Tag Archives: Historical fiction

The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C.J. Archer

Overview

Title: The Watchmaker’s Daughter
Author: C.J. Archer
Series: Glass and Steele #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, Magic, Steampunk
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2016

Thoughts

I’ve already read one C.J. Archer book, so when The Watchmaker’s Daughter perfectly filled one of my reading challenge prompts, I was excited to dive right in. And, boy, was I NOT disappointed. This was a fun, engaging whirlwind of a story that now has me completely hooked on the author. Like The Last Necromancer, The Watchmaker’s Daughter is a tale that had me on the edge of my seat – incredibly keen to see what was going to happen next. The fantastic historical fiction / steampunk world building just made me more and more excited as the storyline unfolded.

Although I am completely obsessed with historical fictions, in particular, historical romances at the moment – I do sometimes find it a little… unrealistic when the lead female is so damn headstrong. It’s a little less… enjoyably historical when the heroine is so damn modern. I mean, in the past, women who were THAT outspoken and strong… were probably burned at the stake, or worse. Which is what makes India such a lovely and refreshing lead for this genre. She wants to be what we would perceive in the modern era as strong, but she is restricted by society. So she finds and enacts her strength in a myriad of more subtle ways. Ways which make you love her all that much more because we’ve all felt restrained by our societies and unable to act exactly the way we want.

The mystery of Matthew’s watch continues right throughout this novel. And whilst parts of his history and the watch-obsession are revealed, even at the end of this novel, you realise that there are so many more things that are to be revealed and realised throughout this series. Which, of course, just makes me want to pick up The Mapmaker’s Apprentice all that much more. I love how whilst everything was tied up nicely at the conclusion of this story, there are still so many more mysteries to uncover. It is the mark of a fantastic writer that the end of the story leaves you hanging for the next book in the series, but also feeling like everything has been tied up nice and neatly.

The whole gang in this story are characters that I absolutely loved. I want to sink further and further into this series. Plus, I want to see how the hints of romance between India and Matthew blossom. They seem like kind of the perfect couple, which means that it will be fantastic to see if they do, in fact, make a good couple when push comes to shove. Plus, there is also the tantalising hints of Duke and Winnie to consider…

<- More C.J. ArcherThe Mapmaker’s Apprentice ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Overview

Title: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Series: Montague Siblings #2
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, LGBTQI, Romance, Young adult
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2018

Thoughts

I definitely didn’t enjoy this novel as much as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I think there was something about Monty’s chaotic existence and personality that drew me in. I just didn’t quite feel as attached to Felicity. This was still an amazing novel. But just not quite as grabbing as Monty’s story.

One of the aspects of Felicity that I found most difficult to connect to, but, also the most realistic, was how judgemental she was about other women. Its a conversation that is often had – there is no right or wrong way to be a woman. There is no right or wrong in being strong and independent and a feminist. Sometimes we are our harshest critics and its definitely something that needs to be changed. As is pointed out very beautifully in this story.

There is an element of asexuality in this story that I found beautiful. Instead of being a romance and ending with the off kilter couple running off together, there is that sense of me about romance and sexuality. I’m not sure if there was an aim for an asexual character, but it was definitely how I read it.

Lee is able to bring up a lot of very relevant social issues and realities in a seamless manner. It’s a rollicking adventure that had me smiling. One that I would happily read again. But maybe not for a little while…

<- The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting LuckyThe Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks ->

Image source: Goodreads

Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson

Overview
Dragon Keeper - F.R.R.E.E

Title: Dragonkeeper
Author: Carole Wilkinson
Series: Dragonkeeper #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Chinese mythology, DragonsHistorical fiction, Young adult
Dates read: 5th – 29th September 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Black Dog Books
Year: 2003
5th sentence, 74th page: “Danzi will fight.”

Synopsis

Ancient China, Han Dynasty. A slave girl saves the life of an ageing dragon and escapes her brutal master. Pursued by a ruthless dragon hunter, the girl and the dragon make an epic journey across China carrying a mysterious stone that must be protected. This is the story of a young slave girl who believes she is not worthy of a name but finds within herself the strength and courage to make this perilous journey – and do what must be done.

Thoughts

This is the first book I’ve ever read that I sat up all night long to finish. So, as an adult, I wanted to see if I was just as hooked as the first time I read it. I wasn’t quite, but I was still very much in love and hooked. The journey is intense, Ping’s journey of self discovery is sweet and the creation of her relationship with Danzi, it was seriously enjoyable. That’s not even to mention the world building and story line that Wilkinson is able to weave.

Dragonkeeper is a great adventure story that will keep you on your toes. Ping and Danzi go on a very epic journey that takes them from mountain to coast. And you are just… swept along with them. The challenges and the difficulties that they face are scary and kind of intense at times. But, when push comes to shove, this is an incredibly G-rated book that, even though it talks about some horrible moments, is filled with a tempering of hope and growth.

I love that this book focuses on a young girl in a world that traditionally ignores girls. And that she is able to not only discover her name and destiny, but find her own strength and friendship. It’s a pretty typical young adult book in a lot of ways having this as a key feature. But it was the first such book I ever read like this. The first book that reminded me that as a girl, I had amazing power and strength. You kind of go on that journey of discovery along with Ping, particularly reading this as a young girl.

Although I didn’t sit up all night long reading this, I did still love it just as much as the first time I read it. The whole knowing what happens in the end made it a little easier to put this aside and actually go to sleep. But, it was still an amazing journey. And now I need to dig out the rest of the books in this series…

<- Dragon DawnGarden of the Purple Dragon ->

Image source: Weebly

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Overview
The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1) by Colleen Gleason

Title: The Clockwork Scarab
Author: Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker & Holmes #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, Steampunk, Time travel
Dates read: 22nd – 23rd August 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: I couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to have any adults about, meddling in my daily life.

Synopsis

“Tonight, I ask, on behalf of Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales: will you do what no other young women are called to do, and place your lives and honor at the feet of your country?”

Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood, so to speak. And when two young society girls disappear – one dead, one missing – there’s no one more qualified to investigate. Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve a murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The pressure is on and the stakes are high – if Stoker and Holmes don’t figure out why London’s finest sixteen-year-old women are in danger, they’ll become the next victims.

Thoughts

This is one of those books that’s been on my wish list for ages – I finally managed to find a second-hand copy. And, from the very moment I received it… I was kind of desperate to read it. Turns out that my instincts were correct. This book is amazing. I love how it takes elements of steampunk, historical fiction and two very well-known literary figures to create an amazing storyline.

Having read both Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, I was intrigued by the idea of Stoker & Holmes as a team. What I didn’t expect was Irene Adler appearing at the very beginning of this story. That somehow, Gleason would manage to incorporate some of the best aspects of the original classics, without making it all feel like a total repeat. There was a great sense of fun and uniqueness that swept me away and left me smiling very happily as I dived further and further into this amazing world that Gleason has created.

Although this was a steampunk, this story had very much a cozy mystery feeling to it. I’m not quite sold on it sitting upon that shelf, but there is definitely that kind of feel to it. This story makes you constantly wonder who the culprit is. And you wonder how the women are going missing and why. But, you don’t really get that graphic, horror feeling that you would get from an actual mystery or thriller. You also get the fast-paced adventure feel of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I loved this novel from beginning to end. It was fun and filled with a great setting. The mix of steampunk and historical / literary fiction worked brilliantly together. Then, there is the great characterisation of the two girls. Taking some of the character points from Holmes and Dracula, but spinning them into their own women who are capable of being strong and independent. I can’t wait to see how much further this story takes me and, ultimately, who the Big Baddy is.

<- More Colleen GleasonThe Spiritglass Charade ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Overview
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, Magical realism, Music
Dates read: 22nd August 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Putnam
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: “Like this.”

Synopsis

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish: to be remembered forever But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in eighteenth-century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age – her tyrannical father has made that much clear

As Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true – but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and a sister.

Thoughts

It’s not often that I finish a book and experience a book hangover. There’s many that will leave thoughts and feelings lingering long after I finish them? But actual difficulty in picking up the next book? Not a common occurrence for me. It didn’t QUITE happen this time either. But its the closest I’ve come in a very long time.

Recently I’ve heard of Nannerl Mozart due to the Enola Holmes movie and the statues going up in response to this. However, beyond her existence and levels of talent similar to her brother, I knew pretty much nothing. Including the fact that she was a celebrated progidy just like her brother. The mix of reality and fantasy in the book helped to make me feel a lot more educated about such an amazing woman.

Honestly, my heart hurt throughout this story. Knowing how quickly woman are and were swept under the rug is one thing. But the way that Lu emphasises this in Nannerl’s voice… it left me feeling physically uncomfortable. Which I think was incredibly important to the tone and message of this story. Being ignored because of your gender is not a comfortable thing and Lu was able to perfectly emphasise this.

I’ve read a few historical fictions lately. But this is the first that intertwines this so strongly with fantasy. There are elements of the fae and fairy tales. And just a hint of familiarity to the fantasy story line that I just can’t place. But, alongside this you have the reality of being a woman in the time of Marie Antoinette, Nannerl and Wolfgang. With all of the challenges that that entails.

<- More Marie LuMore magical realism ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray

Overview
A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology by Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Scarlet Woman
Author: Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle Companion
In: A Universe of Wishes (Dhonielle Clayton)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, Paranormal fantasy, Young adult
Dates read: 17th August 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Crown
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: The bulk of my correspondence comes from my grandmama, who, in between complaining about various ailments, never misses an opportunity to remind me that, at nineteen, if I don’t find a husband soon, I will become unmarriageable – though, she remarks, she isn’t sure that I am marriageable at all.

Synopsis

Gemma Doyle feels like she’s finally moving on from the magic and mayhem of her past. But, then a confusing note sends everything crashing back down on her head.

Thoughts

I remember buying A Great and Terrible Beauty a while ago, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it. This short story based in the world of Gemma Doyle has certainly made me feel tempted though.

I found a lot fo this story hard to understand and follow. Probably because I haven’t read the greater series and so I don’t have a lot of backstory. But, it was still a great adventure.

A good short story can have a seriously open ended ending. This is like that. It makes me think this takes place between books in the Gemma Doyle series… otherwise it is just way too… unsolved for my liking.

<- The Silk BladeCristal Y Ceniza ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Overview
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves:  Historical fiction, Romance, War
Dates read: 14th – 15th August 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: He’s about to reach for his camera when he hears the laugh.

Synopsis

‘TRUTH BREAKS THE CHAINS OF SILENCE’

MADRID, 1957

Daniel, young, wealthy and unsure of his place in the world, views the city through the lens of his camera.

Ana, a hotel maid whose family is suffering under the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.

Lives and hearts collide as they unite to uncover the hidden darkness within the city.

A darkness that could engulf them all…

Thoughts

This is one of those “holy crap” “wow” “Oh My God” kind of stories. I had no idea if I was going to like this when I first started it… but then I got my teeth hooked in… and… I just can’t even. I pretty much read this whole 500 page book in one sitting. It was just impossible to put down, look away, forget about. And then, like the fool that I am, I finished it late at night and couldn’t sleep. Because. So many thoughts. Too many thoughts.

I think the thing that really threw me about this book was the fact that a lot of the history in this book is only recently coming to light. The fact that an estimated 300,000 babies were taken from their parents and put up for adoption (after telling the parents that they had died) is… unfathomable. And it happened RECENTLY. It’s not a part of history that we can say, oh, that was another time, it happened forever ago. It happened in the past forty-odd years. And it’s only just coming to light and people are only just being bought to task for what they’ve done… it’s… unfathomable. Like, my brain literally cannot grasp this fact.

There is a sweet romance throughout this story. It’s not at the forefront and it’s not as in your face as the actual romances that I read. But it is incredibly sweet. Ana and Daniel are that quintessential falling in love when young romance. That one that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Some of us are lucky and find that we are actually going to spend the rest of our lives with that person. But the others? Well, it’s those stolen moments in time, in this one summer that Ana and Daniel are able to spend together.

This is a brilliant story. It is filled with history and the darker parts of our recent past that need to be bought to light. There is an intense feeling of humanity and intensity throughout that plucks at your heart strings. You can’t stop reading and look away from the pages. There is mystery and horror, all lightened by the love, both romantic and familial that ties all of these amazing characters together.

<- More Ruta SepetysMore war ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Overview
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Title: The Bone Houses
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, Horror, Paranormal fantasy, Young adult, Zombies
Dates read: 22nd July – 6th August 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: She tried to steady her breathing, to will herself to calm.

Synopsis

NOTHING STAYS BURIED FOREVER.

Seventeen-year-old Ryn cares about only two things: her family and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meagre existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as bone houses, and legend says that they’re the result of an old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with a new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the deeply buried truths about themselves. Equal parts classic horror novel and original fairy tale, The Bone Houses will have you spellbound from the very first page.

Thoughts

This is one of those books that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. But it seems to keep getting shunted to the side. Now that I’ve finally managed to sink my teeth into it… wow. This was brilliant. The kind of journey that is hard to put down and forget about. Even writing this review, the day after finishing the book, I’m getting the happy tingles.

I seem to be enjoying books a lot lately that flick between the points of view. I like how this mostly starts with Ryn and builds up her history really strongly. Then it flickers over to Ellis and starts to give out his history and characterisation in more of a trickle. Not only are you reading the book because you can’t wait to see how it ends, but also because you want to know where Ellis began.

This had a slight historical fiction feel to it. The structure of the society and the use of the fae back stories felt very celtic to me. It had a nice sense of familiarity that I tend to find with this background. Then, you add in the bone houses. They’re seriously creepy and a mystery all on their own. Each and every moment of the journey, I was fully expecting one of them to jump out and that tension kept me turning each and every page.

I absolutely adored this book, it had two strong characters who both had their flaws. A dead goat that showed insane amounts of loyalty. And a feeling of mystery that seized you from the very first moment and swept you along. This was just amazing and I’m so glad that I decided to pick this book up!!!

<- More Emily Lloyd-JonesThe Drowned Woods ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

Overview
The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay | 9781611854831 | Booktopia

Title: The Far Field
Author: Madhuri Vijay
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Historical fiction
Dates read: 16th May – 10th June 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Grove Press UK
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: And so, just like that, my days were barren again.

Synopsis

In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote village in Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. When life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

Thoughts

This is one of those books that I know I’ll be returning to. Multiple times. With gusto. I loved the writing and the way that Vijay pulls you in from the very beginning. But I also know pretty much nothing about the history, politics and culture that take centre stage in this culture. So the whole experience of The Far Field was an education.

It’s not often that from the first sentence you are irreversibly drawn in and intrigued by the politics and such. There was just something about the opening line that made me sit up and pay attention. And I don’t physically fix my posture out of intrigue with books. Ever really.

I always love a good story with a flawed and growing protagonist. The voice of Shalini ticked all of my boxes. She’s on a fairly intense journey and you most definitely feel for her even as you kind of get frustrated with some of her choices. I particularly enjoyed how relatable she was, even though I’m from a starkly different background – it was still possible to feel connected.

All in all, as much as I loved the story and the message and everything about the book. It was the tone and style of writing that made me fall in love. I couldn’t take my eyes off Vijay’s words. She has such a talent and I would be intrigued to read more.

<- More Madhuri VijayMore historical fiction ->

Image source: Booktopia

The French Gift by Kirsty Manning

Overview
The French Gift - Kirsty Manning - 9781760528096 - Allen & Unwin - Australia

Title: The French Gift
Author: Kirsty Manning
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Family, Historical fiction, Strong women
Dates read: 23rd – 30th March 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: ARC, Novel
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Year: 2021
5th sentence, 74th page: Line your stomach before you meet those two!

Synopsis

A forgotten manuscript that threatens to unravel the past…

Fresnes Prison, 1940: Former maid at a luxury villa on the Riviera, Margot Bisset, finds herself in a prison cell with writer and French Resistance fighter, Josephine Murant. Together, they are trasnferred to a work camp in Germany for four years, where the secrets they share will bind them for generations to come.

Contemporary Paris: Evie Black lives in paris with her teenage son Hugo above her botanical bookshop, La Maison Rustique. Life would be so sweet if only Evie were not mourning the great love of her life.

When a letter arrives regarding the legacy of her husband’s great-aunt, Josephine Murant, Evie clutches at an opportunity to spend one last magical summer with her son. They travel together to Josephine’s house, now theirs, on the Cote d’Azur. Here, Evie unravels the official story of this famous novelist, and the truth of a murder a lifetime ago.

The redemptive beauty of nature and the promise of new love offer light at the end of the tunnel in this stirring novel delving into Europe’s past.

Thoughts

I received this ARC from Allen & Unwin in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Normally I struggle a little bit to get through any historical fiction books. I have plenty and till enjoy them all… but I do tend to find that they are a little bit more difficult to get through for me than some of the other genres that fill my shelves. Maybe because I’m constantly questioning what’s fact and what’s fiction. And then getting distracted by the idea of doing more research…

Again, I loved the flickering between timelines and points of view normally tend to confuse and overwhelm me. But it wasn’t the case in this story. I loved flickering between Josephine Murant and Evie. Their lives running in a parallel line with completely different battles being fought. You actually discover Josephine’s history as Evie does, which further draws you into the amazing storyline. The fact that it’s a story with two strong women as the leads… that just makes it all that much better!

I really and seriously did not see the twist at the end of this story – it was completely unexpected and seriously intense. I love when a twist comes out of nowhere and just completely smacks into you. It’s what makes me want to read another book by the same author. It is just so difficult to find surprising twists and turns!

This story is overall a tale of strong women, hope and survival. It is about finding one’s own strength, but still leaning on those you love and who love you. Whether it is a best friend, a potential new love or the child you feel pulling away from you… each and every relationship in this story is powerful. And underneath it all, there is just that amazing sense of hope that you can’t help but grin about.

I will most certainly be reading this ARC again. And again. And probably again. Not only was it an amazing journey, but I loved the strength of the women and the journey that Manning manages to take you on. Most certainly a book that will sit proudly upon my shelves.

<- More Kirsty ManningThe Lost Jewels ->

Image source: Allen & Unwin