Review: A Rustle of Silk by Alys Clare

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Overall Score8/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Series: Gabriel Taverner Mysteries, Book 1

Publisher: Severn House Publishers

Release Date: January 1, 2017

Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

Introducing physician-sleuth Dr Gabriel Taverner in the first of an intriguing series of mysteries set in early 17th century Devon. ”
“1603. “Former ship s surgeon Gabriel Taverner is attempting to re-establish himself as a country physician in rural Devon. But it s not easy to gain the locals trust, and a series of disturbing incidents, increasing in menace and intensity, convinces him that at least one person does not welcome his presence.
Called out to examine a partially decomposed body found beside the river, Gabriel discovers that he has a personal connection to the dead man. Teaming up with Coroner Theophilus Davey to find out how the man died, Gabriel uncovers some darker aspects of the lucrative silk trade which operates from nearby Plymouth. The more he finds out, the more frighteningly apparent it becomes that the people closest to him have been keeping dangerous secrets.

Review

When I first started reading this book, I thought I had started on a very dark, gruesome medical mystery. Imagine my relief when the book did a 180 turn a few chapters in and became an incredibly engrossing character-driven mystery.

Gabriel Taverner has just established a medical practice in small town England after an unfortunate accident put an end to his days as a ships physician. However, somebody in the area has decided that they don’t need the competition of a second medical practitioner. This storyline did become the secondary story (although it did provide some key clues toward the primary mystery) but it really set the scene well for future books in this series. You see how Dr. Taverner interacts with the locals as a doctor, a friend, and a co-physician.

As one of his duties as a local physician, Dr. Taverner is interrupted by the local coroner, who needed a doctor with him to examine a partially decomposed body. The mystery kicks into high gear when Theophilus Davey, the coroner, determines that the missing man is the husband of Dr. Taverner’s sister. The plot slowly builds to its conclusion and the detective work done by both Dr. Taverner and Theopilus is interesting to follow. As the death count mounts and secrets are revealed, the mystery deepens. The ending was unexpected and extremely well-written.

Even the secondary characters are well-written and fully developed in this book. The author has planted the seeds for what will hopefully be a long series as I cannot wait to read more about all of the characters, particularly Celia and Jonathan Carew.

This is a wonderful historical mystery that is truly a blending of the two genres. It’s a brilliant mix of medicine, mystery, and just a touch of the macabre. I will be eagerly awaiting all further installments in this series.

Review: Army of Fire by Jennifer L. Kelly

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Overall Score8/10

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Series: The Elementals, Book 1

Publisher: BoxerBull Books

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

According to the Legend of the Impossible Girl, the Five Elemental Stones must be obtained from the Elemental Abyss. Newly initiated into Fire, Ka must retrieve the Fire stone from the Land of Fire and upon her return single-handedly defeat the Army of Fire in order to save her friends.

Review

This book opens up with the destruction of Earth as we know it. The story then skips ahead to the civilization on Zon 9 (what an awesome name for a planet) where we find Ka, the protagonist of this story, figuring out which element she wants to declare at her Pronouncement. On this new planet, the new environment has caused humans to develop longer life-spans and an affinity toward, and ability to, manipulate an element. Each element has certain character traits associated with it and individuals usually feel drawn to one element more than others. However, Ka doesn’t feel a particular affinity toward any of the five elements.

She ends up choosing Fire during her Pronouncement (the choosing ceremony) and thus begins her journey. What Ka doesn’t know at first is that she is the long awaited “Impossible Girl,” the one with the power to change everything for the humans of Zon 9. However, she first must find herself.

The world-building in this book was excellent (can I go live in either the water or earth college building??). It was slightly reminiscent of Divergent but I actually liked this story more. The division of individuals among elements felt more like a distribution of labor based on skill-type with magic thrown in. The politics in this book were very slowly revealed but, at the end, left me incredibly curious as to what will happen in future books. The plot was a little slow at the beginning but it set the stage beautifully for later events in the book.

I think the characters were well-developed and multi-dimensional in this book. I wasn’t a huge fan of Ka at first but I really started to root for her and like her toward the end. What stood out to me about this book the most was how many of the characters developed in this novel. While the book focused on Ka’s journey, the author allowed the secondary characters to grow with her (there is one particular one that I’m thinking about and I’m sure you’ll know which one I’m talking about after you’ve read it).

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I’m excited to read the sequel. This was a unique, fantastical world with interesting characters.

Review: Strange Truths by S. D. Wasley

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Overall Score: 8.5/10

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Magical Realism

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: October 17, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

Why did she have to be so goddamn weird?

Mikey Warrender’s goals are within his grasp. On track for a spectacular swimming career in the last months of his senior year at school, his life seems ideal. A successful Senator father, a pretty, popular sister, and a girlfriend who acts and looks, well, perfect. They’ve had their share of trouble in the form of Mikey’s late twin, but that trouble died with Toby and now things can finally get back on track.

Until Alice England. Mikey couldn’t have been less interested in a friendless undertaker’s daughter who sees strange things and always speaks the truth—until she starts stalking him at school. Alice has reason to believe Tobias Warrender was reluctant to take that fatal dose of crystal meth. What’s more, she insists Mikey is grieving for his twin. Curious, Mikey lets Alice in—just for a moment—and before he knows what’s happening she’s wedged her foot in the door and busted his world wide open.

Alice leads him through a series of discoveries that make him look more closely at his own carefully constructed reality. Innocent yet knowing; kind yet devastatingly honest, Alice effortlessly unravels Mikey Warrender’s falsely safe world—and what really happened to Toby.

Review

This was such an original and fascinating story! The book was very different from what I expected but I ended up really enjoying it. I actually read it all in one sitting because I didn’t want to put it down.

The story opens with Alice England, the local undertaker’s daughter, preparing a body for a funeral. We learn that Alice has the power of resonance, where dead people’s momentos show stories from their lives to her. After Toby Warrender, a Sentor’s son, dies from an overdose, Alice has a vision that suggests he wasn’t willing to take the drugs that killed him.

Together with Michael, Toby’s twin, Alice sets off on a quest to figure out the mystery and to learn who Tobias really was. Their journey is a coming-of-age story that reads very realistically and deals with complex situations and emotions. In regard to the characters, I loved how the author made all of the main characters so complex and three-dimensional. They were entirely believable because of how flawed and imperfect they were. While I wasn’t a fan of some of the character’s actions (namely Michael), I was surprisingly invested in what happened to them.

Even though I guessed who the murderer was about two-thirds of the way through, I remained interested in the plot until the very last page  (which is really saying something because if I guess correctly, I usually skim the rest of the book). The way the murder mystery plot unravels is on the slower side. However, that works in this book as the characters balance the investigation, school, and other life occurrences.

This novel wove in modern life in a nearly seamless fashion in both the investigation and the character’s lives. Additionally, the author portrays the price of modern-day fame in a very realistic manner. From Michael’s fame-seeking sister to his “fixer” cousin, the darker side of fame is examined. I’m not usually a fan of more contemporary novels but this one read like a classic character-based murder mystery that just happened to be set in this time period.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read and I am looking forward to seeing what Alice England does next.

Review: The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

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*This is the second book in this series. My review of the first book can be found here.

Overall Score: 9/10

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk, Young Adult

Publisher: Roc

Release Date: September 6, 2015

Source: Bought

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.

Review

I loved the first book in this series, The Invisible Library, and was incredibly excited to read this one. After devouring it in one sitting, I can safely say that the sequel does not disappoint.

The story begins with Irene and Kai going about their business as Librarian-in-Residence and her assistant when the story opens. There is a small time lapse between the end of the first book and this one, however I believe that it shows how the characters have adapted to their new situations. After a successful book retrieval mission, Kai is kidnapped and the real story begins.

As Irene is forced to negotiate with dragons and Fae alike, the reader is given an in-depth view of the world that builds upon the foundation established in the first novel. It was very interesting to see how Irene navigated the world of the Fae, using their own magic to her advantage (well, most of the time). This book takes us far outside of the sphere where Irene and Kai have made their home and it is utterly fascinating to see the contrast between the dragon and Fae controlled spheres.

Much like the first novel, Irene accomplishes her goals using mostly her intelligence with a little help from magic. I think what I enjoyed the most about this book is that the damsel in distress trope was given a role reversal. The male dragon was taken captive and was powerless to escape on his own and Irene had to undertake a quest to free him.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book and I would highly recommend it (although I do suggest reading the first book in the series first as it establishes the world and relationships present in this novel). As for the ending, it made waiting for the third book in the series slightly torturous.

Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

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Overall Score: 8/10

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk, Young Adult

Publisher: Roc

Release Date: June 14th 2016

Source: Bought

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

Review

First of all, that cover. Every time I walked past this book in the bookstore, it was a struggle to not immediately buy it just for the cover. On the day when I finally broke down and looked at the back of the book for the summary, I knew I was a goner. The Invisible Library is about a world-traveling librarian (she’s even more awesome than a regular librarian though), Irene, and her secretive assistant, Kai.

The Library is a place out of time where all of the books from various worlds are collected in order to maintain the balance between Chaos and Order. The premise for the Library itself sounds absolutely amazing and I would happily sign up to work for them in a hearbeat. Its agents are essentially trained spies who collect the requested books from various worlds, which can sometimes be highly complex and dangerous.

We meet Irene when she has been assigned a more dangerous assignment and a new assistant. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there are dragons, a Sherlock Holmes-esque character, Fae, adventures, and multiple enemies. The story kept me highly entertained and the ending was extremely satisfying. The dialogue is clever and the relationships between characters are interesting (and highly entertaining). There is quite a lot of information given to the reader in this first book so it was slightly overwhelming at the beginning. However, it didn’t take me that long to have a general idea of how everything was related in this world and how the various types of magic worked.

This book is quirky, magical, and, most of all, highly entertaining. The book hints at mysteries to come and I cannot wait to get lost in Irene and Kai’s world once again.

Review: The Hypnotic City by Andrea Berthot

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Overall Score: 9/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Steampunk

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: August 1, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

Philomena Blackwell survived a city plagued with monsters, the gilded cage of high society, and the rule of a heartless man… and she aims to leave it all behind.

It’s 1905, and London has finally been freed from Henry Jekyll’s terrible legacy – its people cured, its thirteen-year quarantine lifted. The world is waiting, and for a girl who dreams of being its most dazzling star, what could be more enticing than the bright lights of New York City?

She is drawn across the ocean like a moth to a flame, her heart set on proving that while she may be small on the outside, her soaring talent eclipses even Manhattan’s towering skyline. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell – just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager. But is it her stage presence mesmerizing the audience, or something more sinister behind the scenes?

Philomena has always relied on her fierce will and fiery heart, but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway’s bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull…

Both fans of The Heartless City and new readers alike will enjoy this stand-alone / spin-off tale of Philomena’s adventures on stage – and in love – in NYC.

Review

Note: While this is the second book in The Gold and Gaslight chronicles, it can be read as a standalone. All relevant information from the first book covered in the second.

Philomena was one of my favorite characters in The Heartless City so I was quite excited to read this book. Philomena, a talented young singer and actress, has left London with her maid, Jennie, after the quarantine was lifted. She dreams of performing on Broadway in New York and has faith that she will be discovered soon after setting foot in the United States. The novel opens with her and Jennie arriving in New York (and being just a tad overwhelmed by the city).

The book then skips forward a bit and we see how, even though not everything has gone their way, both girls have made lives for themselves in the city. Jennie is engaged to a charming young man and Philomela has a steady job performing in a show, although she isn’t the star. When she isn’t even allowed to audition for one of the prestigious theaters because of her short stature, Philomena stands up for herself.

The initial interactions between Philomena and Jamie were wonderful to see. She stands up for herself and calls him out on his bad behavior. Neither of them is perfect and they do get into some arguments throughout the book. That honestly made the romance more believable to me as they saw each other’s flaws and loved each other anyway.

As to the setting, this novel truly captures New York and the dreamers that inhabit it. The beginning portion of the novel was as much a love letter to the city as it was setting the stage for the second half of the book. From the men selling their sketchy wares on the street to the food, the city came alive as the author brought both the good and the bad to life.

When Philomena joined Tom Casey’s theater, I had absolutely no idea what would come next. There were just enough hints dropped that I knew something was off about him and his establishment. The author built the suspense throughout the rehearsals for the play and through slow revelations about the true nature of Casey. The ultimate revelation of both what was happening and then the ending were unexpected and shocking.

I absolutely tore through this book and I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series. This story is a slightly dark read with an enjoyable romance, an intriguing mystery, and a wonderful setting.

Review: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray

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Overall Score: 8/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through NetGalley

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia—and a woman of good character—Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected to be steaming through the Mediterranean on a luxuriously appointed yacht under the watchful and jovial eye of one Lord Silverton. But here they are, as improper as it is, on a quest to find the duke’s heir, whereabouts unknown.

An expert on anachronisms, the adventurous Maximilian Haywood was last seen at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. And when Truelove and Silverton disembark, they are met with incidents of a violent nature: a ransacked flat, a murdered government employee, an assassination attempt. And as they steam from port to port on Max’s trail, dodging danger at every turn, Truelove will discover the folly of her misconceptions—about the whims of the heart, the desires of men, and the nature of time itself…

Review

As soon as I saw the description for this book, I immediately wanted to read it. Greek mythology, historical fiction, mystery, AND a romance? Needless to say, I had pretty high expectations before I started this book. This book met them all and it proved to be a very fun read.

The story begins with Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove receiving a quest from her employer, the Duchess of Olympia, to go find the recently departed Duke’s heir so he can assume the duchy. I should point out that Miss Truelove is a pretty interesting character from the beginning because she can a) talk to ghosts and b) is a woman in what was considered a man’s role at that time. However, I could have done without the frequent mentions of her tendency to get incredibly sea sick.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a diary that was discovered in the prologue (which takes place in modern times). I quite enjoyed this aspect of the book because it added another layer to the story and challenged the reader’s perceptions about the story thus far. Combined with the glimpses into Truelove’s past, I found that the way the story was told served to increase the tension in the mystery and made me incredibly curious to find out more. It also set the stage for future books in the series quite well.

The story is a wild chase throughout Greece, from a hotel-room shoot-out to highly questionable interrogation techniques to sailing through a storm. The romantic tension between Truelove and Silverton was hilarious to watch. They challenged each other and throughout the journey, both of the characters developed in unexpected, yet understandable, ways.

This story was incredibly fun, with the rare combination of an utterly charming plot, a cast of unique characters, and an irreverent sense of humor. This is one of those books that manages to be fun and light without sacrificing depth. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a light historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural. I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Review: The Heartless City by Andrea Berthot

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Overall Score9/10

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retelling

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: August 17, 2015

Source: Kindle Unlimited

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

Henry Jekyll was a brilliant doctor, a passionate idealist who aimed to free mankind of selfishness and vice. He’s also the man who carelessly created a race of monsters.

Once shared secretly among the good doctor’s inner circle, the Hyde drug was smuggled into mass-production – but in pill form, it corrupted its users at the genetic level, leaving them liable to transform without warning. A quarter of the population are now clandestine killers – ticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment.

It’s 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years.

Son of the city’s most prominent physician and cure-seeker, seventeen-year-old Elliot Morrissey has had his own devastating brush with science, downing a potion meant to remove his human weaknesses and strengthen him against the Hydes – and finding instead he’s become an empath, leveled by the emotions of a dying city.

He finds an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, a waitress at one of the city’s rowdier music halls, whose emotions nearly blind him; her fearlessness is a beacon in a city rife with terror. Iris, however, is more than what she seems, and reveals a mission to bring down the establishment that has crippled the people of London.

Together, they aim to discover who’s really pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…

Heart-eating monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face.

Review (Slight Spoilers)

This book is a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and it goes past the original plot. It explores what could have happened if that drug was distributed among the citizens of London. The plot was original and extremely captivating. The characters were all distinct and wonderfully characterized. While some characters had special abilities, there were scientific explanations given that made sense in the context of the story.

There are two wonderful romances, a power-hungry dictator, a mad scientist, and adventure in this book. It is definitely a dark story but it isn’t creepy. Rather than having the story be filled with gore, the author instead chooses to examine what exactly can make a human monstrous and the lengths individuals will go to save those they love. I highly recommend this book and this series.

Upcoming Releases – October 2016

Now that I’m getting the hang of blogging, I decided to add some additional post types to the blog. At the beginning of the month, I’ll compile a list of select books (aka ones that I’m excited about) that will be published in that month to share with you. If you have any ideas on how to make this feature better, please let me know!

Already Reviewed

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The Delphi Effect
by Rysa Walker
Rating: 8.5/10
Release date: October 11, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter
by John Pipkin
Rating: 5/10
Release date: October 11, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October Anticipated Releases

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Title: 
Nemesis
Author:Anna Banks
Release date: October 4, 2016
Genre: 
Young Adult, Fantasy
Series:  Yes, Book 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title: Hag-seed
Author: Margaret Atwood
Release date: October 11, 2016
Genre:
Fiction, Retelling, Fantasy, Contemporary
Series:  No

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title: 
Bound by Blood and Sand
Author: Becky Allen
Release date: October 11, 2016
Genre: 
Young Adult, Fantasy
Series:  Yes, Book 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title: 
The Apothecary’s Curse
Author: Barbara Barnett
Release date: October 11, 2016
Genre: 
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Steampunk
Series:  No

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title: 
The Other Einstein
Author: Marie Benedict
Release date: October 18, 2016
Genre: 
Historical Fiction
Series:  No

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title:
Gemina
Author:
 
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Release date:
October 18, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Series:  Yes, book 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Title: Glitter
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Release date: October 25, 2016
Genre: 
Young Adult, Fantasy
Series:  No

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter by John Pipkin

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Overall Score: 5/10

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

In late-eighteenth-century Ireland, accidental stargazer Caroline Ainsworth learns that her life is not what it seems when her father, Arthur, throws himself from his rooftop observatory. He has chosen death over a darkened life, gone blind from staring at the sun in his obsessive hunt for an unknown planet near Mercury. Caroline had often assisted her father with his observations; when astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781, she watched helplessly as unremitting jealousy drove Arthur to madness.

Grief-stricken, Caroline at first abandons the vain search, leaves Ireland for London, and tries to forget her love for Finnegan O’Siodha, the tinkering blacksmith who was helping her father build a massive telescope larger than Herschel’s own. But she later discovers that her father has left her more than the wreck of an unfinished telescope: his cryptic atlas holds the secret to finding a new world at the edge of the sky. As Caroline reluctantly resumes the search and confronts her longing for Finnegan, Ireland is swept into rebellion, and the lovers are plunged into its violence.

This is a novel of the obsessions of the age—scientific inquiry, geographic discovery, political reformation—but above all astronomy, the mapping of the solar system, and beyond. It is a novel of the quest for knowledge and also—just as importantly—for human connection.

Review

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter is a sweeping tale that ties together the scientific, the historical, and the political. There are a variety of main characters that serve to give the reader a glimpse into the Ireland of the late eighteenth century. However, I believe the author may have been too ambitious in his scope as the stories can feel disjointed and jarring at points.

The story gets off to a slow start as the author established a baseline for his characters. We learn the history of Caroline Ainsworth and her father before joining them in their search of the heavens. This novel does a very good job of explaining astrology and the unceasing need of the stargazers of that time to find the next astrological marvel. A great deal of time passes as Arthur and Caroline gaze up into the heavens, however any suspense that may have built up is ruined by the opening of the book. At the start of the novel, before the reader knows either of the characters, the ending of their story together is revealed.

There were multiple subplots that all started at different times in the novel. While I enjoyed learning more about how various people lived in the time period, these stories were only slightly related to the main plot regarding Caroline. The only one that I think needed to be included was Finn’s because it fleshed out the character and showed an entirely different side of Ireland than the other storylines. Otherwise, the stories served to make the story feel piecemeal, the cohesiveness stressed with each switch.

As for the romance aspect, most of the romance in this novel is between humans and the heavens. So if you’re looking for a historical romance, this may not be the book for you. There wasn’t a lot of development in terms of interpersonal relationships so it was difficult for me to connect to or care about the characters.

Overall, this was an interesting novel that explored a time period where man was racing to discover the skies. I would recommend it to those who prefer historical fiction that focuses on the events of a time period rather than the people.