Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: "The Raven's Heart" by Jesse Blackadder

SYNOPSIS: Scotland, 1561, and a ship comes across the North Sea carrying home Mary, the young, charismatic Queen of Scots, returning after thirteen years in the French court to wrest back control of her throne.

The Blackadder family has long awaited for the Queen's return to bring them justice. Alison Blackadder, disguised as a boy from childhood to protect her from the murderous clan that stole their lands, must learn to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, building a web of dependence and reward.

Just as the Queen can trust nobody, Alison discovers lies, danger, and treachery at every turn.

This sweeping, imaginative, and original tale of political intrigue, misplaced loyalty, secret passion, and implacable revenge is based on real characters and events from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

My Thoughts:  I have been in a reading rut for weeks and this book was just what I needed to get out of it.  From the first few pages, I was completely sucked into the story.  The characters were fascinating and so there was so much intrigue that I never knew who I could trust. 

The story centers around Alison Blackadder whose sole purpose is to help her father regain their family castle that was conquered when he was a child.  What was really interesting about Alison Blackadder and her family was that they were based on historical events that took place in the author's family.  Alison and her father have a very unique family dynamic between the two of them that mainly has to do with all of the drama surrounding her father's past.  It's almost as though her father's past is like this dark cloud following the two of them around throughout the story waiting to wreak  havoc at the most inopportune time. 

Alison is a very unique character; I don't think I have ever seen a character like her before in a book.  I liked her because she was so different than any other character. She is raised disguised as a boy and she switches from being the girl "Alison" to the boy "Robert" and sometimes I would forget who she was supposed to be at any given time.  I felt kind of bad for her because she could never be who she really was; someone was always asking her to pretend to be someone she wasn't.  It almost seemed like she changed identities so often that even she couldn't always keep track of who she really was.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was not the most likable character.  I haven't read too many fictional works where she is featured but whenever I have, I haven't liked her very much.  I read some non-fiction works about her life when I was in college and now I feel like I need to go back and read them again to see how I feel about her.  In this book, she was very fickle and selfish and while I know she had a hard life, it was still hard to feel sympathetic to her plight. 

There was a lot of intrigue in this story; as I said above, you never knew what would happen next or who you could trust.  I loved it!  There were several plots against the queen and those around her and this just kept me wanting to know what would happen next.  Alison had to deal with all of the queen's issues in addition to trying to hide from the Humes who stole her family's land and wanted her dead.  The feud between the Humes and the Blackadders was fascinating and culminated in a way I never expected.  The end of the story was so surprising to me but I thought it worked perfectly. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was pleasantly surprised by how well-written it was.  The story was unique and engrossing and made me want to know more about the historical events portrayed.  I would definitely recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Born in Sydney, Jesse now lives near Byron Bay. She is an award-winning short-story writer and freelance journalist, fascinated by landscapes and belonging. Her first novel was After the Party (2005), which was voted onto the Australian Book Review’s list of all time favourite Australian novels in February 2010. She is writing her next novel about the first woman to reach Antarctica.

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