Rise of a Champion by Stuart Rudge

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Antonio Perez is the son of a knight and a returning war hero, yet he loathes the idea of following in his father’s footsteps. But when his father is executed for alleged treason against Fernando, King of Leon-Castile, he launches a desperate bid to save his life and clear his name. Antonio soon learns that the world is much crueller and darker than he ever could have imagined.

Bereft of hope and condemned to slavery for his sins, he finds himself in the household of a young knight named Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, a man destined for greatness. Together, they must face their demons and put an end to the man responsible for the downfall of the fathers; known as Azarola, renowned for his fox like cunning and malice, and one of the most powerful lords of Leon.

Rise of a Champion is the epic beginning to the Legend of the Cid.

REVIEW

It seems that no matter how many historical fiction books I read, there are always historical events, locales, and personalities that I know little or nothing about. Sometimes these events, important though they are, become overshadowed by concurrent events in other parts of the globe. Rise of a Champion is the first book in a series about Antonio Perez, El Cid…undoubtedly an important person in an important time in what is now Spain. It is a rousing tale of his early life; the tortuous road he takes to salvage his family’s honor. The author has done his homework and has created a very entertaining tale of the clash of Moor versus Christian. The characters are well developed, fitting into the time, place and cultures of the era. I had very little knowledge of this period even though I have read many books that take place at the same time – an example of the overshadowing effect – the year Rise of a Champion ends is 1064 – lots of stuff going on in Normandy and Britain right about then. 😊 But, it is good to branch out, to learn about, and be entertained by history no matter the time or place. I am looking forward to following the rest of El Cid’s tale. 4⭐⭐⭐⭐

Uncovering by Lorelei Brush

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Shahnaz is a liberal but observant Pakistani Muslim, a nurse with a dream that all pregnant women will deliver healthy babies. At her parents’ command she weds Naseer, a gentle man who encourages her work. But marrying Naseer means she must live with his extended family, including his fundamentalist older brother, Raja Haider. When their father dies, Raja Haider becomes head of the family. With this new power, he orders Shahnaz to quit her job and stay at home. Mild Naseer respects his brother’s authority, but Shahnaz rebels with the strength of a courageous warrior.

Brush explores a Muslim society threatened by extremism. The story churns with the struggles of obedience versus self-determination, piety versus zealotry, and tradition versus progress. Some seek peace, and others pursue violence to achieve what’s holy.

REVIEW

This, my fellow readers, is one intense story. A culture driven by centuries old traditions forms the basis for this tale of an amazing woman caught between the restrictions of her religion and the very real need for her work with pregnant Pakistani women. The characters jump off of the page with the reality of the time and place. Uncovering is one of those books that is so emotionally charged that it tugs at the reader’s heart. Repressive, insular, power over the less fortunate is something that we all need to face up to. Despite the obstacles, we can, like Shahnaz, dare to hope, dare to change.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐