Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran – Book Review

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Auda’s birth is a difficult one. Eventually the midwife is faced with the choice of either saving Elena (possibly), or her baby. In a somewhat graphic middle ages c-section, Auda is born and Elena dies. Not everyone is sure that the choice was the right one, however, as Auda is albino. A superstitious midwife’s assistant grabs baby Auda and runs to the river with her, slicing out her tongue and throwing it into the waters so she can no longer tell the devil’s lies.

Luckily for Auda, her father and older sister accept her for who she is. By the time she is reaching adulthood, though, things are becoming dangerous in southern France as the Inquisition is raging, hunting out the heretical Good Men. A father who is a papermaker in a time of parchment and a daughter who is a mute albino are bound to draw attention from the Inquisitors, so Auda’s father arranges for her the protection of the Vicomte’s household. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to protect someone considered so different.

Auda was a fantastic character. She had great depth and really came to life. I kept finding myself forgetting that she was mute and albino, not because Sankaran wrote anything that didn’t work with the continuity of the store, but because Auda was simply Auda, not her disabilities. Sure, when she walked through the market place or couldn’t communicate with people who couldn’t read her notes and didn’t understand her signing I would remember her lack of a tongue.

I loved the details about paper making and how controversial paper was, but I think that “Watermark” could have been a tighter novel if more about the Good Men was mentioned earlier in the book. They had so much to do with the climax of the action, but they seemed less than totally important during the first half of the novel. This resulted in the ending having a bit of a rushed feeling, because the Good Men swept into the plot and were central, then the book ended.

Despite having somewhat of a rushed ending, I think that “Watermark” is worth reading for the strength of Sankaran’s main character Auda, as well as for the details of paper making in France in the middle ages. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Check out some of the other tour hosts for more reviews.  Links go to the host’s site, not to their specific review.

Monday, April 5th: Bibliofreak

Wednesday, April 7th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, April 8th: Serendipitous Reading

Monday, April 12th: Wordsmithonia

Tuesday, April 13th: Book Nerd Extraordinaire

Wednesday, April 14th: Rundpinne

Monday, April 19th: Raging Bibliomania

Wednesday, April 21st: Thoughts From an Evil Overlord

Thursday, April 22nd: Devourer of Books

Monday, April 26th: Café of Dreams

Tuesday, April 27th: Starting Fresh

Wednesday, April 28th: A Few More Pages

Thursday, April 29th: Reading, Writing, and Retirement

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for this TLC book tour.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles – Book Review

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Eleanor is an orphan, but she’s a gentlewoman, the ward of Lord Beaufort and companion to his wife. With no dowry, she doesn’t really expect to ever marry. Edward Morland, however, sees an advantage in Eleanor. Morland is no more than a wealthy sheep farmer, but his son Richard is somewhat educated and he wants to bring social cache into their family to mix with their riches and create a powerful family dynasty. Although Eleanor was chosen for her connections and the fact that her lack of dowry makes her attainable for a sheep farmer, but Edward could not have chosen a better bride for his son. Not only is Eleanor very fertile, bringing numerous healthy children into the family, but she is also incredibly strong-willed and savvy. It is her influence, more than anything else, that continues to catapult the family’s fortunes during the tumult of England during the War of the Roses.

The Morland Dynasty series is one I’ve been hearing about for years now, so I was quite excited about reading “The Founding,” which is the first book in the series. I was also a bit hesitant, however. What is my expectations were too high? At 500+ pages that would be a lot of disappointment. Luckily, “The Founding” absolutely lived up to the hype for me. From what I know about this series, it is set against hundreds of years of English history. I enjoy these sorts of books, but sometimes it seems that they simply try too hard to insinuate the main characters into every monumental event covered. I did not find that to be the case with “The Founding,” the events seemed to occur naturally, although when the characters did not experience the events first hand they occasionally had to engage in some slightly unnatural expositions.

I’m really not sure whether or not to be happy about discovering the Morland Dynasty series. On one hand, great new way to experience English history; on the other hand, huge series of big fat novels when I already have more I want to read than I could ever get to.

The Morland Dynasty series could be very hazardous to your TBR piles, but if you’re up to the challenge and a fan of English historical fiction then I would certainly recommend this series, I will definitely be reading more.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from Danielle at Sourcebooks.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Within The Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes – Book Review

Within The Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Richard II was the son of the great warrior Edward, The Black Prince and the grandson of King Edward III. When The Black Prince, heir to the throne of England, predeceased the King, his young son was suddenly the heir apparent. Historically, child kings have always caused a measure of unrest, and this held true when Richard ascended to the throne at the tender age of 10 years old. One might think that having four strong uncles would help hold the throne for Richard in his youth, but when the uncles see a boy-king as a chance to consolidate their own power and perhaps even take the crown for themselves one day, they can be exceedingly dangerous. Indeed, there is open animosity between Richard and his youngest uncle, Gloucester. For instance, when Richard successfully put down the Peasant’s revolt at the age of 14, his uncle Gloucester reversed the good he had down by ordering executions where Richard had promised amnesty.

I really enjoy Margaret Campbell Barnes’ take on the history of England in general. However, I didn’t find “Within The Hollow Crown” to be quite as good as some of her other work. One thing in particular that really bothered me were her transitions, which were occasionally jarring from one chapter to another, things simply didn’t seem to flow, and I felt that at the beginning of each chapter I really had to pay extra attention to figure out how much time had elapsed since the end of the previous chapter. I was so excited to read about Richard II, since I have never encountered any fiction about him, but I just didn’t find myself terribly invested in him.

I definitely recommend the historical fiction of Margaret Campbell Barnes and am really pleased that Sourcebooks is reissuing them so they can be more easily found in the U.S., but I don’t think I would recommend you start with “Within The Hollow Crown,” I think she has better books – although certainly one of Margaret Campbell Barnes’ lesser books is still better written than much historical fiction.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from Danielle at Sourcebooks.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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