Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Raven's Heart by Jesse Blackadder

Publisher:        Bywater Books (reissue)

Jesse Blackadder went on a hunt to discover the origins of her family name and arrived at a fascinating telling of a period in Scottish history.  Her curiosity about her roots gave readers a very entertaining novel.

Alison Blackadder was raised by her father to believe that her family’s lands and heritage were stolen long before she was born, but that one day they would be reclaimed.  To protect her from assassins who are hunting her family, Alison was raised as a boy, Robert.  That gives her the ability to slip in and out of both the male and female worlds, a skill that brings her to the attention of Mary Queen of Scots.  Mary has just returned from spending most of her life in France and knows very little about her own country or the political forces there.  Alison comes to the court planning on using Mary to recapture her inheritance.  Instead, she becomes Mary’s weapon in trying to control Scotland and its notorious nobility.  Alison teaches Mary how to move among her people in disguise, to find out what they really want and need, but, as any student of history knows, it won’t be enough.  As Mary’s weaknesses begin to work against her, Alison, who now realizes she serves the queen out of love, fights for a future for her family, her country and herself.

Students of history might question the version that is presented in The Raven’s Heart.  Mary is portrayed as being more noble and heroic than most accounts would make her.  The basics of the story are true however and knowing what eventually happens does not weaken the tale that Blackadder spins.  If anything, Mary Queen of Scots is portrayed as a much stronger and determined woman than history would lead one to believe.  The book is marked by detailed character development, both in the strong and weak characters.  Blackadder’s descriptions of tavern life, the protocols in a royal court and the descriptions of the people’s daily lives create an atmosphere of reality.  It’s so realistic that the danger is in the reader believing that this is the way the real events unfolded.

The Raven’s Heart is an unusual lesbian novel.  Although the love interests are present, the story focuses on intrigue, dangerous escapades and 16th century life.  Love affairs play a minor part as the reader will be swept up in the rich dialogue and twists and turns of the plot.  This is a book for people who like strong, interesting stories and fast paced action.  The fact that it might teach a little history is an added bonus.

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