A work of historical fiction, although based on the life story of one of the author’s forebears, this is an interesting story that is probably quite realistic about the prospects of a younger daughter of a prominent family during the early years of the reign of James I.
I confess I almost stopped listening as early as the prologue, in which a man speaking as though he were present when the young Princess Elizabeth was taken into the Tower of London was still alive as its Keeper in 1617. I returned to the beginning and listened again, decided the way in which that section was phrased was ambiguous, and continued with the story.
The main character, Lucy, seems at times to be almost too virtuous to be quite believable, although she does have her moments where her flaws and human nature are revealed, in which she seems more relatable. For some readers, her tale will evoke deep sympathy, while others may feel she spends too much time engaging in self-pity and decrying her lot in life as the victim of the selfishness and vanity of various other people.
The most believable characters are the hateful ones: Lucy’s sister Barbara, Aunt Joan, and Frances Howard. These characters exemplify the worst of human nature, along with a certain young man who is fickle at best and heartless at worst. It is in disliking these characters that the reader feels the most empathy with Lucy.
The narration is most enjoyable, with lively expression and very good use of tone, voice and accent to bring the characters to life.
Overall, it is a fairly good story, expertly narrated.
Also available as a novel and an ebook.
Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was the first anointed and crowned queen of England, ruling alongside her husband, Edgar, in the 10th century.
‘The First Queen Of England’ Part 2 is the second instalment of Elfrida’s story, and shows just how strong and resilient she was in a world dominated by patriarchy, politics and warfare.
Just like the first book in the series, this book is very well written and is entirely consistent with the historical context of the story, even though it is undoubtedly fiction.
It is a significant achievement on the author’s part to reanimate characters from the long-distant past in such a way that the reader feels as though they know them and can understand their concerns, cares and motivations. It is pleasing to witness the dynamics of the characters as they mature, and intriguing to observe the intricacies of the machinations and politics at court and the personal impact on the queen and king as individuals as well as rulers.
The narration by Sheila Daly Payson is most enjoyable. Her voice is pleasant and her reading is fluent. Her characterisation of the different roles is effective, and really brings the various characters to life.
As richly detailed and intriguing as part 1, ‘The First Queen Of England, Part 2’ is a most enjoyable story. This is in every aspect a very pleasurable audiobook experience, and is also available as an ebook or paperback.
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.
Anyone who has read a book or two by CH Clepitt will understand that it is perfectly reasonable to expect that everything she writes is a ripping good yarn. ‘The Book Of Abisan’, in which contemporary fiction blends seamlessly with magical fantasy, is the kind of book that only reinforces that sort of assumption. It’s brilliant.
The storytelling is well paced and infused with moments of humour that balance the action and intrigue of the plot. The storyline is original and interesting, and the suspense and tension are palpable as the mysteries and quests of the story emerge and interweave.
The various settings contrast well with one another and serve to highlight the sense of strangeness the characters experience when they find themselves in a juxtaposed world. This also keeps the reader fully engaged in the story because there is nothing predictable about where the story might take them next… which is, of course, half the fun.
The characters are varied and complex, each with personal motivations that drive their actions and decision making. There are some really wonderful characters who keep the reader invested in their personal stories as well as the tale overall, and others who are designed to be hateful and play that part very well.
The Audible narration is very good, with excellent vocal control and variations in tone and voice that help to develop both plot and characterisation. The narrator’s voice is pleasant and her diction clear, although she does say “somethink” instead of “something”, which is the one minor thing that bothered me during this audiobook experience. Apart from that, Alicia Rose is pleasant and enjoyable to listen to.
This highly engaging and absorbing story has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
‘The Book Of Abisan’ is available as either an audiobook or a novel.
‘The King’s Hounds’ is a murder mystery set in Oxford during the reign of King Cnut. An unlikely duo, Winston and Halfdan form a friendship that is still in its early stages when they find themselves assigned the job of investigating the murder and reporting their findings to the king, a task complicated by an abundance of suspects and plenty of obstructions along the way.
The reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of medieval England, culturally divided between those of Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking origins just as Cnut has come to the throne, which places the events of the story in the year of 1016. The resulting climate of distrust and resentment adds further difficulty and intrigue to the case: the king himself is not above suspicion in the death of a prominent Anglo-Saxon thane.
The characters are very well developed, and are characterised effectively by the narrator. The contrast between the conservative Winston and the rogueish Halfdan creates some entertaining moments, but also enables each of them to play to his strengths when challenged by the various situations and problems they encounter.
The story is interesting and entertaining, and quite well told. The dialogue is a little stilted at times and not quite consistent with the way people spoke during that period of history, but this may be accounted for by the fact that the book was translated from Danish into English.
The narration by Napoleon Ryan is noticeably slow, but before I was far into the book, I began to feel that this was something of an advantage, because it gave me time to take in all the detail of the story.
An enjoyable and interesting book, ‘The King’s Hounds’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.
Find your copy of the audiobook or the novel.
Damien and Millie return in the second instalment of the Damien Dickens mystery series, ‘The White Russian Caper‘ is a mystery adventure that takes the reader from Atlantic City to Hollywood— erm… Florida, in pursuit of the answers they are commissioned to find.
As in all good mysteries, there are plenty of viable suspects and some most intriguing complications and twists.
Tom Lennon delivers another excellent detective-noir style narration with clarity, easy pace, and very good characterisations of the various roles in the story.
Like the first in the series, this audiobook comes highly recommended, and has received a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy of the novel or the audiobook.
I love a great story as much as anyone, but I also really enjoy it when a story makes me thing about important ideas that relate to life beyond the book, too.
‘Bound By a Dragon’ is a powerful story that tells of the dangers of prejudice and wilful ignorance, and of the difference that is made by accepting someone for what they are. This book demonstrates that prejudices are learned behaviours, incredibly hard to break once formed and bringing about significant consequences not just for the individual who holds them, but also for those on the receiving end.
In fact, it is fair to say that as the story progresses, the central character Keira is challenged to rethink many of her assumptions about people and the rules her society holds to so strongly. It is hard to learn to trust one’s instincts over what one has always been taught, and even more difficult to change others’ perceptions and understandings of the way things are in life. Through Keira’s challenges and discoveries, the reader is led to thinking about the assumptions we make and the misunderstandings we carry, and how they impact on our own lives and relationships.
Through Aaron’s experiences the reader is given lessons about individuality and self-acceptance, but also about accepting the things that happen in life and dealing with them in healthy ways.
These important themes and ideas are intricately woven together to create a book that is complex and thought-provoking at the same time as immersing the reader in a distant fantasy land and being wonderfully entertaining.
The plot and premise of this book are interesting and quite original, building intrigue and suspense with some well-constructed complications and twists to keep the reader engaged in the story.
The audiobook narration is expressive and fluent, and I really enjoyed the change of accent. I found it easy to understand every word, and appreciated the easy pace and rhythm of the narrative.
‘Bound by a Dragon’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy of the audiobook or the novel.