BABEL, OR THE NECESSITY OF VIOLENCE : AN ARCANE HISTORY OF THE OXFORD TRANSLATORS’ REVOLUTION by R.F. Kuang

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. 

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel. 

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down? 

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.


Title : Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution
Author : R.F. Kuang
Format : eARC
Page Count : 560
Genre : historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : HarperVoyager
Release Date : August 23, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

You know, more and more it’s books like this that make me dislike the rating system more than I already did. It’s all relative anyway, right?

Let me start off with the easiest thing I want to say about this book. The thing that’s been at pretty much the forefront of my mind the entire time I read it : I respect the hell out of this book. Yes, it’s clearly a chonky guy, so you can make the leap that this was a lot of work; not just for research and plotting but because of the academic setting and focus, too. Add to it the intense study of colonialism, racism, and the overbearing feeling that resistance to the system is futile? This book is doing a lot.

It’s also uncomfortable. And I think it’s supposed to be? The main characters we follow are each coming to Oxford, to Babel, with the desire for belonging, for refuge, to become more (better) than those around them believe them capable of. As a group, this random selection of four, who become necessary to each other not just to the survival of their early days in this new place, but become necessary for each others’ happiness, their successes, their joy.. they rub each other raw, fight, hurt each other, and it’s what makes the whole of their dynamic so real. Because even though they face adversity on all sides — for their race, their gender — they are still human and imperfect and their various marginalizations don’t always mean they easily understand one another.

And one of those characters, I think, is meant to be a reflection for readers — that even someone with their own battles, their own hardships, can never understand what it’s like to be other in white society. That even with her best intentions, unthinkingly, she does harm. She’s a reflection of our own blind spots, the times we are complicit, and ignorant — or at least she was for me. And yeah, that’s uncomfortable as hell to read. But I appreciated it.

Incase you can’t tell, there’s a lot of pain in this story. Beyond the dynamics, as mentioned, the topic of colonialism is vivid and stark. The casual cruelties, made to be factual by those who believe themselves the betters of others, the violence enacted on non-white bodies both physically and emotionally, it’s all just a lot. Much like the catalyst that sends these characters towards the bitter end, there is a slowbuild of hurts that shifts into rage. Because there’s only so much that a person, a people, can take.

Having said all that, if you expect this to be a fast-moving action fantasy, you will quickly be disappointed. I’ve only liked one of the two prior dark academia’s I’ve read but in some ways I would argue that those plots move a little differently than this one. Even at the end, during what I guess you would call the climax, it’s slow. But it’s fitting. These are scholars and much like the rest of the book things move at a certain pace. As for the magic, it’s almost not like magic at all. It’s a tool, a resource; and as a result the silver feels like something real. Something to hoard, to master, to go to war over. Interchangeable with almost anything, really.

So, beyond my respect, beyond my discomfort, what else is left and where does that leave us? I will say that I was fascinated by some of the spiralling language discussions, the etymology, the shifting and morphing of language. The whole discussion about translation, really, was just spectacular; and also a little heartbreaking. And how that tied into the end.. well. Shockingly I didn’t cry while reading this, though one or two moments did make it a little hard to swallow, and I’m as baffled as you as to why this didn’t rip me to shreds. But maybe it’s also why I can’t come to grips with a rating?

Overall, while I don’t know if this is going to be a story anyone likes, I do think it’ll be one people revere. And maybe that’s where I’ve ended up. Time will tell if I’m right or wrong but, either way, I would definitely recommend this, if you’re interested, but you can’t say you weren’t warned about what to expect.

And in the meantime, I might try and read (finally) the author’s other series, which I have put off for far too long. Similarly, I’ve heard enough to know what to expect about that. I should be prepared. I hope.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.


Title : Lessons in Chemistry
Author : Bonnie Garmus
Format : ebook
Page Count : 392
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Transworld Digital
Release Date : April 5, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 4.5-5 star review

Headlines:
Here for Six Thirty
Raging misogyny
Gratitude to all the feminists before me

What an utterly brilliant read Lessons in Chemistry was. It was funny, with so many lines making me laugh out loud, it hurt my heart in numerous parts, it made me feel angry but it was overall wonderful. A read for all genders who are feminst.

This era of feminism (1950s) isn’t one I’ve reflected on much but life was damn difficult for those crossing very set boundaries. Elizabeth Zott, chemist, feminist and one prone to bold, frank speech had her work cut out. The tale took us through her life in a male-dominated academic profession, falling in love, family and fighting to find her place again. It was sweeping, captivating and full of immense hope. Zott never meant to be funny but she was.

This read was equally challenging as it was amusing. Elizabeth Zott experienced things one never should, as did other women in this piece. I want to say nothing about the other character in this book that sold the story one chapter at a time, because if you read this, you need to discover this character as it arises (sorry for the mystery).

I finished the final pages in utter tears. I’ve been thinking ever since about how I have strode on in academia, yes facing misogyny, but nothing like Zott did. I was able to apply for and complete a PhD and be respected for my work and contribution to knowledge without thinkng there’s a man behind it. I am grateful to every women that has strode before me on this journey.

What a book, a total must-read.

Thank you to Transworld books for the review copy.

A RIP THROUGH TIME by Kelley Armstrong

In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.

May 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.

May 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half-day off, only to be discovered that night in a lane, where she’d been strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one-hundred-and-fifty years before Mallory was strangled in the same spot.

When Mallory wakes up in Catriona’s body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to the reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it’s too late.

Outlander meets The Alienist in Kelley Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time, the first book in this utterly compelling series, mixing romance, mystery, and fantasy with thrilling results.


Title : A Rip Through Time
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : A Rip Through Time (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : mystery / sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : May 31, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Once upon a time I used to associate Armstrong with paranormal novels. Now not only are detective/mystery plots her speciality but she seems to be using time travel a lot, too. Not that I’m complaining..

This one veers in a different direction from her last time travel story and whereas that was a romance this has none to speak of — though.. maybe set up for something in the future? there were glimmers — due to some complicated dynamics but also the strangeness of the whole situation Mallory suddenly finds herself in. One minute, it’s 2019 and she’s a detective on leave in Edinburgh, just out for a jog. Next, she wakes up after having been attacked, but it’s 1869 and she finds herself in the body of an unrecognizable housemaid. Not only does she have to quickly adjust, adapt, and come up with a plausible reason for being confused and out of sorts (beyond being attacked), but she also has to solve her own case; and the case of a local murder or two.

If this had been a standalone, well, a) that would’ve been a very unsatisfying ending (but it also would’t have ended that way) and b) this would be a very different rating. It’s still not as high as I think it might be in the future because, now that we have the set-up out of the way, and know our cast of characters, I think the next book (books?) will be very very good. I really enjoyed both siblings that Mallory finds herself, as Catriona, working for — one is a funeral director (well, what passes for one in the times) and also has a side hustle with the police as a medical examiner, and the other is more or less a chemist. Both intelligent, if a little unusual, for the times and for even more reasons than I’ve mentioned (leaving some surprises for you). Another character is the local criminal investigator who is also a friend to both.

It was fascinating to see Armstrong, through Mallory, try and determine what criminology and forensic sciences were already at work at the time and navigate the conversations and investigations with her own knowledge while, somehow, trying to make it fit. She didn’t always succeed, and often surprised those around her, but I think that made it more believable. I always side-eye a story that has the time traveler way too prepared to blend in to new surroundings.

While the mystery and reason behind why Mallory was attacked in the first place, and why she continued to be targeted, was kind of.. well, not exciting, I also respect having this kind of storyline play out. So often we expect big nefarious reasons for these crimes but rarely are they so dramatic.

So, yes, overall I had a good time with this but I’m very glad we got this stage of the story out of the way and now things can get even better. Can’t wait to see what adventures await this ensemble in the coming books.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WHAT TIME IS LOVE? by Holly Williams

1947. 1967. 1987.
When Violet and Albert first meet, they are always twenty.

Three decades.

Over the years, Violet and Albert’s lives collide again and again: beneath Oxford’s spires, on the rolling hills around Abergavenny, in stately homes and in feminist squats. And as each decade ends, a new love story begins…

Two people.
Together, they are electric and the world is glittering with possibility. But against the shifting times of each era, Violet and Albert must overcome differences in class, gender, privilege and ambition. Each time their lives entwine, it will change everything.

One moment is all it takes…

As their eyes first meet, for a split-second it’s as if the clocks have stopped. Nothing else matters. Yet whichever decade brings them together, Violet and Albert are soon forced to question: what if they met the right person at the wrong time?


Title : What Time Is Love?
Author : Holly Williams
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Historical-Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Orion Books
Release Date : May 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Contemporary with magical realism
Time jumps
Complex couples

What Time is Love was a rather unusual read and concept that lulled you into the story you thought was the story, then pulled the rug out from under you. This is a book where I really think it helps if you read the synopsis before entering to prempt any confusion.

It was a story told in thirds, three couples or the same couple in different times, you decide. The first story was in one breath my favourite but it was incredibly tragic. The second, explored the makings and breakings of an open relationship. The third, brought Violet and Albert into the most contemporary times and gave them a different start, different challenges and a different end.

I think this was a clever concept and there was much I enjoyed about it. I did have times of frustration over unfinished ends, especially over story one which I was very partial to. I’m not sure what I thought about how these storys did or didn’t weave together, I need to think on it.

This was an absorbing read, it felt like nothing I’d quite read before and I definitely became invested in some of the couples.

Thank you to Orion Books for the review copy.

THE TRIAL OF LOTTA RAE by Siobhan MacGowan

On Halloween night, 1906, young working class Lotta Rae is attacked by a wealthy gentleman. She seeks justice at an Old Bailey trial alongside her barrister, William Linden, who she believes to be her ally.

The verdict is devastating and Lotta Rae soon realises the guardians of justice do not support her. But what none could foresee were the shocking consequences.

Twelve years later, as the suffragettes rise and the ghost of WW1 looms large over London, William is joined again by Lotta Rae. Now they will travel to a fateful destination, where truths must be faced and wrongs will be righted.

The day in court is done. But tonight he will hear her testimony.


Title : The Trial of Lotta Rae
Author : Siobhan MacGowan
Format : Physical
Page Count : 312
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Welbeck Publishing
Release Date : May 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Tragedy on tragedy
Compelling feminist era of history
Miscarriages of justice

I am all wrung out on finishing The Trial of Lotta Rae. This historical read was compelling from front to back, it made me feel so many things and most of my emotions at the events in this book centred on anger, frustration and sadness. The story is incredibly tragic but it is also important. Content warnings below.

I thought the trial from the title would be the centre of the book, but actually it was early in the story but a crucial catalyst for the events that came after. Essentially, this book was about men and women, men’s power over women in the era before and during suffrage and ultimately a personal tale of that experience. Lotta was such a complex character to unravel. She was abused, bereaved, a fighter, manipulative and a feminist. There were very few good men in her life but Pap and Raff were such amazing advocates for her and women in her situation, I lived for their words and support in this.

William. What can I say but that this man’s story unfurled slowly and insiduously. It took the whole book to find out the depth of what he had done and I found myself ultimately shocked. It was initally strange to me that William became worse than ‘The Man’. Talking of which, I wanted a bit more wrap up on what happened to that particular piece of disgusting human.

This story gave me all the feels, many of which were uncomfortable. From suffrage to the personal stories, I experienced it as a bystander and raged. This debut was excellent and I highly recommend this book to all feminists and historical fiction fans.

Thank you Welbeck Publishing for the review copy.

CW: rape, sexual violence, mental illness, murder

A LADY’S GUIDE TO FORTUNE-HUNTING by Sophie Irwin

The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose…

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune.

Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With just twelve weeks until Kitty and her sisters are made homeless, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her. And Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…


Title : A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting
Author : Sophie Irwin
Format : Physical
Page Count : 341
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Harper Fiction
Release Date : May 12, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Enemies spatting
Mercenary ethics
Snobs and realists

I had an absolute blast reading this book. It engaged me, made me laugh throughout the book and really made me love the main characters over time. The writing was all ease to get into and I read it in two sittings.

Kitty was a young woman on a mission, head of her family with four sister dependents to secure a future for. The mission was her own marriage to someone of fortune and she was utterly blinkered and focused. She had some shady approaches, she was two-faced to her suitors and a great liar. She was such a likeable heroine.

She met her forthright match in Radcliffe, they did not like one another and he was soon ‘onto her’ and worked out her schemes. These two verbally sparred, coerced favours out of one another but very slowly, something happened.

‘Dance with me,’ she demanded, walking straight up to him. He eyed her warily.
‘Thank you, but no,’ he said. ‘I should have mentioned that I also do not dance with persons who appear to want to murder me.’

I loved how this book shone light on the snobbery of the ton and the judgement passed on those of reduced circumstances and how the men perceived women and their role is society. I adored how Kitty smashed through those preconceptions but with subtlety. Kitty made Radcliffe and Radcliffe made Kitty.

This totally has a Bridgerton vibe but without the heat. For me, the heat wasn’t missing, the plot was rich and chemistry bubbled. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this book and I want more.

Thank you to Harper Collins and Insta Book Tours for the review copy.

THE MURDER OF MR. WICKHAM by Claudia Gray

From New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray—a summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Mr. Wickham, one of literature’s most notorious villains, meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Jane Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In a tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.


Title : The Drowned Woods
Author : Claudia Gray
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : historical fiction / mystery
Publisher : Vintage Books
Release Date : May 3, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing a slow painful death for Mr. Wickham, he of Pride and Prejudice and Austen infamy. And while this didn’t quite deliver in that exacting way, he’s still dead! Three cheers for that.

What also drew me to this title, vicious longing for murder aside, was the idea of all of Austen’s famous couples gathered under one roof and subject to, essentially, a locked room mystery. Would they get along? Who would be the first suspect? Who would actually do it.. and why? I mean, we don’t need a why but would there be a why we wouldn’t see coming?

And, overall, this was good fun. I liked that Gray gave each couple very real conflicts, outside of the mystery, that did not seem fabricated and instead were likely issues that had plagued these characters or, due to circumstances, had caused certain issues to come to light. Each couple were in various stages of their HEA; some were long married, with grown children, some had only been married a few years, and others, only months. Each was a different perspective on their “what comes after” and each with their own concerns and issues. I really enjoyed it. Some, of course, more than others because we all have favourites.

Equally, we also see some secondary characters visit. Some we probably weren’t fans of to begin with but, at least, none so loathsome as Wickham.

I never guessed the culprit or the motive, by the way. I was just along for the ride. But it was completely realistic and not remotely out of left field — in case you are worried.

Gray is not a new or untried author to me, I’ve read much of her YA backlist, but this particular venture was a surprise. I have no idea if she’s shifting to adult permanently, or even historical fiction in general, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for what comes next.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ELEKTRA by Jennifer Saint

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?


Title : Elektra
Author : Jennifer Saint
Format : Physical
Page Count : 352
Genre : Historical/Greek Mythology
Publisher : Wildfire Publishing
Release Date : April 28, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Women, the powerful and powerless
Vengeance and bitterness
War and tragedy

Buckle up for another great retelling of a famous Greek mythological story but told from three key female perspectives, ones that are lesser known. The story revolved around Clytemenestra, Cassandra and finally Elektra and this was a tale told over decades. There’s much to immerse yourself into and it was an absorbing read filled with tragedy over three parts.

The book took the reader from Sparta to Troy and even other places briefly. I’ve read a fair few Greek mythology books around some of these events, especially Troy but Saint had a fresh perspective to bring on this, especially through Cassandra’s eyes. Expect all the brutality that comes with an authentic telling of these tales, especially violence and sexual violence towards women.

What was interesting about this story was how the women and girls did not stand together, they weren’t united in war, tragedy or loss. Grief drove some to all-consuming bitterness, others to violence and some to a sense of lethargy. There aren’t many characters to like for their personalities but I loved them for their dark sides and unexpected behaviours. Cassandra was the character that stuck out for me the most, the one I empathised with and felt most for.

This second book from Jennifer Saint was a consuming read, easy to digest despite the themes and I am a confirmed fan with this second offering.

Thank you to Wildfire/Headline Books for the early review copy.

KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel

In the vein of Madeline Miller’s Circe comes a bold and sweeping debut that reimagines the life of Kaikeyi, the vilified queen of the Indian epic the Ramayana.

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story, that of a young woman determined to create her own destiny in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come. But as she transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most-favored queen, Kaikeyi’s will clashes with the path that has been chosen for her family. And she must decide if her resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak.


Title : Kaikeyi
Author : Vaishnavi Patel
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : historical retelling
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, I am prefacing this review by saying I know nothing of the epic that inspired this book. I didn’t even know the name Kaikeyi. Had I heard it, I wouldn’t even know to guess what it would be about. But seeing it compared to Circe, or at least likened to this style of female-focused retelling, I had to snatch it up.

Curiously, I read the wikipedia summary after finishing this book and wow. I mean, I don’t know if it’s accurate (again, prefacing, I am Jon Snow and know nothing), but what a different spin on things. And actually it made me appreciate this story even more.

It occurred to me [..] that maybe the gods had marked me for my mother’s sins. Sons could not be held responsible for maternal sins, but daughter’s? [..] Nothing protected me.

I truly don’t even know where to begin, really. This isn’t a short book and nor is it one that you can blast through; this took me hours to read. Maybe I savoured it, maybe I just didn’t rush, but either way, it took time.

The story spans decades, from Kaikeyi’s birth until well into middle age (ish), when her son is almost full grown. We see her grow up amongst many brothers, lose her mother, and try to find a place where she belongs. Then, once married off, she is even more at loose ends having lost the connections and stability she had at home. She struggles for a time to be a wife — one of three — but is lucky enough to be married to a good man who finds more value in her than just someone to give him sons; though she eventually does. And it’s after the birth of her child, and others, that things begin to change again.

Kaikeyi, remember that you did the right thing. You are not wicked.
Then why do I feel wicked?
Because those who are good question themselves. Because those who are good alway wonder if there was a better way, a way that could have helped more and hurt less. That feeling is why you are good.”

Please note, I made a very oversimplified summary of things and omitted a lot because spoilers. There is so much more to this than the above. There are gods, and demons, magical connections, unexpected friendships, the fight to empower other women in a society that only values them to a certain extent, and more.

I was sad this ended, I could have definitely read more, and I do wish some plot points had been made clearer. But maybe that’s just because I’m unfamiliar with the source material. I don’t know. Overall, I thought this was very strong, very interesting, and would absolutely recommend. I will be very interested in Patel’s next release (can you believe this is a debut!?), whether related or not, and will definitely be picking it up.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE SCOTTISH BOY by Alex De Campi🎧

1333. Edward III is at war with Scotland. Nineteen-year-old Sir Harry de Lyon yearns to prove himself and jumps at the chance when a powerful English baron, William Montagu, invites him on a secret mission with a dozen elite knights.

They ride north, to a crumbling Scottish keep, capturing a feral, half-starved boy within and putting the other inhabitants to the sword.

But nobody knows why the flower of English knighthood snuck over the border to capture a savage, dirty teenage boy. Montagu gives the boy to Harry as his squire, with only two rules: don’t let him escape, and convert him to the English cause.

At first, it’s hopeless. The Scottish boy is surly and violent and eats anything that isn’t nailed down. Then Harry begins to notice things: that, as well as Gaelic, the boy speaks flawless French, with an accent much different from Harry’s Norman one. That he can read Latin too. And when Harry finally convinces the boy – Iain mac Maíl Coluim – to cut his filthy curtain of hair, the face revealed is the most beautiful thing Harry has ever seen.

With Iain as his squire, Harry wins tournament after tournament and becomes a favourite of the King. But underneath the pageantry smoulder twin secrets: Harry and Iain’s growing passion for each other, and Iain’s mysterious heritage. As England hurtles towards war once again, these secrets will destroy everything Harry holds dear.

A sexy, slow-burn, enemies to lovers historical romance, Alex De Campi delivers a steamy but tender love story. “Brokeback Mountain” meets “50 Shades of Grey” set again the vivid backdrop of Medieval Britain. Perfect for fans of Madeleine Miller’s “Song of Achilles”, the novels of C. S. Pascat, and K.J. Charles.


Title : The Scottish Boy
Author : Alex De Campi
Narrator : Richard Pearce
Format : Audiobook
Length : 15 hours, 50 min
Genre : Historical Fiction/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Saga Audiobooks
Release Date : March 16, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 -3 star review

Headlines:
Men not boys
Romp-fest

Sigh, I have a lot of thoughts about this book and I’m sad they’re not hitting the expectations I had. The premise for The Scottish Boy was great and it started off really well, with a plot that had traction and potential. Iain was the wiley, captured wildling and Harry was the nobleman of sorts. These ‘boys’ were young adults.

The plot had a sort of loose A Knight’s Tale theme but with a gay relationship and lots of sex (full emphasis on the sex). I am reluctant to ever judge if there is too much sex in a book, that’s subjective, but for me, the constant romping overtook everything else, the plot suffered and I just got bored by it. The initial connection and hatred between Iain and Harry was really compelling and their push and pull kept me reading but I cannot lie, I wanted more depth to the plot.

The book itself felt a little overlong, 500+ pages, 15 hours on the audio. From an audio perspective, the narration was solid and definitely enhanced the experience. This was a single POV, from Harry’s perspective but with good dialogue and accents.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the audio review copy.

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