Janet MacLeod Trotter’s The Girl from the Tea Garden, set at the end of the British Raj

Janet MacLeod Trotter has been one of my favorite writers of regional sagas. She’s especially adept at delving into the lives of the working-class men and women of England’s industrial North East. Among other works, she transformed the stories of Catherine Cookson’s grandmother, mother, and Catherine herself into gripping biographical fiction (I reviewed Return to Jarrow in 2009). Her books were the only historical novels I saw for sale at the Beamish Open Air Museum when I visited there a few years ago.

Trotter’s latest books, the India Tea series, are based on her grandparents’ diaries and letters from when they lived in India in the 1920s-40s, and there’s some cross-pollination with her familiar English settings as the characters travel back and forth. The Girl from the Tea Garden is third after The Tea Planter’s Daughter and The Tea Planter’s Bride, which I haven’t read yet, but I’ve never minded arriving mid-way into a series. Enough background was provided for everything to make sense.

The heroine is Adela Robson, who’s an adolescent schoolgirl as the novel opens in 1933. The story follows her through the WWII years as she struggles for acceptance in a world that looks down on those of Anglo-Indian heritage (her maternal great-grandmother was an Assamese woman). Also, as a beautiful young would-be actress, Adela must also look past all of society’s distractions, which include a handsome playboy prince, to find her way back to the people and qualities she values most.

Adela develops a crush on steamboat captain Sam Jackman early on, after she sneaks a ride in his car while fleeing her hated boarding school on her way home to her family’s tea plantation at Belgooree. Her feelings are returned after she grows into adulthood. I liked Sam a lot. The survivor of a troubled childhood, Sam is a decent sort who gets things done but doesn’t crave attention for his honorable deeds. He also makes plain that Britain’s departure from India is inevitable and works toward this ultimate goal – although he feels he can’t be tied down emotionally to accomplish this. There were many times I found myself wishing for greater emphasis on Sam’s experiences and less on Adela’s flirtations and performances; there were also many side-stories, such as one involving a young Indian woman’s desperate plight, that I wished were pursued further. Also, in one instance in particular, Adela comes across as impossibly naïve.

Adela’s emotional journey is emphasized, and has some powerful moments, particularly when she travels to visit relatives in Tyneside and is faced with a life-changing decision.  I found the novel strongest in its depictions of complex family relationships and India’s alluring scenery, from the noise and color of the jungle to the wooded hills of Simla. Although I would have preferred greater focus on the many social issues facing India at the time, as a star-crossed love story, the novel works well.

The Girl from the Tea Garden was published by Amazon’s Lake Union imprint in December 2016; I read it from a NetGalley copy.

Shortlist for the 2016 Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction

This afternoon, the Langum Charitable Trust announced the eight novels on the 2016 shortlist for the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction.  From the press release, they are:

Barkskins, by Annie Proulx (Scribner)
Champion of the World, by Chad Dundas (Putnam)
The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston, by Michele Moore (Univ. of South Carolina Press)
Exile on Bridge Street, by Eamon Loingsigh (Three Rooms Press)
Fates and Traitors: A Novel of John Wilkes Booth, by Jennifer Chiaverini (Dutton)
A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, by Stephen Harrigan (Knopf)
Ginny Gall, by Charlie Smith (Harper)
I Will Send Rain, by Rae Meadows (Henry Holt)

How many have you read?  I’ve read two, and the links above go to the reviews on my site.

The 2016 winner and finalist will be announced in about a month.  For more details on the prize, see the Langum Charitable Trust. To submit a novel for consideration, view the directions available at the site.  The readers’ guidelines for the prize may also be of interest.

The prize is awarded annually to the “best book in American historical fiction that is both excellent fiction and excellent history.”  Last year’s winner was Faith Sullivan’s Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse (Milkweed Editions).  See the site for details on previous winners and finalists.

Nicola Cornick’s The Phantom Tree, a time-slip mystery of modern and Tudor England

It’s easy to feel sorry for Mary Seymour. Daughter of Henry VIII’s widow, Katherine Parr, and her reckless fourth husband, who was executed for treason, Mary was orphaned by her first birthday. A burden to her relatives during her life, she was also obscure in death, which has gone unrecorded. Many assume she died as a child, but the speculation that she survived to adulthood presents a provocative “what if.”

Nicola Cornick’s second romantic time-slip novel (after House of Shadows) is a historically rich work that uses this premise as the springboard for a story about an unlikely sisterhood that extends into two eras.

Alison Bannister, née Banastre, was born into the 16th century but has somehow been trapped in the 21st century for over a decade. She and Mary Seymour had spent their later childhood and adolescence together at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire, along with a passel of other orphaned cousins. Several years separate the pair, and their personalities are too different to allow for friendship: Alison is beautiful yet hard-edged, while Mary is innocent and naïve, and Mary’s higher social standing invites feelings of jealousy. Still, later circumstances compel them into a pact. Alison had helped Mary flee a dangerous situation at Wolf Hall, and in exchange, she demands Mary’s assistance in finding the son she was forced to give up.

Unable to return to her own time, Alison has made a new life for herself in modern England but doesn’t let herself get close to anyone; she remains haunted by her lost child. Her first clues on what happened to him emerge via a portrait of Mary, which she finds while browsing an antique shop in Marlborough. Unfortunately for Alison, examining the painting’s provenance and the objects depicted within it means reconnecting with an old flame, Adam Hewer, a rising celebrity historian who’s staked his career on its identification as a newly discovered Anne Boleyn portrait.

Adam shows dubious professional judgment, as do the portrait’s modern authenticators, but he’s willing to concede he may be wrong. Several mysteries are carefully woven through both timelines. What became of Alison’s son? What forced Mary to leave Wolf Hall? What’s the true identity of the mysterious man who communicates telepathically with Mary? Perhaps written as a touching homage to Mary Stewart’s classic Touch Not the Cat, Mary’s secret relationship with this man she’s never seen is often her sole source of hope.

author Nicola Cornick

Cornick’s portrait of country life in Tudor England is presented with a tactile clarity that avoids romanticizing the time. One can feel the damp chill that pervades Wolf Hall in winter, smell the ripe odors of the local market, and observe how women’s powerlessness gives rise to discord and rancor. Alison’s under no illusion about a woman’s lot back then – if not for her missing son, she’d stay put in 2016 – and a wonderful scene of her present-day visit to a medieval church illustrates this. Moreover, Alison’s attempts to locate the past via modern clues demonstrate how much the past remains with us.

There were traces of history everywhere: in street names, on inn signs, in old tracks and ancient hedgerows, buried walls and tumbled gravestones. Scratch the surface and it was there.

The Phantom Tree is a skillfully written multi-stranded mystery with thoughtful reflections on two women’s quests for belonging. Read it not only for its evocation of the 16th century but for greater appreciation of the conveniences and freedoms we take for granted today.

The Phantom Tree was published by HarperCollins UK’s HQ imprint on 29 December (£7.99, paperback).  Thanks to the publisher for approving my NetGalley access; this is the second stop on the book’s blog tour.

Some new historical novels retelling the myths of ancient Greece

The heroic and tragic stories from Greek mythology have often been the foundations for historical novels set in long-ago times.  Novelists such as Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Margaret George, Colleen McCullough, and Madeline Miller, to name a few, have retold Greek myths in their own styles.  They have humanized characters from the ancient tales, showed them from new perspectives, and placed them in a well-researched Bronze Age setting.  After being sent a copy of Bright Air Black for review last month, I looked around and noticed many historical novels of this type had been published recently or will be soon.  While this may not be significant enough to call it a trend, it’s definitely good news for readers who appreciate historical fiction set in the very distant past.

Here are nine books from 2016 and 2017 that fit this category.  Please note that this list includes both US and UK releases.  If you know of others that belong, please leave a comment.

This retelling of Helen of Troy has Helen separated from Theseus, the man she loves, and taking her fate into her own hands; it’s the sequel to the author’s earlier Helen of Sparta.  Lake Union, May 2016.

This Bronze Age-set historical fantasy, set two decades before the author’s Helen novels, retells a lesser-known myth: that of Hippodamia, who is raised by centaurs, and her husband Pirithous, future king of the Lapiths.  CreateSpace, Sept. 2016.

Set in Bronze Age Greece, and subtitled “a novel of Homer’s Odyssey,” Dillon’s version recounts the events from the epic poem from the viewpoint of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus.  Pegasus, August 2016.

Hauser’s debut novel, first published in the UK last year, retells the Trojan War story from the viewpoints of two women: Briseis and Krisayis.  Pegasus, January 2017.

Hauser’s second novel, out in the UK later this year. will be a retelling of the myth of Atalanta, who survived being abandoned as an infant and grew into a swift runner and warrior.  Doubleday UK, June 2017.

Oedipus and Antigone are the best-known figures from Sophocles’ two tragedies.  Haynes’ novel retells these stories from the viewpoints of Jocasta and Ismene, the mother and daughter whose destinies play out in the ancient kingdom of Thebes.  Mantle (UK), May 2017.

Like the previous projects from the “H Team” (which include A Day of Fire, about Pompeii, and A Year of Ravens, about Boudica’s rebellion), A Song of War is a collaborative novel in which multiple authors contribute different characters’ perspectives on a historical event of significance.  Here, seven historical novelists retell the epic of the Trojan War.  CreateSpace, October 2016.

This novel promises to be a sympathetic retelling of the story of Clytemnestra, a notorious woman in Greek mythology for taking deadly revenge on her husband, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, after the Trojan War. Scribner, May 2017.

A retelling of the story of Medea, Jason, and the voyage of the Argonauts. I’ll be posting a full review later on.  The cover shows, as seen from above, a ship skimming through dark waters.  Black Cat, March 2017.

Ellen Umansky’s The Fortunate Ones, a moving multi-period novel about art, loss, survival, and family

The Kindertransport, the recovery of Nazi-looted art, family ties, and adjustments to great loss: taken individually, these are recurrent themes in literary fiction, but they’re brought together in an original and tremendously moving way in Umansky’s debut novel.

It centers on the separate stories of two women, Rose Zimmer and Lizzie Goldstein, and their connection. Both feel like walking ghosts after their parents’ deaths: Rose, a former child refugee from Vienna living in 1940s Britain; and Lizzie, a lawyer who returns home to contemporary Los Angeles for her father’s funeral.

Lizzie and Rose, now an astute, prickly septuagenarian, develop an unusual friendship. Their families had once owned the same Chaim Soutine expressionist painting, and both had it stolen under traumatic circumstances.

The missing artwork holds great meaning for them, and they ponder its whereabouts, but this multi-layered novel isn’t really a mystery – although it satisfies in that respect.  Instead, it’s a gradual revelation of character, and of significant events from the women’s personal histories.

Their journeys are engrossing to follow. Rose’s story is brought forward in time from 1936, illustrating her inner strength, while Lizzie navigates relationships with her sister, her Jewishness, and a surprising new lover.  The clarity of detail in Umansky’s writing brings all her scenes alive. She sensitively addresses the complicated issue of survivor’s guilt and leaves readers with a sense of hope.

Some notes:

I wrote this (starred) review for Booklist, and the edited version was published in the magazine’s January issue.  The Fortunate Ones will be published by William Morrow in February in hardcover.

As a sidenote, I found the book’s cover art very plain, but what’s inside is impressive.  I hadn’t been familiar with Chaim Soutine or his works before reading the novel; you can read more about him at the Musée de l’Orangerie.  The painting connecting Rose and Lizzie’s families (The Bellhop) is fictional, but I pictured it along the same lines of this Soutine painting, called The Groom or The Bellboy.

Historical fiction award winners from ALA Midwinter 2017

Earlier this evening, a number of literary awards were announced at ALA Midwinter in Atlanta.  I wasn’t in attendance this time, but details on the winners and shortlisted titles are posted at the ALA website (and committee members have been announcing the news on Facebook and Twitter).

Here are the historical novels that received the honors.  Links go to the ALA press releases.

2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction:  The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, which imagines an enslaved woman’s flight towards freedom.  I reviewed this novel here last year; it also won the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for historical fiction.

2017 Reading List, which selects the best in genre fiction for adult readers (descriptions are mine):

In the Historical Fiction category, the winner was Graham Moore’s The Last Days of Night, a historical thriller about the rivalry between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison in 1888.

On the Historical Fiction short list:
– Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a family saga about slavery and freedom, set in Ghana and America over the last few centuries.
– News of the World by Paulette Jiles, a western set in the post-Civil War period.
– The Risen: A Novel of Spartacus by David Anthony Durham, about the slave revolt led by Spartacus against ancient Rome.
– To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, a novel of adventure and love set in 1885, during the exploration of Alaska.

In the Mystery category, the winner was Thomas Mullen’s Darktown, a police procedural featuring two African-American policemen in 1948 Atlanta fighting racism as they investigate a black woman’s murder.

And in the Romance category, the winner was Beverly Jenkins’ Forbidden, a love story set in the post-Civil War West between a strong-minded African-American woman and a man passing as White.

On the 2017 ALA Notable Books list are several historical novels:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao, stories set during the partition of India in 1947

Novels on the Notable Books list are literary fiction, while the Reading List covers genre fiction. Since novels in the historical fiction genre can also be literary, there is some overlap.

More award announcements may be forthcoming, and if so, I’ll add them to this post. Congratulations to the winners and shortlisted authors!

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, an engrossing historical saga of Korean life in 20th-century Japan

Pachinko is a novel that exemplifies the word “epic.” Following the members of a close-knit family from a rural fishing village on a Korean island to various locales in Japan and elsewhere, it spans nearly 90 years and almost 500 pages. I would have been happy if it were longer.

It’s a big story, rich in character and activity. These aspects, plus the clean, straightforward writing style, make for a brisk, absorbing read. It opens in 1910 with the circumstances that lead to the birth of the principal heroine, Sunja, who grows into a sturdily built, handsome young woman.

When a liaison with a wealthy fish broker leaves her pregnant, and Sunja learns he can’t marry her, one of the guests recuperating at her mother’s boardinghouse makes a surprising offer. Due to his frailty, Baek Isak never expected to wed anyone, but his Christian beliefs (he’s a Presbyterian minister from Pyongyang) and generosity of spirit leads him to ask for Sunja’s hand. When the couple relocates to Osaka and moves into Isak’s brother’s home in the Korean ghetto, Sunja views firsthand the plight of immigrants living in a country that doesn’t welcome them.

The novel was revelatory for me, as it introduced me to an aspect of history about which I’d known little. Between 1910 and 1945, Korea was a colony of Japan. Through the experiences of Sunja, her husband, in-laws, and descendants, we get to see the ramifications of this part of history. As one Korean man remarks in the novel, “For people like us, home doesn’t exist.” In Japan, Koreans are negatively stereotyped as belonging to a “cunning and wily tribe” and “natural troublemakers.” They can’t rent decent housing or obtain the best jobs. On the other hand, any Koreans who adapt to Japanese ways would be looked upon suspiciously back home. The members of the Baek family must always be on their best behavior, since they represent their country of origin.

Over the years, through constant toil, their fortunes rise. The meaning of the title (which refers to Japanese pinball gambling, a hugely popular activity there) isn’t obvious in the beginning but becomes clear in the novel’s later sections.

Pachinko tells a universal immigrant story, but it also offers enough specificity to provide a full picture of the geography and customs of 20th-century Korea and Japan. The novel’s scope lets readers see how the family acclimatizes themselves to an increasingly modernized Japan while keeping their own identity as Koreans. Because of the discrimination they face, it’s impossible for them to fully assimilate.

Two more elements of note. Writing instructors and readers often decry the use of “head hopping,” that is, the switching of viewpoints within a scene. Lee shows why this so-called rule was made to be broken. She uses this technique on occasion, but it’s performed subtly and has the effect of enhancing the scene’s emotional impact. Also, while Sunja often hears the adage that suffering is a woman’s plight, she and her equally industrious sister-in-law, Kyunghee, are the engines that ensure their family thrives and survives. The family’s men, while (mostly) decent and hardworking, aren’t always as fortunate. This emphasis felt curious to me; I couldn’t tell if it was meant to be symbolic of a larger theme or not.

If you don’t know anything about this historical era or part of the world, no need to worry. Lee will bring you into her characters’ world so completely so that they’ll feel like family. An engrossing historical saga, Pachinko’s themes are also significantly relevant to the world we live in today.

Pachinko will be published next week by Grand Central in hardcover and ($27 or $13.99, 496pp). Thanks to the publisher for approving my NetGalley access.

Late Harvest by Fiona Buckley, an entertaining historical saga of 19th-century Somerset

Fiona Buckley is best known for her Tudor-era mystery series featuring Ursula Blanchard, lady-in-waiting (and more) at the court of the first Queen Elizabeth. Under her real name, Valerie Anand, she has crafted many outstanding historical novels set in various periods of England’s history, including the six-book Bridges Over Time series as well as two linked standalone novels (The House of Lanyon and The House of Allerbrook) set on Exmoor in Somerset in the 15th and 16th centuries respectively.

In terms of style and focus, her newest historical saga, Late Harvest, belongs in the same category with the latter. It brings together bucolic settings, timeless human dilemmas, epic romance, and dashing adventure (including intrigue surrounding illegal smuggling) reminiscent of the Poldark novels.

The heroine is Peggy Shawe of Foxwell Farm, a freehold on Exmoor in the county of Somerset. In 1860, as an elderly woman, she looks back on a life which her fellow countrymen might call scandalous, but of which she’s proud… she has no regrets about her actions. Her main sorrow involves the many years she was forced to spend apart from the man she loved and lost, Ralph Duggan.

In 1800, Peggy is 20 years old, and there’s always been the unspoken understanding that she’d marry James Bright, the younger son from another farming family. Although Peggy and James are childhood friends, she finds him solid but dull. Then Peggy falls in love with Ralph, whose father engages in “free trading” to avoid the excessive import duties on foreign goods. Peggy’s widowed mother strongly objects to their marriage, claiming they’re unsuited: “Farming families should marry into one another. The sea and the land don’t mix.” Ultimately, their future together is thwarted after Ralph’s brother is accused of murder.

Mention is made of the Napoleonic Wars, but specific events don’t intrude much into the story. However, a deep sense of time and place is ever-present in the farmers’ speech patterns, the beautiful descriptions of the heather-covered moorlands and rocky coastline of Somerset, and local men’s actions against government overreach. People’s long-term relationships with the land are emphasized. “It was,” Peggy states, observing the yarn market at Dunster, “as though bygone times still existed, preserved in the things our ancestors had built.”

Many sagas that span this amount of time can have an episodic feel, but Late Harvest is smoothly paced as it follows Peggy’s domestic life and adventures over many decades. The story comes full circle in a satisfying fashion but takes many twists on its way there.

Late Harvest was published by Severn House in hardcover last June ($29.95, 265pp) and will be out in trade paperback in the US a few weeks from now, in March.($17.95).  It’s also out on Kindle ($9.99).  Thanks to the publisher for access via NetGalley.

For those curious about the setting, aside from the painting on the novel’s cover, see the Exford page on the Visit Somerset tourism site.  Exford is the rural village where the Shawes live, and it’s beautiful country.

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese, a novel of art and family set in fin-de-siècle and WWII Vienna

For those who moved in high society in fin-de-siècle Vienna, the city sat at the pinnacle of elegance and culture. Provocative political ideas were discussed in private salons and coffeehouses along the Ringstrasse, while painter Gustav Klimt and designers like the Flöge sisters pushed boundaries in art and design.

By four decades later, the Viennese atmosphere was far darker. Amid a rising tide of anti-Semitism, Jews were beaten in the streets, forced out of their homes, and had their property seized by the Nazis, who took care to ensure their heinous methods of theft appeared unimpeachably legal.

In her engrossing tale of art, family, loss, and female empowerment, Laurie Lico Albanese’s Stolen Beauty presents a shifting view of this famous European city. The characters are historical, and the novel also describes a real-life account of long-awaited justice – one that will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the 2015 film Woman in Gold.

I borrowed the DVD of the latter after finishing the book, and they’re quite different, since they focus on different aspects of the history (the past vs. the present). Also, as much as I enjoyed the movie, Helen Mirren’s acting in particular, the book tells a deeper, more fulfilling story.

Alternating as narrators are Adele Bloch-Bauer, who was depicted in multiple works by Gustav Klimt, and her niece Maria Altmann. Their separate stories are fleshed out so well that each could be complete in itself, but the intertwining makes the themes resonate more strongly. Their situations and circumstances strike a marked contrast, but the women are equally brave and determined. Rather than pointing this out in obvious fashion, the author lets readers see this for themselves.

Both women are the youngest daughters in different generations of the same prominent Jewish family. Although neither is religious, this doesn’t matter as far as how society envisions them. While Adele can’t achieve her dream of attending university due to her gender, she makes connections and a name for herself in the avant-garde art world and nourishes her intellect in other ways. Similarly, Maria goes after what she wants, including the husband of her choosing. After being forced to flee the city of her birth for her own survival, Maria, years later, fights to regain the Klimt paintings that the Nazis stole from her family.

Naturally, both women’s stories are intricately intertwined with that of Klimt’s artistic renderings of Adele. Albanese details the circumstances behind their creation, as well as the paintings’ afterlives. Adele’s relationship with Klimt is vividly imagined as an intimate affair that proves beneficial to both; for her, it’s part of her ongoing journey of self-discovery.

Like the gilded image of Adele on canvas, the novel is painted with abundant detail and, in the earlier sections in particular, descriptions that sparkle. For Adele, visiting Vienna’s elegant Central Café with her fiancé for the first time, “the gold-embossed wallpaper made the room glow like a treasure box,” while her new friend Berta Zuckerkandl describes the conversations between writers there: “Sometimes they read aloud to one another, and bits of poetry land on my table like beautiful birds.”

Per the afterword, Stolen Beauty took the author years to research. Read it for insight not only into art and European history, but also the private lives and motivations of two women who stood up for what they believed in.

Stolen Beauty will be published tomorrow in hardcover and by Atria ($26 / $12.99, 320pp). Thanks to the publisher for providing me access via Edelweiss.

This post forms part of the novel’s blog tour.  As part of the tour, the publisher is offering the opportunity to win one of three signed copies of Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese.  The contest is open until February 14th.  To enter, visit the contest site at Rafflecopter.

A devilishly Bohemian thriller: Dana Chamblee Carpenter’s The Devil’s Bible

The Devil’s Bible is a real book. Known more formally as the Codex Gigas (giant codex), it measures 36” tall and 20” wide. Believed to have been produced at the Podlažice Monastery in what’s now the Czech Republic, this immense medieval manuscript received its nickname because of the eerie legend behind its creation, and because it contains a full-page color drawing of the devil, in all his maleficent glory.

In her second historical fantasy novel, Dana Chamblee Carpenter uses the actual history and folklore surrounding this strange text to imagine the circumstances that led to its writing. It needs to be said that The Devil’s Bible is a sequel to Bohemian Gospel, and readers starting with book two will miss many nuances and won’t feel the full impact of events as they unfold. The first book introduced the character of Mouse, an orphaned young woman in 13th-century Bohemia whose unusual gifts and ability to harness supernatural powers caused people to fear her – for good reason, as it turned out.

Bohemian Gospel was an impressive debut, but I like this sequel even more; it’s more smoothly paced, and while the first book felt almost unremittingly dark, this book offers many moments of light and hope that counterbalance the bleakness.

The story is split between two time frames. In the year 1278, Mouse, who refuses to cause more unintentional harm to others than she already has, has herself walled into a cell at Podlažice Monastery and inscribes the book that will become the Codex Gigas. Unfortunately, the source of her occult talents, her father, finds her there and insists on making his own contributions to the book.

Then, in the present day, we find Mouse employed as a Nashville university professor calling herself Emma Nicholas. Fearful of becoming close to anyone over the last 700 years, she holds tight control over her gifts and hopes her father won’t find her again. That is, until a former student claiming expertise in the Devil’s Bible catches up with her at a conference. The power she unleashes in her defense naturally attracts her immortal father’s notice.

With its combination of speculative religious history and high-stakes thrills, The Devil’s Bible may feel thematically similar to The Da Vinci Code, but the writing is more sophisticated, and it takes a more original spin. For Mouse, who struggles to come to terms with her nature, the Church and the devil are both strong adversaries, for different reasons. Her twisty relationship with her father kept me guessing (what does he want from her?). I also appreciated the scenes juxtaposing past and present and the continued focus on less trodden historical ground.

While at the Vatican, Mouse encounters a likely enemy and finds a surprising ally who accompanies her on her mission. In their quest to evade her father and find clues from the book she inscribed centuries ago, she revisits many sites from her past: the crypts and monuments of medieval Prague, the crumbling ruins of Podlažice, and several others. Also, although Mouse is fictional, her depiction as the original scribe of the Codex Gigas fits neatly with its legend.

The Devil’s Bible will be published in hardcover by Pegasus next Tuesday.  Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.