The Mitford Murders (Mitford Murders #1) by Jessica Fellowes

mitford 1.jpgTitle: The Mitford Murders (Mitford Murders #1)

Author: Jessica Fellowes

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Sphere

Published: 12th September 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 422

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A Golden Age-style mystery bursting with period detail and set amid the Mitford household, THE MITFORD MURDERS is the glittering start to a thrilling and sumptuous new series written by Jessica Fellowes, author of the number one bestselling Downton Abbey books.

‘A lively, well-written, entertaining whodunit’¬†THE TIMES

***You can now preorder Bright Young Dead, the thrilling second book in The Mitford Murders series*** Lose yourself in the sumptuous first novel in a new series of Golden Age mysteries set amid the lives of the glamorous Mitford sisters.

It’s 1919, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London, and most of all her oppressive and dangerous uncle.

Louisa’s salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nurserymaid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy – an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

But when a nurse – Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake – is killed on a train in broad daylight, Nancy and amateur sleuth Louisa find that in postwar England, everyone has something to hide . . .

~*~

The first in what I am sure will be a gripping and enthralling series, The Mitford Murders takes place in 1919-1921, the years immediately following the end of World War One, with soldiers and nurses still returning from the front and various theatres of war. During late December 1919, Louisa Cannon has escaped London, and her uncle. She’s on her way to take up the position of nursery maid in the Mitford household at Asthall Manor – but an incident on the train she’s one delays her. This incident delays her arrival – and almost jeopardises her job, had it not been for the oldest Mitford daughter, Nancy’s intervention and excitement at a confidant other than her younger sisters and brother. As Nancy and Louisa become friends, they become involved in the murder investigation – helping a police officer – Guy – find out what happened and who the killer was, and looking into people who are not quite who they say they are, introducing another mystery to the story as Louisa does her best to protect Nancy and remain her friend amidst the societal conventions they must live and work within.

These side characters add flavour to the novel, and the premise of the novel, the murder of Florence Nightingale Shore on the train heading towards Sussex that Louisa was on, is based on a real case, a real murder that remains unsolved in reality, but in fiction, is given a resolution, and in true murder mystery style, a murderer caught and brought to justice, and the other strands and characters brought together to conclude the plot and lead into the next book, out later this year.

Taking real life people, historical figures, ad placing them in a fictional context is always interesting and always has potential to go really wrong, or really right. Jessica Fellowes has done an exceptional job – taking historical figures who would later become well known in various circles – Nancy for her writing, Unity for her Nazi tendencies – and created a world where we can see what might have triggered these choices for the girls, and we get to know the Mitford sisters as children and humans and also get to know the ones whose names might not instantly come to mind such as Pamela, and Deborah.

Using an unsolved mystery from history and giving it a potential resolution in its own time and place in fiction worked wonderfully – it was a case that captured the imaginations of the characters and gave them a drive to find out what had happened. Louisa is cleverly written, as is Nancy – both confined by what society wants them to do, yet at the same time, rebellious and eager to step outside these boundaries, Louisa perhaps less so as she wants to remain in the safety of the job and away from her uncle – a plot point that swims through the narrative as well, and at times, these little shifts outside of what they’re expected to do take the plot in an unforeseen yet useful and intriguing direction that helps to bring the many strands together to solve the mysteries that surround the murder, Louisa herself, and Roland Lucknor, a young man who served with Nancy’s father in war and whose suspicious behaviour triggers alarm bells in Louisa and Guy’s minds. Like all good mysteries, it of course has the initial crime and investigators but also red herrings and conflicts between characters that show their flaws and humanity, but it also encapsulates a period in history where class and gender could dictate what one could do and say, and how to present oneself – and I felt this was dealt with really well, and in a way that is believable and accessible to a modern audience, as well as dealing with the hints at rebellion Nancy showed, whilst ensuring she still fit into the mould her parents wanted her to.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the rest of these novels go, and what will happen next with Louisa and the Mitford sisters.

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The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6) by Kate Forsyth

the butterfly in amber.jpgTitle: The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published:

Format: 1st July 2008

Pages: 266

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… And the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

28th August – 3rd September, 1658:
Luka and Emilia travel to London to find the last of the Graylings tribe, who has married a Puritan lawyer and turned her back on her past. As well as all the perils of the capital city, the children must escape the vengeful Coldham, and still get to Kingston-Upon-Thames in time to rescue their families. But then, on the anniversary of his greatest victory, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell is mysteriously stricken down… Will everything change? And can the children save their family in time?

The thrilling conclusion to the Chain of Charms series.

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Butterfly in Amber marks the finale of The Chain of Charms series, and it reaches its climax as Luka and Emilia reach London, the capital and the heart of Parliament, and where Cromwell is destined to die within days of them arriving. As they set foot in London, they are pursued by Coldham, and arrive at the home of the Countess of Dysart, whose loyalties are uncertain until she agrees to shelter the children as they make their way through London, searching for the last member of the Grayling family, who has married a Puritan lawyer, turning away from her past. Here, they will meet family they never knew they had, be reunited with a friend from the past, and have to continue to try and evade Coldham as Cromwell is struck down on the anniversary of his greatest victory – all things Emilia has seen as they travelled across the country. With the charms reunited at last, can Emilia and Luka save their family in time?Kate_Forsyth

In the final instalment, Luka and Emilia, now in London, must use all their luck and abilities to evade Coldham, the Roundheads and pickpockets – as they seek to reunite the charms, save their family and meet up with the rest of the traveller families that they have encountered on their quest for the charms. As they venture onwards, sacrifices must be made – and they are always on watch, in case they fall into the wrong hands. Fate will bring an old ally to them and set forth a series of events that culminate in the finale of their quest, and the resolution written down in history about the end of Cromwell’s reign and the return of peace to England.

Kate Forsyth’s series ¬†finale is as exciting and engaging as the previous five books, and brings together all the threads of story, plot and characters that have been popping in and out since the beginning of the story. I read it in two nights, eager to see what happened and how it was all resolved, and was caught up in the history, adventure and magic faced by Emilia and Luka on their perilous journey to find the charms and reunite them to save their family. She combines magic and history to create a believable ¬†and inspiring world, where there are good characters, like Emilia and Luka, the evil characters such as Coldham, and the characters who, at great risk to their own safety and lives, help Emilia and Luka such as Tom Whitehorse, Countess Dysart and the many others who sheltered Emilia and Luka, and helped them get away from Coldham and find the charms on their journey.

I had so many favourite characters, especially the crew from the previous two books that included the Royalist Duke, a highwayman, Tom Whitehorse, and a Catholic Priest, whose company kept them alive and showed that people from all walks of life wanted to end Cromwell’s rule and were willing to do whatever they could to achieve it – including the Catholic Underground helping Luka and Emilia, proving the complexity of issues in the world can be seen from many angles, and is dealt with exceptionally well in children’s books.

I have now completed my read of this series, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I have all the other Kate Forsyth books I have read. Onto the next adventures!

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The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5) by Kate Forsyth

the lightning bolt.jpgTitle: The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 10th November 2007/1st September 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 220

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The final three paperbacks of the award-winning six-book series by Kate Forsyth.

Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live.

The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… and the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

27th August 1685:
Sussex was the first county secured by the Roundheads because of its iron foundries. Here in the Weald, the Smith tribe are working for Parliament, making cannons and weaponry. They have prospered under Cromwell’s rule, and have no interest in old gypsy charms. And it is here where Luka and Emilia must find the fifth charm, a finely-wrought lightning bolt, and amidst the smoke and noise of the Horsmonden foundry, the gypsy children run into old friends… and old enemies.

Winner of Aurealis Awards’ Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn the fifth book of the Chain of Charms series, Emilia and Luka find themselves in Sussex, where they need to find the Smith family of travellers, and the one who holds the lightning bolt charm – the fifth in the magical chain of charms that Emilia believes will bring the Finch family luck and see them released from the prison that Coldham and the Roundheads have put them in – for singing and dancing in the marketplace. As they venture towards London, they are separated from those who helped them in the previous book, and reunite with Fairnette and her family, the Smiths who hold the lightning bolt. Not only must they get the charm, but earn the trust of Fairnette’s father, and face betrayal from the Hearnes, whom they thought they could trust in The Silver Horse. In the foundry at Horsmonden where the Smiths now work, they will face fire and smoke, and make that one step closer to London and saving their families.

The intensifying plot gets more interesting as the story goes on, and as Emilia and Luka encounter people who help them – from the Catholic Underground to kin who live a new life and somewhere in between – the rebels, the Dukes who wish to change things. The children are helped because these people can see the changes coming – and seeing two young children alone appears to be hard for some characters to comprehend – so Emilia and Luka appeal to their humanity, and Emilia’s ability to see the future has begun to be apparent and become a part of the storyline, where she can foresee what is to come and uses it to her advantage to get help. The pace at which these books have been moving is excellent and engaging – no need for meandering or slow moving scenes that complement her other books for adults – pure action and adventure for kids and kids at heart.

As always, Kate Forsyth’s characters are layered, and intricate, and through each book, as a reader, I discovered something new about these beloved characters, Emilia, Luka and Zizi, and those new characters they meet that ensure their journey can continue, in contrast to those trying to stop what they are doing. Mixed in is Coldham and his stubborn, singlemindedness that he has to catch Emilia and Luka at all costs, a constant threat that ensures the pace of the novel moves quickly and fervently as Emilia and Luka seek to save their family from hanging.

Of all the characters, Coldham is perhaps the most loathsome, because he is so pinpointedly focussed on getting rid of Emilia, Luka and all like them, that there is little room for much else to happen with him. He is the kind of character you do not want to encounter, and Kate Forsyth has written him as exquisitely as any of her other characters.

The weaving in of the history of rule under Cromwell, and the English Civil War, and the treatment of travellers like Emilia and Luka, and their kin makes the story powerful and grounded in a time and place where some things were different, but the treatment of those different to the ruling class has not really changed – the way some people are treated illustrates that there will always be degrees of hatred and discrimination – in a world where the understandings we have today were not present, Emilia and Luka fought hard, and I’m keen to see where the next book takes them.

In the penultimate instalment of the Chain of Charms series, Luka and Emilia start to have hope, that maybe they will finally be able to free their family from prison and live as they have for their entire lives and be who they are. It is a beautiful series that I am so close to finishing and hope to finish by the weekend.

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The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

the desert nurse.jpgTitle: The Desert Nurse

Author: Pamela Hart

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 10th July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits

It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn 1911, Evelyn Northey has just turned twenty-one – the age she believes she will receive her inheritance from her long-dead mother and be able to go out into the world and make her own life, and her own decisions – away from the controlling home of her father. When she finds the conditions of the will – and her father’s ruling – prohibit this – she spends the next three years training to be a nurse in secret – a step towards her goal to becoming a doctor.

When war breaks out in 1914 in Europe, she enlists as a nurse in the army – and is sent to Egypt, and the tragic, and disastrous Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Prior to her departure, she meets Dr William Brent at her physical assessment, a polio survivor whose disability has prevented him from enlisting and heading to the battlefront – yet he finds that he is able to serve in another way – in the hospitals of Egypt and Cairo with Evelyn.

Together and apart – they work in casualty wards, fever tents and the operating theatres, and William tutors Evelyn in Latin and medicine, preparing her for her plans to attend medical school in Edinburgh. Through four years of war, Evelyn and William drift in and out of each other’s lives, their friendship and relationship develop along the way, with the ups and downs of life in war time. Both are determined to forge their own paths and not be reliant on another – Evelyn wanting to become a doctor, which means making sacrifices in her life – marriage, a family – to achieve her dreams, whilst William is hesitant to enter into a close relationship with anyone and burden them with having to care for him later in life due to his disability. But the friendship between William and Evelyn that blossoms into more is based on respect and understanding for each other.

Pamela Hart again positions a woman in a man’s world- that of war, and this time, the medical world – and gives her a voice that the doctors and matrons she works with respect – especially William and Dr Fanous, who were like a balm to Evelyn’s harsh father. This contrast showed the spectrum of attitudes based on gender during this time, and I felt that poor Evelyn was treated quite unfairly by her father at the start of the novel, and through her stories of what had happened after her mother‚Äôs death – all of which was dealt with very well, and I enjoyed William’s response and the way he made sure he tried not to be like this – a true friend.

The historical backdrop to the novel was made more authentic with the inclusion of the real desert nurses – Evelyn and Hannah were the only fictional ones in Pamela’s story, and her inclusion of Connie Keys, Selina (Lil) MacKenzie, Alice Ross-King, Mabel Pilkington, and Dr Agnes Bennett – the first female doctor in the British Army who was in charge of the hospitals in the Serbian theatre of war. In doing this, Pamela has ensured the recognition of what these women did during four awful years for the world and for the Anzacs who left their homes in Australia to assist Britain against Germany – more information on these women can be found on Pamela’s author website.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. The historical story, and Evelyn’s story and journey towards independence were my favourites, with the touch of romance on the side, which added to the story, and gave it a touch of humanity and hope amidst the death and destruction of World War I. Equally enjoyable were the inclusion of Rebecca Quinn and her brother, Linus from A Letter from Italy as good friends of Evelyn and her brother, Harry. Seeing two women who wanted more than what was expected of them was wonderful. Also, having a main character with a disability, who didn’t let it stop him doing what he set his mind to, was excellent to see as well. William didn’t let his polio stop him, nor did Evelyn let his disability colour her perspective of him – rather, she respected him and looked out for him when necessary, just as he did for her. An excellent representation.

A wonderful read that evokes the gravitas of war, nursing and expectations of women in the early twentieth century alongside a love story that evolves throughout the novel to reach the conclusion readers hoped for.

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The Cat’s Eye Shell (Chain of Charms #4) by Kate Forsyth

the cats eye shell.jpgTitle: The Cat’s Eye Shell (Chain of Charms #4)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 11th November 2007/1st September 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 245

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The fourth exciting book in the six-book series by bestselling author, Kate Forsyth.

Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms – a golden crown, a silver horse, a butterfly caught in amber, a cat’s eye shell, a bolt of lightning forged from the heart of a falling star, and the flower of the rue plant, herb of grace. The queen gave each of her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain of charms was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.
The Cat’s Eye Shell – Book 4, 20-24th August 1658

Having acquired the first three charms in the quest to secure their family’s freedom, Luka and Emilia flee into Sussex with soldiers hot on their heels, in company with a Royalist duke, a Catholic priest, a highwayman and young Tom Whitehorse. Only the Catholic underground can help them all escape – but this is a most dangerous religion in the time of Puritan rule. And Emilia and Luka still must find the elusive gypsy tribe of the cat’s eye shell, who, it seems, have turned to smuggling…

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

As Emilia and Luka travel towards Sussex with the duke, priest, highwayman and Tom from book three, they venture into territory of the Catholic Underground in their search for the elusive gypsy tribe that holds the cat’s eye shell charm – though nobody is certain where to find them or indeed, if they will find them. But there are people threatening to stand in their ay, and despite the Catholic Underground taking them to safety, they must lie low during the Sabbath – everyone must – to avoid suspicion and stay out of the prisons and away from the gallows. But as they hide with Lady Mary and her family, Emilia and Luka are unsettled – they suspect someone is betraying their group. Whilst at Lady Mary’s they meet Milosh, a fellow Rom and the elusive owner of the cat’s eye shell they have been looking for. Caught up in the charms, saving their family and a growing plot to overthrow Cromwell, Emilia and Luka must find a way to negotiate with Milosh for his charm – and when they find out who he is helping, they are shocked – he has turned to smuggling – and helping the Catholics against the Puritan rule, for it is dangerous to be Catholic or Rom in these times.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe fourth book in the series shows the intersection of two persecuted groups and the sacrifices they made, and the risks they put themselves in during Cromwell’s time. In a time when many people would have turned Emilia and Luka away, Lady Mary and her family the Royalist Duke, Catholic Priest, highwayman and Tom Whitehorse are there to help them – or at least accompany them for safety as far as possible. For these people, the goal is to restore King Charles II to the throne and put an end to the Lord Protector.¬† For Emilia and Luka, who rules is of no consequence as long as they can free their family and live their lives of music and travel – and it is perhaps here where the other characters begin to understand, or they at least have a mutual understanding that helping each other will be the best for all.

Now over the half-way point with this series, the tension is growing, as the deadline for Emilia and Luka’s quest to save their family draws closer and closer. The fear they have at losing all that is precious to them rests on this quest and getting help from the Hearne tribe to save their family. But it also rests on Emilia’s insistence that the charms have a magic quality about them that once reunited, will save their family and all Rom. It is here where the conflicting emotions and feelings Luka has towards his cousin’s approach comes out again – and the climatic ending of the novel leaves them with four charms, and an ally in Milosh, who will help them towards their next goal and charm in Sussex with the Smith tribe, and the charm shaped like a lightning bolt.

This series gets better with each book, and as Emilia and Luka move towards London and their final destination, whilst the focus is on them, the story occasionally shifts to the jail that Cromwell’s men are holding their family in, and shows the reality of what they are going through as Emilia and Luka are on their quest – truly tugging at the heart strings and having me hoping that Emilia and Luka will be successful, which will become clear when I finish the series.

Another excellent story from Kate Forsyth.

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Book Bingo 14 – A Book by an Australian Man

Book bingo take 2

Another week, another square to check off for book bingo. This time, I’m checking off a book by an Australian man, with a new historical fiction book by Anthony Hill, who has written many historical stories about war and animals in war. This time, he has turned his hand to writing about the voyage that led Captain Cook to discovering the east coast of Australia and Pacific Islands for England and colonisers in 1770 – with 2018 marking the 250th anniversary of Cook’s journey on the Endeavour which was a three year trip, starting in 1768, and ending in 1770.

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

Book bingo take 2

Captain Cook's Apprentice - cover imageAnthony has taken an interesting tack with his book – using a young sailor named Isaac Manley to tell the story, and how Isaac sees encounters with Indigenous people of Australia and the Pacific Islands throughout the journey – which includes the various understandings and misunderstandings that occur when two cultures clash, and attempts made by the crew of the Endeavour to ensure respect is given to these people. As Anthony said in an interview, he did his best to balance the story, to show that the stories told in the history books are not as black and white as they appear. but more nuanced. Through this story, Anthony hoped to show this – and I hope it opens up conversations about lesser known aspects of history that should be known, and the nuances that go with them to improve upon and contribute what is missing from the current historical records.

Going off available source material, Anthony created a story that whilst seen through a European lens, has balanced what is known, what is taught and what is sometimes hidden or not included. Had stories with more of the facts Anthony wove into his work been available when I was at school, this period of history might have been more balanced – a big might because even if the information had been there, it might still have been dismissed for inclusion.

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I think this is an important story because it shows just how easy it is to misunderstand people, and to react without thinking when these misunderstandings cause friction. It shows how curiosity and uncertainty can contribute to assumptions and understandings, and what can be achieved when two er different cultures make attempts to get along.

So thus ends my 14th book bingo for the year – a very interesting and nuanced book about a period of Australian history often only taught in absolutes – from my own experience, where instead, the nuances should be taught and all those involved in the connection of two cultures should be given a voice in the history books. This would allow for a greater understanding of the development of Australia as the nation it is today.

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The Herb of Grace (Chain of Charms #3) by Kate Forsyth

Cyan Magenta Yellow BlackTitle: The Herb of Grace (Chain of Charms #3)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 10th November 2007

Format: Paperback

Pages: 246

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms. The queen gave each her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.

It is the fifth year of the Lord Protector’s rule, and not safe nor seemly to love bright colours, nor music, nor dancing, nor magic, nor any of the things that the gypsies most loved, and which made them who they were. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong – they have been thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms – then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

15th-19th August, 1658:
Luka and Emilia must travel to the New Forest to find the Wood tribe, whose charm is a rue flower, the herb of grace. Its power is that of plants and herbs – which can both heal and poison.

On the way, the two children tangle with an impoverished widow, the thief-taker Coldham, a highwayman and a witch, and find themselves caught up in a Royalist plot to restore King Charles II to his throne.

Winner of Aurealis Awards for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseAgain we catch up with Luka and Emilia Finch as they travel the English countryside as they seek to reunite the magical charms of the six gypsy clans, and free their family from prison and their fate at the noose. Having left the Hearne tribe with the silver horse, Emilia has had to trade her beloved Alida for it, and they’ve left their bear, Sweetheart with Sebastien for safety – with only themselves, their dog, Rollo and monkey Zizi, they hope that it will be harder for Cromwell and his men, and in particular. Coldham, to find them. They must search for the elusive Wood family – with only the name of an inn owner, Gypsy Joe, to go off.

Again, they meet with Tom Whitehorse, the young boy whose home their family once worked in, who has mysteriously appeared wherever they have been since their family has been arrested, followed quickly by Coldham and the men of the Lord Protector. ¬†Emilia and Luka are convinced Tom’s presence has been what has tipped Coldham off about where to find Emilia and Luka. As Gypsy Joe hides them after they’ve stumbled across Lady Anne and her servant, who have helped them bathe, feed and have a decent rest, they discover the truth behind Tom’s constant appearances where they are, and what is really going on – and they then find themselves caught up not only in the quest to reunite the charms and save their family – but a Royalist plot to overthrow Cromwell and restore King Charles II to the throne.

The Herb of Grace marks the half-way point in this series, and the stakes are getting higher. As the month slinks towards closure, Emilia and Luka are sorely pressed for time as they travel on foot to find the rest of the charms that they hope will change their family’s luck and restore King Charles II to the throne. I’m just about to start The Cat’s Eye Shell, where Emilia and Luka, together with Tom Whitehouse, a Catholic Priest, a highwayman and a Royalist Duke – seeking the restore the throne are in search of the elusive gypsy family and tribe in possession of the cat’s eye shell.

Here, the children must track down a witch – who holds the charm and the sacrifice they must make is even more wrenching than the last ones – but it is something that has to be done to move along with their quest – lest she use her black, dark magic against them, and tamper with what they are trying to do – this character was creepy and someone I don’t think I would be keen to meet alone. she did bring an intrigue and shadow to the story that illustrated that it wasn’t only Cromwell’s side that had evil on it – that good and evil. good and bad can be found in many places, and the characters that show shades of grey and are willing to work together are going to be effective in the culmination of the entire story.

With each book, this series gets more intriguing, and now that Emilia and Luka seem to have a band of allies, I hope things will turn out well for them – we shall see what happens, and how the true history behind the fiction inevitably plays out by the end of the sixth book in the series. As the series appears to take place over a brief period of time, it has been moving rather quickly – a decent pace for what needs to happen and where it needs to happen. I’m loving this series – they are quick reads for me, as they are short but full of fun and action, and intrigue – where Emilia and Luka have to be cautious with who they trust.

The thread of each book has been pleasingly consistent with a plot line that is delightful and easy to follow, mixed in with a few off to the side events that have been slowly building since the first book – it keeps the reader’s interest and ensures that they are learning as they read.

Another excellent offering from the Master Storyteller, Kate Forsyth!

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