef in Paris and a physical theatre specialist around the world. Originally from California, she attended Yale University and the L’Ecole International de Theatre Jacques Lecoq. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her family.

Book Review

The Mechanical Maestro – Emily Owen

I have something a bit different for you today as historical fiction meets steampunk in The Mechanical Maestro by Emily Owen. Many thanks to Emily for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

London, 1857.

Brothers George and Douglas Abernathy are clockmakers who are barely scraping a living in their family’s shop. They are also brilliant inventors with a sideline building custombuilt androids and other technology ahead of its time. Their sixteen-year-old sister, Molly, is also a genius, specialising in transformative plant biology, but earns her keep by sewing.

The Abernathys’ fortunes improve dramatically when the brothers invent a clockwork automaton composer named Maestro, whose musical artistry takes London by storm. But there are those who believe Maestro is a fake, and others who think him a monstrosity.

As Maestro tries to make sense of the world of London’s high society which he is thrown into, he incites the interest of sinister figures who would go to any lengths to discover what makes him tick.

Immerse yourself in the world of three brilliant siblings and their musical automaton, Maestro.

The Mechanical Maestro is the first book in an upcoming series following the adventures of the Abernathy family and their clockwork creations.

This novel is sure to delight fans of historical fiction, steampunk, music lovers and engineers alike.

The Mechanical Maestro Front cover

REVIEW:

When you pick up The Mechanical Maestro, you enter a beautifully detailed world, and meet a cast of extraordinarily colourful characters. Alongside this, you have a story of discovery and intrigue as people plot to get their hands on the titular Maestro.

The eccentric Abernathy family are instantly appealing, George and Douglas with their incredibly advanced automata, and Molly with her (sometimes out of control) botanical experiments. I was particularly fond of Douglas and Molly, but George is a character I found a little harder to fathom – I look forward to getting to know him better in the upcoming books in this series. In my mind their home and shop is a higgeldy-piggeldy affair full of nooks and crannies and strange contraptions. It felt like the kind of place you could spend hours exploring and still not discover all of its secrets.

As well as being story about the talented Abernathys, The Mechanical Maestro is also a tale of their most advanced creation to date, the wonderful Maestro himself, and I was delighted to see that there were chapters in the book told from his point of view. As I was reading, I could almost here the music he composed, and it created a kind of ache to hear it for real. Watching him discover the world and his place in it, and his attachment to Douglas was incredibly endearing.

Emily Owen’s writing has a charm to it that put me in mind of both The Binding and The Toymakers in different ways, and I know she is an author I will return to time and again.

The Mechanical Maestro Back Cover

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Since completing her Masters by Research, Emily Owen has worked as an Archives Assistant at the University of Huddersfield. She lives in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

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