Thursday, 19 June 2014

Carol Reviews: The Tiger and The Dove trilogy (books one and two)

Please be sure to see giveaway information below!

The Tiger and the Dove trilogy by Rebecca Hazell
Book One: The Grip of God

The Grip of God

Set in the 13th century as the Mongols sweep across the Russian steppe and beyond, The Grip of God, the first novel in a brilliant epic trilogy, is one of the most interesting historical novels I have read in 2014.

Princess Sophia is placed in danger when the invaders threaten Kiev, the greatest Rus stronghold and cultural Mecca as The Rus Golden Age fades. The reason for this is internal division amongst Rus princes and the Mongol threat as this very united disciplined warrior people sweep across Asia into 13th century Europe.

Once Kiev is threatened Sophia’s merchant prince father sends her to safety in Constantinople. When her party is attacked by Mongol raiders she is spared because of a strange prophecy. She becomes a slave and concubine to Argamon, the teenage warrior son of a great leader. She will bring good fortune according to legend. This is the fabled princess with golden red hair. But hers is no fairy tale. Only twelve years old, she is thrust into a violent world always on the move and as a consequence she and the reader are hurtled breathlessly through events and episodes of exceptional physical and emotional danger.

Sophia's character is very well developed as the story progresses and she matures and importantly survives. She is mentally older than her twelve years as the story opens and she must grow up even more quickly if she is to negotiate the rules of this very unique, different and violent culture where clan ties are everything. It is a rich culture and fascinating to discover. Above all Sophia must survive, and at times it does seem that it is impossible. She must get to her uncle in Constantinople.

As with all good quest novels there are enemies and helpmates. All of the secondary characters are exquisitely portrayed. The reader will meet and like Dorje, the captive Buddhist priest and Sophia's mentor; Selim the Arab trader and spy; and the lovely Lady Quin'ling, Argamon's mother, a wise lady who is herself in great danger from a rival. The novel is laced with jealousy, conflict, humanity and wisdom. I particularly appreciated aspects of the alien Mongol culture Sophia must come to understand. For example the Mongols tolerated other religions as long as there were no infringements on their own. They used translators and were expert at diplomacy. I also found myself liking Sophia more and more throughout the three-year period of her incarceration, caring for her through her mistakes and her courage.

As a consequence, I left this novel with a deeper understanding of a rich and unusual culture. Importantly, I came to recognise how they were so successful. At a time when Rus princes were squabbling in internecine power struggles Rebecca Hazell shows her readers how totally united the Mongol invaders were. She deftly integrates this history and its contrasting cultures into a fabulously engaging page-turning novel. No spoilers. I have now read part two of this trilogy. Sophia still has far to go and I for one shall be following the rest of her journey.


Book Two 
Solomon's Bride

The second novel in Rebecca Hazell's trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove, set in the thirteenth century, fulfils its promise of great characterisation and a wonderful historical adventure. Helped by Arab merchant trader, Selim, Sophia has escaped her Mongol captors along with her handmaiden Anna. This time there is a third important female character, Maryam, significant too symbolically since she is a Jewess living in a Muslim world. All three women are beautifully developed rounded characters with their own narratives.

The story opens evocatively with the words, 'One morning I woke to the muezzin's call and began to steel myself for another long day of questioning.' Instantly the reader is drawn to the excitement of a distant world and an exciting journey. Initially Sophia educates us about this world enclosed within an Iranian palace. We learn that there are internal conflicts within the Islamic world. Sophia introduces the reader to the world of women within the harem and to a society of educators who exist within this society. As before she is a steely character determined to learn and to cherish her independence in a patriarchal world. Her ultimate goal to reach Constantinople is threatened by many thrilling advances and delays.

Sophia must escape the beautiful Iranian palace if she is to accomplish her goal to find her Rus uncle in Constantinople. Bear in mind that we are still in the period of Crusades in the Middle East, a time of Hospitallers, Knights Templar and Chivalry, never mind internal issues facing the Islamic world. All the time Sophia is regarded as an infidel even when she is offered kindness. She is challenged over and over and meets these challenges with integrity and intelligence. The novel is fat with page turning events and a beautiful, yet very sad, yet realistic love story. Sophia's physical journey becomes her emotional story. Yet love is not without its dangers, obstacles and delays. The love story’s thread is beautifully integrated into the story of French knights, the concept of chivalry and the world of crusades. It remains for me to say that this summer I look forward with huge anticipation to the concluding novel in Rebecca Hazell’s exotic and fabulous trilogy. As Sophia matures so, too, does this story.

Rebecca Hazell can be found at

Carol McGrath is the author of The Handfasted Wife, 2013, and The Swan-Daughter, to be published by Accent Press on 18th September 2014.

Rebecca is generously giving away a kindle gift copy of The Grip of God. For your chance to win, simply comment below or at this review's associated Facebook thread.


  1. Fantastic reviews. These books sound like something I would love to read.

  2. There are two errors in para two, typos. But I cannot correct. Only admin can! I do love these novels.

  3. A set of books I must clearly read having studied this fascinating era.

  4. Believe me they are fascinating.

  5. Thank you for these reviews Carol. Its great to see you back if only for a bit. Great reviews, they look like great books. I really would like to read them. Heres hoping I win!

  6. sounds really intrigueing. My grandson gave a talk about Genghis Khan when he was in year 6 of Primary school.

    Mike Brain ( D Dunnett fan)

  7. I think you would find them beautifully written. They are to my mind excellent. I shall put you in the draw. The winner will be announced next week.

  8. Carol, I believe you, they look like absolute must reads!

  9. My daughter just drew this one from the hat. The winner is Lisl.