Entries Categorized as 'Historical Fiction'

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Our rating: ****

Revolution has taken hold of France, and hundreds of nobility are sent to the guillotine every day. A band of Englishmen, and their mysterious and daring leader known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel, lend aid to aristocrats on the death list—smuggling them from the blood-spattered country into England. But an accredited agent of the revolutionary government is determined to catch this scoundrel band and forces Lady Blakeney, one of the most popular ladies in England, to help him determine the real identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Torn between a mess of circumstances, Lady Blakeney has little idea of the adventure yet to come.

A well-spun yarn, intriguing enough to keep me reading. I would have to say that the first half of the book is the best, since it reaches a slightly mushy scene for midpoint and then the rest of the story felt a little too drawn-out. There’s also a goodly smattering of language, used by the Englishmen at the time. Overall, though, a good and interesting story, with a somewhat mysterious twist.

Prague Counterpoint

Our rating: ****

Hitler’s invasion of Austria is sudden and complete, and the beautiful city of Vienna is transformed overnight. Everything has changed, just like in Berlin. And now those who refuse to shut their eyes to the truth fear that Czechoslovakia will be next. John Murphy continues his efforts to alert the world to the reality of the danger. Leah, separated from her husband, helps hide two little boys who are destined for destruction if found. Elisa, safe for the time being, struggles with feelings of uselessness. Then she’s given the opportunity to help the Jewish Underground like never before. But if she chooses this, she will have to turn her back on all of the people she cares about.

Prague Counterpoint picks up almost directly where Vienna Prelude leaves off, and it proceeds in much the same style—following multiple threads of story in different locations and with different characters, a technique that works well for giving the reader a broad picture of the many events that led to the war. I do think this second installment is better written than the previous book, which is a plus, but I also have to issue the same warning about it. There are some very cruel, painful scenes to read, and I would caution everyone to consider before trying this book. It’s a worthwhile read, but only if you’re certain you can handle the darker content.

The King’s Swift Rider

Our rating: *****

Martin Crawford helps a hunted man to escape his pursuers, and later the man he assisted comes to his house by chance, seeking shelter. His mother recognizes the man as Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, and offers her two sons, Martin and his older brother Sean to fight in his army in the war for the freedom of Scotland against the English. While Sean enjoys fighting, Martin has no taste for such things, and the king chooses Martin to be his page. Martin and his brother quickly come to admire their king as the others in the army admire him when the king wins a battle against a larger force.

The King’s Swift Rider, being about a war in the 14th century, does well in adding a story to historical events. As a warning, there is some bad language, but the story is very good and has some unexpected twists. Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.

Vienna Prelude

Our rating: ***½

Europe, 1936, and Nazi darkness is beginning to descend. Elisa Lindheim is a violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, and while she is half Jewish, she is protected by both her German Aryan looks and the stage name Elisa Linder. Though situations are worsening in both Germany and Austria, Elisa refuses to believe that Hitler’s Third Reich will gain as much power as it claims. But her family has to escape, and her father goes missing, and so many of her friends are in danger. Before she knows it, Elisa is involved with something much bigger, along with members of the orchestra and an American news-reporter, John Murphy.

This is overall a worthwhile book, providing a good look at what life was like for so many during the events that led to World War II. It also covers some of the bigger picture views involving the politics and problems that leaders in England and America were dealing with at the time. I do have a few complaints about Vienna Prelude, though, the primary one being that Elisa’s romance occasionally bogged down the main story to the point of frustration. Also, I cannot at all recommend this book to young readers, as the sheer brutality of the Gestapo and the concentration camps are not watered down. That said, it was still a fairly good read, and I will likely look into the rest of the series.

Rilla of Ingleside

Our rating: ****

Rilla Blythe is Anne’s youngest child and practically fifteen. Her very first party is ruined by the news of World War I. One by one, her older brothers and friends leave to fight, leaving her at home to wait and watch through the war. Of course, Rilla being Anne’s daughter means that she must have her share of mishaps, including bringing home a war baby in a soup tureen.

The Anne of Green Gables series takes a plunge into historical fiction for its final book and does remarkably well. I felt that some of the previous books in the series were missing out on a through line, so Rilla was a welcome surprise. It possibly has the biggest story arc in all eight books. I remember disliking it when I was younger, but this time around, I think it may be one of my favorites in the series.