Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: "Shadow on the Highway" by Deborah Swift

 Synopsis:  May 1651. England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army.
Abigail Chaplin, a young mute girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause. But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household – the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.

Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks? How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded? And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Shadow on the Highway?

‘Shadow On The Highway’ is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in ‘The Highway Trilogy’.

My Thoughts:  Shadow on the Highway is an awesome work of YA historical fiction. I sometimes shy away from YA because it feels really immature but this book did not have that feel at all.  It is definitely my new favorite Deborah Swift book! 

Characters:  I must say that Ms. Swift's characters are amazing.  Abi was a great main character for so many reasons.  She was smart and sassy and the fact that she was deaf made her even more interesting and endearing.  Lady Katherine/Kate is frustrating at times but I secretly loved her. Even though we didn't seem much of Uncle Simon, the author did a great job of making him into a scary villain and Grice was quite the piece of work. 

Likes:  I liked so much about this book.  I loved that it was set during the Civil War (in England).  I don't know much about this era so it made the story even more fascinating to me.  The Diggars sounded like a really unique group and I would very much like to read more about them.  I also liked that the story didn't just take place at the estate; we got to see Abi on both the estate as well as in the town with her family so we got see both the very rich and the very poor.  I think the story was more well-rounded because it didn't just focus on one group of people. 

One thing that the story focuses on is how powerless women were back then.  Lady Katherine had nothing of her own; despite the house having been her mother's, it became her husband's property at the time of her marriage.  Abi had more freedom than Lady Katherine but both were subject to the whims of the men in their lives and Abi, as a servant, was subject to the whims of everyone in the house.  It was hard, at times, to think about how they really were at the mercy of these men and were only protected so long as the men saw fit to do so. 

As I do in many of my reviews, I have to mention the author's note at the was phenomenal.  There was information about the politics of the era, the Diggar movement, her research, etc.  I couldn't have asked for a better author's note.  Normally, I have a 'dislikes' section in my reviews but there wasn't anything that I really disliked about this book.  I didn't realize at first that this book will be part of a trilogy, but now I'm pretty excited to read the next installment!

Whether you typically read YA or not, you should definitely pick up Shadow on the Highway. You will not be sorry! 4 1/2 stars.

About the Author:
Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. I don't normally read YA either, but this one sounds really good.

  2. I would have never guessed this was a YA. I like both YA and historical fiction.


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