Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: "A Handful of Earth" by Larisa Walk

From Goodreads:  As the Mongol Horde draws near her tiny Russian principality, a spinster princess YAROSLAVA fears the worst. Her father is too old and ill to organize the defense. Yet her people would not follow her because she is a woman. The princes from the neighboring city-states and principalities won’t come to help because of the old feuds. Worse yet, Yaroslava receives a foretelling that she will betray her people.

Yelnik, the principality’s throne town, falls. Most of its defenders perish. Attractive women and craftsmen are taken into slavery. Yaroslava herself becomes a slave, destined to serve the Mongol khan as his concubine. In captivity she faces many enemies. Among them are: a Russian slave with a grudge; a fellow concubine that can kill with the power of the evil eye; her uncle whom Yaroslava mistakenly thinks she can trust. To survive and regain freedom for herself and the other slaves from Yelnik, she will break a religious taboo against using magic, commit treason and defeat vodyanoy, an elemental being that wishes to imprison her soul in its river for eternity.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This was a fun little story that was short and easy to read.  I enjoyed the mix of historical fiction and paranormal and Yaroslava was a neat character.  She was tough and strong-willed while at the same time vulnerable because of her upbringing.  I also appreciated the fact that the author wrote about a period of Russian history not usually tackled in historical fiction.  The paranormal aspect did get a little weird with all of the river spirits; it seemed to go from simple pagan magic to a creepy river spirit (vodyanoy) attacking her while she was running from the Mongols.  There were a few moments where it got confusing because there were two battles going on at once-one with the vodyanoy and one with the Mongols.  I didn't love the ending of this book as it felt like the author tried to wrap things up too quickly.  Yaroslava went from being depressed and suicidal to warrior princess in the blink of an eye and then the story was over.  Overall, a pretty enjoyable book.  3 stars.

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