Book Review: The King’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

TheKing'sDaughterAbout the Book

Irisa’s parents are dead and her younger sister Kassia is away on a journey when the sisters’ mysterious customer returns, urging Irisa to leave with him before disaster strikes. Can she trust him to keep her safe? How much does he know about the fate of her father? Only a voyage across the Eastmor Ocean to the land of her ancestors will reveal the truth about her family’s disturbing past. Once there, Irisa steps into a future she has unknowingly been prepared for since childhood, but what she discovers is far more sinister than she could have ever imagined. Will she have the courage to claim her inheritance?

Format: Paperback, ebook (417 pp.)   Publisher:
Published: 1st September 2017                     Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, YA

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My Review

The King’s Daughter is the sequel to The Scribe’s Daughter but as the events run largely in parallel to the events in the earlier book it can definitely be read as a standalone. However, personally I would recommend reading the series in order. You can read my review of The Scribe’s Daughter here. It’s now also available as an audiobook.

Whereas The Scribe’s Daughter concentrated on the exploits of younger sister, Kassia, The King’s Daughter focuses on her older sister, Irisa. The Scribe’s Daughter was full of the excitement of Kassia’s adventures and initially I found I missed that element in The King’s Daughter. Having said that, the first chapter provides a cliff-hanger opening in which Irisa finds herself in a (literally) precarious position. What follows is a flashback to events in the two years leading up to that point.   The reader must wait until close to the end of the book to find out if and/or how Irisa manages to extricate herself.

Like Irisa, I soon became immersed in the politics and intrigue of the court of King Bellek and – again like Irisa – was occupied with trying to work out who were the ‘goodies’ and the ‘baddies’.  That turned out to be easier said than done in some cases with a few surprises skilfully delivered by the author late on in the book. “What does it all mean, this game of kings and their thrones?” Before long Irisa is learning sometimes contradictory things about her family’s past, hints of yet more secrets still to be uncovered and some surprising things about her future. ‘Everything I thought I understood was wrong.  Nothing was as it seemed and never would be again.’

I’ll confess that, in the beginning, I found Irisa somewhat passive compared with the feisty, adventurous Kassia, and a bit naïve as well, rather careless about the safety of others who daily risk exposure. She finds herself influenced as well by her heart and begins to doubt the path that seemed so obviously right to begin with. However, after a while, the author lets the reader witness the development of Irisa’s character as she begins to find ways to exercise influence, at first in small ways but all which demonstrate her humane attitude to those around her.

Events unfold in an increasingly dramatic way as the book progresses culminating in some exciting scenes that involve treachery, unexpected reunions, sad partings and close escapes. There is also a tender love story which unfolds as the book progresses.  Most excitingly, the book ends with tantalising hints about a story line relating to events in the life of Kassia and Irisa’s mother, Naria, offering the prospect of a prequel at some point (soon, I hope).

Described as ‘fantasy that reads like historical fiction’, The King’s Daughter is a sort of Game of Thrones without the gore and violence…or the unnatural relationships between family members!  The setting is an imagined world and, although no time period is specified, the clothes, buildings and weapons suggest the equivalent of the early medieval period in our world. There is some tremendous world building with evocative descriptions of the landscape of Agrius – mountains, cliff-top fortresses, vast forests, and thriving seaports – and its population of lords and vassals, slaves, merchants, traders, brigands and pirates.

The King’s Daughter is an entertaining mix of historical fiction and fantasy with an interesting cast of characters and plenty of intrigue and secrets to uncover.  If my review is not enough to tempt you, you can read an extract from The King’s Daughter – the exciting opening scene mentioned above, no less – here.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author in return for an honest and unbiased review. The King’s Daughter is the fifth book in my 20 Books of Summer (click here to see my full list).

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In three words: Engaging, dramatic, lively

Try something similar…The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

StephanieChurchillAbout the Author

When Stephanie was a child, she was curious about everything, particularly as it related to “old stuff.” And because in those days there was no internet, when she was bored or wanted to learn something new about history or anything else, she could be found sitting on the floor at home reading an encyclopaedia. Her fondest memories are of wandering her grandparents’ farm in rural Nebraska, daydreaming and telling herself fairy tales, usually with a medieval twist.

Upon reaching adulthood, Stephanie developed a love of reading history and historical fiction. But never once did it occur to her to become a writer. Working in the field of law instead, it took a nudge from her favorite author suggesting that she try her hand at becoming an author.

Evoking the essence of historical fiction but without the history, Stephanie’s writing draws on her knowledge of history even while set in purely fictional places existing only in her imagination. Filled with action and romance, loyalty and betrayal, her writing relies on deeply drawn and complex characters, exploring the subtleties of imperfect people living in a gritty, sometimes dark world. Her unique blend of historical fiction and fantasy ensures that her books are sure to please fans of historical fiction or epic fantasy literature alike.

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Throwback Thursday: Shelter by Sarah Franklin


Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme originally created by Renee at It’s Book Talk. It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago.

Today I’m revisiting a book I reviewed early on in my blogging ‘career’ – Shelter by Sarah Franklin.  First published in hardback July 2017, it was recently published in paperback with an evocative new cover. A perfect excuse to grab a copy if you haven’t already read this fabulous book!

You can read my original review below and also my interview with Sarah about Shelter here.

Shelter PBAbout the Book

Early Spring, 1944. In a clearing deep within an English forest two lost souls meet for the first time. Connie Granger has escaped the devastation of her bombed out city home. She has found work in the Women’s Timber Corps, and for her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose. Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. But in the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom. Their meeting signals new beginnings. In each other they find the means to imagine their own lives anew and to face that which each fears the most.

But outside their haven, the world is ravaged by war and old certainties are crumbling. Both Connie and Seppe must make a life-defining choice which threatens their fragile existence. How will they make sense of this new world, and find their place within it? What does it mean to be a woman, or a foreign man, in these days of darkness and new light? A beautiful, gentle and deeply powerful novel about finding solace in the most troubled times, about love, about hope and about renewal after devastation. It asks us to consider what makes a family, what price a woman must pay to live as she chooses, and what we’d fight to the bitter end to protect.

Format: Hardcover, ebook, paperback (432 pp.)            Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Published: Hardcover 27th July ‘17, Paperback 31st May ’18 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

All her life Connie’s had the urge to break away, to explore what life has to offer away from the streets and factories of Coventry. She doesn’t know what form this new life will take or how she’s going to do it. What she does know it that she’s got to do it. Spirited, determined and reckless, the Second World War brings Connie the opportunity to seek what she’s looking for but the price for that opportunity is a high one. Forced by circumstances to be totally self-reliant and desperate to leave bad memories behind, she joins the Women’s Timber Corps and finds herself posted to The Forest of Dean to train as a ‘lumberjill’.

Chance brings together Connie and Seppe, an Italian POW, who is trying to escape his own demons. Thoughtful and sensitive, Seppe is initially cowed by his traumatic relationship with his violent father whose malevolent presence seems able to reach even into the confines of the POW camp.  ‘The spikes of his father’s rancour were undimmed by the flimsy paper. A spiral of venom rose from the lines, the sheen of anger, pride and sheer vicious temper bitter in Seppe’s mouth.’

Despite being haunted by guilt and by what he witnessed during the war, Seppe gradually grows in inner strength as he finds acceptance from the local community.   For Connie and Seppe, the forest provides shelter from the outside world – quite literally at times.   However, for those born and bred in the forest, the war, and those it brings in its wake, is an unwanted incursion into their lives.  ‘Those evacuees are still out here, causing chaos in the school. And…we’ve got Yanks in the forest, whole regiments of them…The other big change is that we’ve got POWs up at Broadwell.’

The war is also a threat to the very existence of the forest itself with the constant demands for timber to support the war effort.  ‘The forest itself warned them of loss even as they chopped it down. Bloody great gaps staring at them in the very woods that had sheltered them all their lives, and people pulled from this life into a new world that swallowed them up.’

I loved the way the author made the forest another character in the story with almost human qualities: ‘Amos pushed in amongst the branches until they almost held him in an embrace.’ I thought the author struck a good balance between historical fact about wartime events and the story of Connie, Seppe and the other inhabitants of The Forest of Dean.   Sometimes events erred slightly on the side of convenience but I think we must allow an author some artistic licence and, who knows, sometimes things are just meant to be. Finally, I always admire an author who is brave enough not to spell out the conclusion of a book but to let the reader imagine it for themselves.

I thought this was an outstanding debut. Shelter has an authentic period atmosphere with wonderful characters who take you on an intense but heart-warming journey.  I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Bonnier Zaffre, in return for an honest review.

In three words: Intimate, atmospheric, emotional

Try something similar…Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik (read my review here)

Sarah FranklinAbout the Author

Sarah Franklin grew up in rural Gloucestershire and now lives with her family between Oxford and London. She has written for the Guardian, Psychologies magazine, The Pool, the Sunday Express and the Seattle Times. Her creative non-fiction has been published in anthologies in the USA and appeared on radio affiliates there. Sarah is founder and host of popular Oxford literary night, Short Stories Aloud, a Senior Lecturer at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award. She was awarded a mentorship under the Jerwood/Arvon scheme to work on her debut novel, Shelter, which will be published by Bonnier Zaffre in July 2017.

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