Ripples on the Pond by Sebnem E. Sanders

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First, a confession, I cannot remember the last time I read a collection of short stories, Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury somehow sticks in my mind, and while I have enjoyed Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and the like; I am, and probably will remain, for the most part, a novel reader. It was mere curiosity that found me asking to review this anthology.  Now, having said that I must also confess that Ripples on the Pond just might have me looking at the genre a bit more closely.  What I found, my peeps and fellow travelers, in Ripples on the Pond is a compelling collection of well crafted stories. Stories that evoke the gamut of human emotions and experiences; glimpses of love, joy, loss, and hope permeate the pages and like a pebble dropped into water, the stories leave ripples of humanity seeking truth and fulfillment. A brief example from Mummy’s Torchlight:

Toby bowed, turned around, and left the building, his head bursting with thoughts. His hatred and vengeance had dissolved into sadness and pity, but mostly sadness…a feeling of loss. Something he’d have to live with for the rest of his life. He knew one thing for certain. He’d never return. Before he drove away from the Acacia Retreat, Toby held the torch tight in his hand. “I have confronted him, Mummy. I’ve done it for you and me. Rest in peace.” On the way home, he stopped on an old wooden bridge and threw the torch into the mirror surfaced creek. He waited as the ripples extended outward and disappeared.

Time and again throughout the 71 stories, one comes up against harsh realities,  compassion, and much, much more that make us human. Entertainment and enlightenment are in store for you, dear reader.  5 stars

Blurb

A man infatuated with ivy. A woman pining for lost love. In a Turkish square, ancient buildings lament a devastating explosion. An unlikely friendship struck up with a homeless person. A journey to a magical place that once visited can never be found again. The camaraderie between the patients in a cancer ward. A writer who has lost his muse. A tragedy that leads to dementia. These are just a few of seventy individual tales set in locations straddling continents, which portray war, love, hate, hope, greed, revenge, despair, humour, mystical happenings, fantasy, and so much more. Like ripples expanding on the surface of a pond to reach its banks, they converge in this anthology of flash fiction and short stories by Sebnem E. Sanders in her debut release.

Short Bio

Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she lives on the eastern shores of the Southern Aegean where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have been published on the Harper Collins Authonomy BlogThe Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag and Spelk Fiction. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child.  Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, has been published in December 2017. Her stories have also been published in two Anthologies: Paws and Claws and One Million Project, Thriller Anthology. More information can be found at her website where she publishes some of her work: https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/         

 

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Swords of the King – Book 3 of Battle Scars by Charlene Newcomb

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Throughout this most entertaining series we have been treated to stories of not only a historical view of King Richard’s reign, but also stories of unrelenting passion, and anguished souls. In Swords of the King the author tackles the question of who will Richard choose as his heir and successor; his brother, the ever loving, faithful – oh wait, Prince John was never those things, or his nephew, the young and arrogant Arthur. Calling upon his favorite knights, Richard uses Lord Henry De Grey, Sir Stephen, and our old friend Sir Robin Hood to help him keep Arthur safe from the not so loving and faithful Prince John. Of all the Prince John characterizations I have come across, this one is certainly the nastiest; a formidable foe bent on revenge for any who dare cross him – something that could mean disaster for Richard’s favorite knights.

Swords of the King is an exciting tale of war and intrigue as Richard confronts his many enemies, such as Phillip Capet of France. And while the battles, sieges, and physical combat are important aspects to the tale, it is human emotion that fuels it. Page after page replete with unbridled passion, the consequent fear of loss or betrayal, and the cruel nightmares inhabiting Henry’s mind are what make this story, and indeed the whole series an excellent read. 5 Stars

Note: I received a review copy of Swords of the King in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Charlene Newcomb lives, works, and writes in Kansas. She is an academic librarian by trade, a former U.S. Navy veteran, and has three grown children. When not working at the library, she is still surrounded by books and trying to fill her head with all things medieval. Books I & II of the Battle Scars series are B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees; Book II was a finalist in the Chaucer Awards for pre-1750 Historical Fiction & recipient of numerous accolades. Char is a huge Star Wars fan and has contributed short stories to the Expanded Universe featuring an underground rebel freedom fighter, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Alexandra_Winger. Char loves to travel, and enjoys quiet places in the mountains or on rocky coasts. But even in Kansas she can let her imagination soar. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.
Blog: https://charlenenewcomb.com/blog/ Facebook: https://facebook.com/CharleneNewcombAuthor and Twitter https://twitter.com/charnewcomb

The Cold Light of Dawn-The King’s Greatest Enemy IV – by Anna Belfrage

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It is with great pleasure that I begin this HFVBT of the latest from Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy.

First, a brief summary:

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

My Review:

One of the things I like to do while driving is to look for hawks in the trees or soaring overhead. There is a small copse of trees in the median between the north and south bound lanes of I-95 near exit 19 in MA where I have observed a pair of red tail hawks perching near each other. Today confirmed that they are a breeding pair as they were going at it when I drove by. I thought it was so romantic that I decided to name them Kit and Adam after the main protagonists in Anna Belfrage‘s series The King’s Greatest Enemy.  It is only fitting given the fact that throughout the course of this brilliant series, it becomes very apparent that Kit and Adam really, really like each other. An important aspect to the story, their struggles; emotionally and physically, are but a piece of the tense filled atmosphere surrounding the royal court. Thinking that Edward III is still too young to rule without their guidance and powerful influence, Mortimer and Isabella seek out the plots that would bring them down. Adam is torn between his love (and first allegiance) for Mortimer and his sworn oath and loyalty to Edward; Kit is torn between her duty to Queen Phillipa and her feelings toward Isabella. Throw in a few plot twists – strained friendships; return of old enemies; extreme physical endurance, to go along with the strains and schisms at court and you, my dear reader, are in for a page turning, emotional roller coaster ride of a tale.  5 Stars and the highly sought after Hoover Book Review’s “It’s tough to put this book down” Award.

About the Author

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Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 26
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Tuesday, February 27
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 28
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, March 1
Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, March 2
Review at Book Drunkard

Monday, March 5
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, March 6
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, March 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, March 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, March 12
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, March 13
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, March 15
Feature at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 16
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, March 19
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, March 21
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, March 22
Review at Back Porchervations

Friday, March 23
Feature at Button Eyed Reader

Monday, March 26
Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, March 28
Review at Broken Teepee
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, March 30
Review at Bookramblings

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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That Woman by Wayne Clark

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That Woman

2017 Book Excellence Awards Finalist for Fiction

2017 Winner 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading

A brief synopsis of the tale:

Kidnapped in France and brought to America as an indentured servant, a young woman takes on the brutal merchant king of New York’s East River waterfront…

Illness suddenly deprives 17-year-old Sarah Da Silva and her older brother Jacob of a mother. Before Sarah has come to terms with that loss, her merchant father grows frail and increasingly desperate in the face of impending bankruptcy. On the rainy night their father scours the docks of Bordeaux, France, to make his final bid to save his family, his children are kidnapped and forced onto a ship bound for New York City where they’ll be separated and sold to the highest bidder as indentured labor.

Purchased by a grotesque merchant whose wealth, backed by a team of henchmen, allows him to dominate the chaotic East River docks, Sarah strikes back the only way she can. Vowing to never allow him to put his hands on her again, she presses a knife to his fat neck. She demands her freedom, a roof over her head and the means to start a business. Her leverage? Knowledge obtained on the voyage that would bring the big man to his knees forever. He yields to her demands but privately swears to become her worst nightmare.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

My review:

I’ve been studying American history for near 60 years.  Granted that most of what I was taught in school was rote dates, events and people, not a deep look into the causes of those events or what it was actually like to live during those events.  That’s why I love well researched historical-fiction.  A good author can transport the reader into those lives; the conditions they live in; their hopes and fears.  I was transported in That Woman to a time, and place that I know a bit about having published a novel that covers The French & Indian War – an event that takes place almost immediately after the conclusion to That Woman – and was able still to come away with fresh insights as to colonial life in New York during the mid 18th century. I also came away with the thought that the characters were written superbly – they belong in that time and place.  The tale moves along at a brisk pace as Sarah seeks to recover from the ordeals she has suffered.  The plot, set against the backdrop of the mercantile world of the busiest port in the colonies, has many elements and a few nice twists making That Woman a compelling read and a look at some history that is often ignored.  4.3 Stars

 

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Award-winning author Wayne Clark was born in 1946 in Ottawa, Ont., but has called Montreal home since 1968. Woven through that time frame in no particular order have been interludes in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Germany, Holland and Mexico.

By far the biggest slice in a pie chart of his career would be labelled journalism, including newspapers and magazines, as a reporter, editor and freelance writer. The other, smaller slices of the pie would also represent words in one form or another, in advertising as a copywriter and as a freelance translator. However, unquantifiable in a pie chart would be the slivers and shreds of time stolen over the years to write fiction.

For more information, please visit Wayne Clark’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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The King’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

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Some Queens are content with being the Royal Consort/breeder of heirs/alliance maker, some refuse to accept the situation as nothing more than duty, and some welcome all facets of the job including the role of a ruling Queen; a seat of power and influence.  Irisa, daughter of a scribe, or so she has always thought, is suddenly thrust into a world she does not understand; the world of princes and kings.  The irony of her situation (which I will not divulge) is cunningly wrought, and the solution Irisa arrives at is… well, you’ll have to read the book.  🙂  In masterful storytelling fashion, the author brings to life a fantasy world, brings to life the inhabitants of that world, and brings to the reader a tale of discovery, a tale of power seeking skulduggery, a tale of loyalty and love.  A tale replete with surprises, as well as a few hints about book three – yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, book three is in the works.  4.7 stars

 

Stephanie was gracious enough to submit to being interviewed by yours truly.  Thank you, Stephanie, for braving the unknown. So, without further ado:

What is it that prompted you to start writing?

That’s a really great question, and one I’ve been forced to think a lot about in the last several years.  As I’ve pondered the question, I’ve come to realize that the desire has always been there.  I just didn’t recognize it.  It’s kind of embarrassing, really, to think that I had been so oblivious to my abilities my entire life!

I was a consummate daydreamer as a child.  I’d spend hours wandering the countryside around my grandparents’ Nebraska farm, daydreaming and telling myself stories or pretending I was the protagonist in a live-action adventure.  Didn’t every kid do that?  My freshman year of college, my creative writing professor used to use my stories as examples for the other students of what to do.  I’d shrug my shoulders and wonder why it was a big deal.  Early in my adult life my sister and I would swap story writing, adding the next chapter to the other sister’s story then passing it along for the other to add the next chapter.   These were just things I did without thought, purely out of enjoyment.  Everyone does that, right?  It never occurred to me that I was any good at it or that it was an unusual hobby.

The signs were all there.  It just took someone with the weight of “authority” behind their name to point it out to me.  Enter historical fiction novelist Sharon Kay Penman.  To this day she minimizes her impact on my writing career, saying that I’d have come to it on my own eventually.  I vehemently disagree.  Clearly I’d been woefully oblivious throughout my whole life already, why would I suddenly change course?  I had been a rabid fan of her novels so wrote a review of one of her books for her.  It was something about that review that caught her attention, causing her to pen the fated question in an email: “Have you ever thought about writing?”

It was that question that prompted me to start writing with a goal towards publishing.  It also started a mentoring relationship with my favorite author as well as a lifelong friendship.

Why this particular genre?

Another question I’ve had to think long and hard about in the last several years.  I didn’t really start off considering genre when I began my first novel.  It just sort of wrote itself organically — the settings, characters, and plot, all taking shape on the page of their own accord.  I simply wanted to tell a story, and I didn’t need any history to do it.  My focus was on characters and their motivations, their pains, their passions, their circumstances.  Because I have read so much historical fiction, the world of historical places and people is so seeped into my consciousness that it couldn’t help but come out.  Ms. Penman urged me early on to write what I love, not what I thought readers, publishers, or the market might want.  The idea being that if you don’t love what you are writing, why write it?

Looking back at things, I chose a hard route.  My books are not truly historical fiction and they aren’t truly fantasy.  Not in the traditional senses anyway.  They are kind of a hybrid that echo elements of each genre without being true to either.  This makes marketing quite difficult, and it’s hard to target a particular reading audience.  I have been told that readers of historical fiction should find enough familiar in my books to make them feel at home, thus prompting me to adopt a sort of tagline of “fantasy that reads like historical fiction.”

Were there any influences that helped you create the world of Kassia and Irisa?

The first scene I wrote in The Scribe’s Daughter came about because I re-imagined a scene from the animated Disney movie Aladdin.  In this particular scene, Aladdin’s monkey friend Abu steals an apple from a market merchant.  So as not to get caught, Aladdin runs away to escape the pursuit of the local authorities who want to cut off his hand for stealing.  I simply eliminated the monkey and made my protagonist a girl.  That was my first glimpse of Kassia, and the more I got to know her, the more intrigued I became.  Her spunky reckless nature and her caustically sharp tongue were hard to ignore.  So she got her own book!

Part way through writing the first book, Kassia’s older sister, Irisa, began to tap me on the shoulder.  “Excuse me, scribe?” she asked very politely.  She is like that.  “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I have some really important things to share.  Kassia wasn’t the only one to go on an adventure.  And since my experiences will have a significant impact on my sister, I’d like to share what has happened to me.”  And so The King’s Daughter was born.

I can think of several authors who very specifically influenced my writing of these books, primarily for style, but some for plot and mood: Sharon Kay Penman (of course), Stephen Lawhead, Juliet Marillier, and Bernard Cornwell.  The authors that have proven to be the most helpful to me in terms of mentorship are Sharon Kay Penman (of course), Elizabeth Chadwick, and Michael Jecks.  Each of these are fabulous writers in their own way, but each of them is humble and extremely helpful to other authors.

 

What books, genres, authors do you read when you’re not writing?

Lately I’ve been reading multiple books simultaneously, one non-fiction and one fiction.  The non-fiction is all history, particularly 13th century British history.  In the fiction world, I made a decision about a year ago to read primarily from within the world of indie authors.  It has been FABULOUS, and I am utterly amazed at the amount of talent, particularly from within my circle of author friends.  I’ve still got a long, long way to go to get through their lists!  I know some very prolific authors, apparently!  There are a few mainstream authors whose books I’ll buy sight unseen as they come out: Sharon Kay Penman (of course), Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwell, and Stephen Lawhead.  I also enjoy a break from history and historical fiction now and then so will read murder mysteries, black ops political thrillers (Brad Thor, Vince Flynn); and now and then a literary work that has been recommended.  The most recent was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish comedy-drama that a friend of mine recommended.

 

Who do you turn to for advice or encouragement when the Muse is a bit reticent in supplying inspiration?

Am I one of the few who has never experienced the dreaded writer’s block?  Because honestly I can’t say I’ve ever been so stuck I’d felt I lost my muse.  There have been times in plotting when I am not quite sure what the next step will be for my characters, but usually I just need to keep pondering.  And it’s usually when I am not thinking too hard about it that ideas come to me.  My best ideas always seem to come in the shower or when I’m out in nature walking my dog.  In those moments I’m not really “working” but just allowing my mind to wander, engaging in free association.  I find that my mind tends to solve its own problems without me trying to help too much.  If I do need outside help, I’ll go to my mentor Sharon every time.  She has been an amazing source of wisdom because her experience is so long and deep.

 

I know from my own experience as an author how frustrating it is knowing you have written a good book, are getting positive feedback and reviews and yet sales are slow.  Does that ever make you question why you do it?

Absolutely!  Weekly!  Sometimes daily.  If something specific has prompted my despair, I’ll allow myself time to wallow, but at a certain point I tell myself enough is enough.  Then I just get on with it.  I am not writing to become rich or famous, but it certainly is easy to get caught up in the desire without realizing it’s happened.  Success looks different for every author.  I will constantly pursue perfection, or at least improvement.  So as long as I’m making progress as an author, I’m heading in the right direction.  Learning contentment with where I am right now is a good lesson, and one I learn every day.  My husband and I constantly remind one another to “compare down” rather than look at those who have more than we do.  We’ve done it all 20 years of our marriage.  This philosophy basically means that it’s easy to think you don’t have enough.  It’s when you look at those with less than you that you realize how much you have to be grateful for.  The same applies to writing.  There are many other authors who struggle more than I do, either because of certain challenges or because they are newer to it than I am.  Rather than make me arrogant, it humbles me.  I’ve been given a lot, and I’m grateful for all of it.  I’m not on this earth to live a selfish life, so if things don’t seem to be going as well for me as I’d want, I look outward and see how, if at all, I can help other authors.  Why not make the load lighter for others?

What is next for Stephanie Churchill?

Until I am able to install a shark infested moat around my house, I am struggling to write book three, as of yet untitled.  Life is continuing to get in the way, so it’s been quite a fight.  This book will combine the stories of both Kassia and Irisa and their respective families, tying in loose threads from both previous books.  I had finished off The King’s Daughter alluding to the story of Irisa and Kassia’s mother, intending to write a prequel next.  I got a fair way into planning that book but hit some walls for various reasons.  And then the whispering began again, this time from Casmir, one of my main characters from The King’s Daughter.  He said his unresolved issues take much more precedence.  Many readers of The King’s Daughter were fascinated by him, he argued.  Give the reading public what they want, he said.  A bit of an ego, huh?  He is a king.  What was I supposed to do?

About Stephanie

I used to live my life as an unsuspecting part of the reading public.  Spending my days in a Georgetown law firm just outside downtown Washington, D.C., by all outward appearances I was a paralegal working in international trade and then antitrust law.  I liked books, and I read them often, but that’s all I was: a reader of books.
When my husband and I got married, I moved to the Minneapolis metro area and found work as a corporate paralegal, specializing in corporate formation, mergers & acquisitions, and corporate finance.  Again, by all outward appearances, I was a paralegal and a reader of books.
And then one day, while on my lunch break, I visited the neighboring Barnes & Noble and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman, and while I’d never heard of her before, I took a chance and bought the book.  That day I became a reader of historical fiction.

Fast forward a dozen years or so, and I had become a rabid fan of Sharon Kay Penman’s books as well as historical fiction in general.  Because of a casual comment she’d made on social media, I wrote Ms. Penman a ridiculously 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 another book to review.  The rest of my time is spent trying to survive the murderous intentions of Minnesota’s weather.

Books can be purchased at Amazon, iBooks, Google, Kobo, along with other online retailers.  Here are the Amazon links:

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A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson

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An intriguing mystery awaits you, dear reader.  Time slipping to the 5th century, parallel lives, a Dark Age village in Britain.  The story drew me in as Viv, and her friends unravel the secrets of her strange experiences.  Well written, characters you can believe, twists and surprises, and a lovely descriptive touch make this two era tale an excellent choice whether you like mysteries, or a bit of post-Roman British historical fiction.  I highly recommend this.. 4 stars.

The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

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When I first saw this book popping up in discussion via a Facebook group I belong to, I decided that I wanted to read it even though it is not historical fiction but rather a historical fantasy tale.  So, I put it on my radar to be read when time allowed.  However, the forces of the universe deemed it was time when I won a copy of the book, and so as to not disrupt those forces, I disrupted my schedule instead; gladly as it turned out.  It is a gripping tale that held my interest from the beginning and kept me thoroughly entertained.  The main character, Kassia is struggling just to survive day to day living with no real prospects for the future.  Then a stranger appears and offers her a job that will pay enough to see her and her sister Irisa through for quite a while.  What she doesn’t realize is that this sets off a chain of events that changes her life forever.  The story is compelling, the characters are well written, the imaginative settings and differing cultures the author conjures up make this a truly excellent read.  Part of the blurb for the book states that Kassia is a thief. That is certainly true as she stole my heart along the way.  4.3 stars  I am looking forward to the sequel.