Today Sharon Bennett Connolly reviews The Scribe's Daughter by Stephanie Churchill, a fascinating historical adventure. The author has kindly offered 2 e-book copies as a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous story, simply leave a comment below of on our Facebook Page.
The winner will be drawn on 12th July. Good luck!
Kassia is a thief and a soon-to-be oath breaker. Armed with only a reckless wit and sheer bravado, seventeen-year-old Kassia barely scrapes out a life with her older sister in a back-alley of the market district of the Imperial city of Corium. When a stranger shows up at her market stall, offering her work for which she is utterly unqualified, Kassia cautiously takes him on. Very soon however, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving a usurped foreign throne and a vengeful nobleman. Most intriguing of all, she discovers clues to the disappearance of her father three years prior.
When Kassia is forced to flee her home, suffering extreme hardship, danger and personal trauma along the way, she feels powerless to control what happens around her. Rewarding revelations concerning the mysteries of her family’s past are tempered by the reality of a future she doesn’t want. In the end, Kassia discovers an unyielding inner strength, and that contrary to her prior beliefs, she is not defined by external things -- she discovers that she is worthy to be loved.
It is not often that you come across two exceptional books in the same number of weeks, but that has happened to me. I was lucky to read Stephanie Churchill's The Scribe's Daughter after just finishing Richard Abbott's Half Sick of Shadows. Both books are two unique and amazing novels that it has been a privilege to be able to read - and review - one after the other.
My first thought after finishing The Scribe's Daughter was 'Wow!' It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. It is so polished and intelligently written, having none of the naivety that can be found in, even, the best debut novels. I found myself picking up the book at any opportunity - every spare five minutes were spent in the world Stephanie Churchill has created. I was often reading late into the night, just to devour that little bit more of the story.
The author draws you into her world, building cities, towns, palaces and swamps from her imagination and setting them down in a medieval atmosphere from which it is impossible for the reader to escape. The language, descriptive expertise, attention to detail and wonderful use of imagery helps to create a world that surrounds and embraces the reader. From a strange town, with stranger customs, in the middle of a swamp, to a dismal prison or a fairy tale palace, Stephanie Churchill weaves a world and stroyline that is, at once, colourful, vivid and full of a sense of mystery.
The story opens with a gripping chase through a medieval city, taking the breath from the reader and continues at much the same pace to the very last word. The plot line is well-defined, and cleverly reveals itself as the story unfolds. With sadness and humour interwoven into the story, the author subtly creates a realism that is deeply embedded into every aspect of the story.
I retrieved my cap, but when I turned, I nearly collided with a woman blocking my path, staring sown her long patrician nose at me. "Gutter rats in our haven," she scoffed as she stepped closer. I stood my ground. "How dare you invade this place with your pestilence, you vermin infested son of a ..." she paused then, considered my long hair and delicate facial features, and her mouth twisted into a sneer, "... or should I say daughter of a muddy street cur and a mongrel..."
Likely she would have continued on in this vein for some time, but I wasn't about to let her. Without thinking what I did, I slapped her face. What happened next was unintentional, but I won't pretend not to be pleased by the outcome. The slap so discombobulated her that she staggered backward, her momentum stopped only by the pool. With a startled cry, she tumbled into the water. I didn't even bother to wait for a reaction; it had been two days since I'd eaten a meal, and despite the partial apple I'd nearly inhaled not long before, I was hungry. Let the old carp in the pool fend for herself. It was how the rest of us lived.
The Scribe's Daughter is built around the heroine, Kassia; a unique individual; a 17-year-old orphan trying to create a better life for herself and her sister, who is drawn into a world she knows little of and a secret she wasn't even aware existed. Kassia is brave, witty and often brash and hot-headed - you can't help but love her. The author has thought hard over the experiences - and experience - of her heroine, knowing that a teenager may have some skills, but still has a lot to learn. For example, living in a city, Kassia has never ridden a horse so, of course, she suffers from sore thighs and falls off the first time. Such little details make this a delightful story, leaving the reader sympathetic to the heroine and desperate for her to win through.
All the subsidiary characters in the book are just as well thought out and interesting as the heroine herself. The love interest is provided by Jack; a helpful young man who has secrets of his own, is drawn to Kassia, but love never runs smoothly, especially in books! The villains are suitably vicious, colourful, subtle and devious - shadowy figures who may know the secrets Kassia has yet to discover.
And the best thing about having read this book? Stephanie Churchill's second book, The King's Daughter is due for release on 1st September. I can't wait to get stuck in - because if this was a debut novel, I can't wait to see what the second novel brings....
It is hard to imagine how this book could have been improved; it is so perfect in so many ways. The Scribe's Daughter is a masterpiece of historical fiction and should not be missed.
About the Stephanie Churchill: I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and after attending college in Iowa, moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an antitrust paralegal. When my husband and I got married, I moved to the Minneapolis metro area and found work as a corporate paralegal. While I enjoyed reading, writing was never anything that even crossed my mind. I enjoyed reading, but writing? That’s what authors did, and I wasn’t an author. One day while on my lunch break, I visited the neighboring Barnes & Noble and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman. I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it. Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. In 2007, when Facebook was very quickly becoming “a thing”, I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently. As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart. As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?” And The Scribe’s Daughter was born. When I’m not writing or taxiing my two children to school or other activities, I’m likely walking Cozmo, our dog, or reading. The rest of my time is spent trying to survive the murderous intentions of Minnesota’s weather.
Stephanie's book, The Scribe's Daughter, is available from Amazon Us, and Amazon UK as is her next book, The King's Daughter will be available from Amazon US and Amazon UK in September.
About the The Reviewer: Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years.
She has studied history at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites. She has lived in Paris and London before settling down back in a little village in her native Yorkshire, with husband James and their soon-to-be-teenage son.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World'. The book looks at the lives of the women – some well known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history. It is due to be published by Amberley on 15th September 2017. It is now available for pre-order from Amberley, Book Depository and Amazon.