Book Review: ‘The Thief’s Daughter’ by Jeff Wheeler

Sequel to ‘The Queen’s Poisoner’ in the KingFountain series, this book continues the story of Owen Kiskaddon and his life as a one of King Severn’s most trusted advisors.

Many of the same central characters feature alongside some entirely new ones, who add new dimensions and qualities to the story.

Time has passed, naturally, and Owen has grown from the child hostage and stranger in the royal court into a man, rewarded with a Duchy for his loyalty, and charged with the duty of serving the king and protecting those closest to him. 

It is a magnificent and epic fantasy story, enriched with magic, deeply involving the reader in both the personal lives of the central characters the fate of the kingdom of Ceredigion, a kingdom that is richly and intricately detailed to the point where it seems real. The reader gains a deeper understanding of the complexities of the problems that face the king, fully aware as he is of the reasons why many distrust and fear him, yet also strongly motivated by his sincere love and concern for his kingdom and subjects. 

Although the connections between this story and the elements of English history during The Wars of the Roses, particularly the life and personality of Richard III, are clearly discernible, the story maintains an original and unique plot that sets it apart from those events and ensures its distinction as a fine work of fantasy rather than historical fiction.  

This book delivers a rich and deeply involving story that captivates the reader. It is difficult to put the book down once started, and as the momentum of the story builds, the story becomes even more compelling. It really is a most excellent read.    

The Thief’s Daughter has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Storm at Keizer Manor’ by Ramcy Diek

The story opens at a point where the relationship between Annet and Forrest is complicated by their different pasts and by their different aspirations for the future. As is often the way, their feelings for one another really only crystallize when they are blindsided by events that change everything for them. 

As the narrative progresses, the reader is reminded of the importance of both communicating one’s love for another so that nothing is left to assumption or doubt, and of making the most of every moment, not taking each other for granted. 

This book delivers a fascinating study of the contrasts in moral judgements and social expectations of women between the 19th and 21st century, and challenges the reader to contemplate how they might cope if they found themselves in a different time, and without electricity, cars or smart phones. Annet is challenged not only by the differences between the two time periods, but also by the prejudice with which she is treated by those who have no understanding of her origins or culture. 

The story is quite well structured and progresses at a good pace. The characters are realistic and varied, and generally quite well developed, although I did feel that Forrest was a little too prone to dithering about and moaning without really developing or progressing the story much at a crucial part of the plot when he could have heightened the drama and suspense had he responded differently. 

The use of alternating points of view enabled the reader to have quite deep insight into the thoughts and feelings of both Forrest and Annet, engaging in their circumstances and becoming quite invested in how the complications of the story might be resolved. 

Overall, this was quite an enjoyable and interesting book. 

Storm at Keizer Manor’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here

Audiobook Review: ‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The sequel to ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’, this is equally gripping and dramatic historical fiction set in Romania, with the majority of the story taking place at the school of forensic medicine that is housed in the castle that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler. 

The book blends history, folklore, horror and forensic mystery genres in a uniquely twisting tale in which Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell once again seek to solve a series of mysterious deaths.

The action is well paced, heightened by plenty of suspense and intrigue. There are plenty of mysterious characters and viable suspects, and the story is so well constructed that the truth almost imperceptible until it is revealed. 

The narration by Nicola Barber is excellent, and gives a great deal of listening pleasure. 

‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy of the audiobook or novel here

Book Review: ‘A Study Of Household Spirits Of Eastern Europe’ by Ronesa Aveela

A fascinating compilation of stories, traditions and beliefs.
##tradition #beliefs #paranormal #nonfiction

This is a fascinating compilation of stories, traditions and collected information about the spirits and supernatural beings of Eastern European and especially Slavic cultures. There is a wealth of detail, including etymologies of the names and instructions for how to appease or banish each type of spirit. Some are similar to creatures found in fairytales and fantasy stories, while others may be completely new to the reader. 

The entries on each different spirit are thorough and richly detailed. The writing is clear and expressive while retaining the straightforward style that is conventional for an informative text. The inclusion of traditional stories, poems and ‘fun facts’ adds depth and texture to each chapter. 

This book would definitely appeal to those interested in the supernatural world or in cultural superstitions, and could also serve as a very useful reference work for writers and artists. There is an extensive bibliography and links to other sources that demonstrate the author’s diligence in research and historiography, which gives the reader confidence in the information provided. 

This most interesting and engaging book has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘These Savage Bones’ by Kaitlin Hillerich

The problem with committing to a relentless quest for truth and justice is that sometimes you get exactly what you wanted. 

When the ssudden, tragic loss of her beloved uncle unleashes a chain of events in Esperanza’s life that she could never have foreseen, she is confronted by a web of lies that challenges everything she thinks she knows. 

Esperanza is smart, fiercely independent, and headstrong, a young woman way ahead of her time and society in Mexico, 1875. Her spirit and loyalty are admirable, yet they can also be seen to cloud her judgement and cause her to overlook things in her life which she has always taken at face value. 

This story leaves the reader considering not only the unintended consequences of the characters’ actions, but also the difficulty of what to do with the calaveras that tumble fromthe family closet once the door is opened. 

A blend of mystery, historical fiction, and a bit of romance, ‘These Savage Bones’ is an interesting and thought-provoking tale that can be enjoyed in a couple of hours. 

This book has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Josie’ by Susan Lowe and Diane Iverson

‘Josie’ is the true story of a young German girl who endured the family’s expulsion from their home in Glogon, now Glogonj in Serbia, after Workd War II, and the horrors of persecution and imprisonment. 

Written from a child’s perspective, the story is told in a straightforward but very personal way, so that the reader develops a strong sense of empathy and connection with Josie, taking on her emotions and feeling the tension of key moments in the story quite profoundly. 

While Josie’s experiences are neither sanitised nor glossed over, her story is  encouraging and positive, a powerful testimony to the importance of love, hope, and family connections in a world that so often seemed to Josie to be full of hatred and violence. 

A suitable read for teens and adults, ‘Josie’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ by Oliver Pötzsch

Superstition and fear are a dangerous combination, especially when they are allowed to rule over common sense and legal considerations. 

This is a fascinating historical tale full of mystery, intrigue and twists. There are moments of gut-wrenching sadness and others of macabre fascination. The story centres around Jakob Kuisl, the town’s hangman, his daughter Magdalena, and the other residents of 17th century Schongau in Bavaria, where children are disappearing and a local woman is suspected of witchcraft. 

While the story itself is fictional, it is strongly founded on the history of the author’s own family: Jakob Kuisl was one of the hangmen in the family line from which Potzsch is a descendant. This close connection gave the author access to books, documents, items and family records which add significant authenticity to this novel.

Perhaps it is this connection that enabled the author to recreate the social issues of the 17th century with a sense of urgency and bring his characters to life in a vivid and realistic way— or perhaps it’s just that the story is really well constructed and narrated in such a personal, intimate way. Whatever the reason, this is an excellent read. 

‘The Hanman’s Daughter’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here