aussie

Interview: Kate Forsyth

As part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature this month, I’m very pleased to welcome Aussie author Kate Forsyth to the Bookcase today! Kate’s historical work The Wild Girl is due for release in the UK on July 29 – make sure you get your pre-orders in for this beautiful story about the Brothers Grimm and the family who lived next door.


The Wild Girl
Aussie cover
The Wild Girl UK cover
UK cover

Welcome, Kate! Firstly let me just say that I read both Bitter Greens (my review) and The Wild Girl (my review) earlier this year and loved both of them! I have a few questions about The Wild Girl for you:

The Wild Girl is written from the point of view of Wilhelm Grimm’s wife, Dortchen, of which very little was recorded. How much real information did you find out about the real Dortchen, and how much about her character were you able to create?

The lives of the Grimm brothers has been extraordinarily well-documented – they both wrote so many letters and diaries and lectures and essays and books and reminiscences. There was very little documentation for the life of Dortchen Wild, however. Only a couple of letters, and a memoir she dictated to her daughter on her death-bed which is only a page long. I knew, from Grimm biographies, that Dortchen had grown up next door to the Grimm family and had been best friends with the only girl in the family, Lotte Grimm. I knew that Dortchen had had a girlish crush on Wilhelm from one of her few letters, and I knew – from painstaking research into the oral origins of the Grimm Brothers’ tales – that she had told Wilhelm almost a quarter of all the tales in the first edition of Kinder-und Hausmarchen, published in 1812. Otherwise, all I had were the dates of her birth, her marriage to Wilhelm, and her eventual death.

So I had to look to the stories that she told for a clue to her inner life. I researched into all of her tales, found out when and where she told them as much as I could (luckily Wilhelm kept very good records), and then I constructed a timeline for her. I was then able to weave a narrative around that timeline, looking all the time for the emotional truth revealed by the tales she told. I took some imaginative liberties. For example, we know that Aschenputtel, the German version of the Cinderella tale we know so well, was told by an old woman in a poorhouse in Marburg. We know someone wrote it down and sent it to Wilhelm – since that someone is lost to history, I had it be Dortchen, which meant that I got to describe a scene in the dramatic, heart-rending setting of a 19th century poorhouse. I knew her father had been religious and very strict. I looked at Dortchen’s stories and found many of them to be about a young woman’s struggle for self-determination – and so I built a story around the conflict between her duty to her father and her desire to be free of him. It is all creative imagination, because I had so little to work with, and yet I did my best to be true to the known facts and to the nature of the times.

Your characters in both The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens use herbal remedies throughout the stories for various treatments and spells. Where did your herbalism inspiration come from?
Well, I have always loved gardens and I’ve always been interested in the healing power of herbs – its a thread that runs through nearly all of my books. My own garden is a great source of pleasure to me, and I grow many herbs for cooking, and for natural remedies. One of the few things I knew about Dortchen Wild was that she was the daughter of an apothecary, and that her father had a famous garden outside the city walls of Kassel in which he grew many plants for medicinal uses. This appealed to me, and it seemed natural to me to make Dortchen a girl who loved the green places like I had always done. It was really interesting researching 19th century apothecaries, and beliefs of the time about flowers and plants and cooking and healing.

You’ve been doing a lot of travel for your recent historical works. Can you tell us about one or two of your favourite places you’ve visited so far?
I have to say the research trip for BITTER GREENS was the trip of a lifetime. My children and I went to Paris and the south of France, and to Venice and the Italian lakes – it was utterly magical and wonderful. We were away for a month – my children are used to travelling with me for research and so we have a good routine. They go with me to churches and museums and castles and palaces, and then they read or play cards at night while I write; and in return they get to do amazing things like go to Disneyland in Paris, or do a midnight ghost tour in Venice.

In the past, my children have gone with me to Scotland for The Puzzle Ring, all around London and southern England for The Gypsy Crown, and to Fiji for a tour and writing retreat I did there – they’re lucky kids!

I left them at home for the Wild Girl research trip, though. I was travelling the fairy tale road in Germany, which they were a bit old for now, plus they had school and sport commitments that made it hard to take them on the road for a month. I left them at home with Dad, and I travelled alone, researching and writing at high intensity. It was amazing, but a little bit lonely. I missed my family!

Can you share with us what you’re working on next? (if it’s a secret then that’s ok!)
I’m now writing a 5-book fantasy adventure series for children aged 9-12, which will come out late 2014 and early 2015, and then I plan another historical fairy-tale retelling for adults. I aim to retell one of Dortchen’s most beautiful and powerful stories, a Beauty and the Beast variant called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’. It’ll be set during the Nazi era in Berlin, Germany, and I can hardly wait!

Thanks so much for your answers, and best of luck with your current projects!


The Wild GirlThe Wild Girl (Goodreads) (read my review!)
Author: flag_aus Kate Forsyth (website)

Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.

Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm. 

It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.

Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.

Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.

Details

Series: Stand-alone
Genre: Historical romance, with fairy tales
Published: Vintage Australia (Random House), March 18, 2013. In the UK, Allison & Busby, 29 July 2013.
Pages: 530

Paper copies:  Book Depository (pre-order) • Booktopia • Bookworld
E-copies: Amazon.com   Bookworld (epub)

About the Author

Kate ForsythKate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the award-winning & internationally bestselling author of more than 20 books for both adults and children.

Her books for adults include ‘The Wild Girl’, the love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales, ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, and the bestselling fantasy series ‘Witches of Eileanan’. Her books for children include ‘The Gypsy Crown’, ‘The Puzzle Ring’, and ‘The Starkin Crown’

Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, Sydney

Review: The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, Kirsty Murray

This review is part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can find details of the feature and enter the giveaway on the Aussie Fantasy page!


The Four Seasons of Lucy MckenzieThe Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Kirsty Murray (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

Lucy McKenzie can walk through walls. Sent to stay with her aunt Big in a hidden valley, Lucy discovers the old house is full of mysteries. One hot night, she hears a voice calling from inside a painting on the dining-room wall…

On the other side of the painting, Lucy meets three children. Together they race horses through the bush, battle fires and floods, and make friendships that will last a lifetime. But who are April, Tom and Jimmy Tiger, and what magic has drawn Lucy to them?

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: Middle grade Urban Fantasy (Time travel!)
Published: Allen & Unwin, 24 July 2013
Pages: 199
My copy: the publisher for review (thanks!)

Paper copies: Book Depository (Aug 1) •  Booktopia (Aug 1) • Bookworld
E-copies:   Not available yet..

Review

The room was full of moon shadows and dancing light. But it was the wall around the window that Lucy couldn’t stop staring at, the one with the painting of Spring. It was as bright as a sunny day, and the tiny yellow flowers that covered the fields were moving, as if a breeze had blown through the painting and set all the petals dancing.

When her sister is injured overseas, Lucy McKenzie is sent to stay with her Aunty Big in her old country house west of Sydney for a while. At first, Lucy hates the remote location and lonely old house of Avendale, until one night, she finds she is able to walk through one of the beautiful paintings that cover the walls in the dining room and finds herself in a different Avendale, with a strangely familiar young girl called April. Over the next few nights, Lucy is able to move through different paintings into the different seasons of that other Avendale, experiencing bushfires, floods and the advent of war, and discovering amazing things about her own family past and present.

Throughout the whole story, Lucy develops a love for Avendale and the beautiful valley surrounding it. The images of the bushland around the house, the river and of Pulpit Rock, up in the hills, are very evocative and it reminds me of childhood camping holidays spent exploring bushland (although we didn’t have any horses to ride!).

This story is like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for Aussie kids. The idea of being able to walk into a wall-sized painting is a brilliant one – I remember being about eight years old myself, wishing I could walk through a picture of a forest covering one wall of a house we stayed in for a short time! I just loved that the old Avendale house was still standing all that time later – it makes me wonder what stood on the site of my own house some eighty years ago – possibly an old house like Avendale!

Children of all ages (including grown-up children) will love this story.

About the Author

Kirsty MurrayKirsty Murray writes books for children and teenagers. She was born in Melbourne where she first discovered the power of a good story. Kirsty now spends most of her time reading, writing and hanging out in libraries all around the world.

Kirsty’s works includes ten novels as well as many other books for young people. Her novels have won and been shortlisted for many awards and published internationally. Kirsty writes for young people because they are a universal audience. Not everyone lives a long life but every human being was once a child and the child inside us never disappears.

(Bio and photo from kirstymurray.com)

Discover Aussie Fantasy 2013 – Kick Off

 

aussie_fantasy_2013_banner

Welcome to Discover Aussie Fantasy for 2013!

All this month I will be featuring books written by Aussie speculative fiction authors for all ages – not just fantasy, but some sci-fi as well.

Authors whose works I am hoping to feature this year include: Amanda Bridgeman, Margo Lanagan, Stephen Ormsby, Kylie Chan, Carole Wilkinson, Paula Weston, Marianne De Pierres and more!

Throughout this month, a list of the books featured will be updated on the Aussie Fantasy page, which you can reach by clicking on any of the banners around the site or on the “Aussie Fantasy” menu option above.

Don’t forget, you can always see a great selection of books by Aussie authors by going to my reviews page and choosing “Aussie” from the tag list!

The Giveaway

No special feature would be complete without a giveaway, so during this month I will be offering two lucky winners a book of their choice from the list of books reviewed for the Aussie Fantasy feature. Some of these will be available as e-book only, while some may be shipped from the Book Depository.

To enter the giveaway and see the full list of reviews for the month (none just yet but they’ll be coming!), please visit the Aussie Fantasy page!

Review: The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth

wildgirlTitle: The Wild Girl (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Kate Forsyth (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.

Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm. 

It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.

Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.

Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.

Details

Series: Stand-alone
Genre: Historical romance, with fairy tales
Published: Vintage Australia (Random House), March 18, 2013
Pages: 530
My copy: From the author as part of a giveaway, thanks!

Paper copies:  Book Depository (pre-order) • Booktopia • Bookworld
E-copies: Amazon.com   Bookworld (epub)

Review

The Wild Girl is a story of the Brothers Grimm and how their book of fairy tales came to be written. It is also a story of two families, growing up in Hessen-Cassel (now central Germany) in the early nineteenth century,  just as Napoléon is starting his conquest to bring all of Europe into his empire. It is sometimes heartbreaking and even disturbing at times, but over all, it is one of the most beautiful, gentle love stories I’ve read in a long time.

Dortchen Wild lives with her five sisters and her parents above her father’s apothecary shop in Cassel. Dortchen’s best friend, Lotte Grimm, lives next door, but when Lotte’s brothers Wilhelm and Jakob return home from their studies in Marburg and Paris, the twelve year old Dortchen falls in love with Wilhelm. In November 1806, Napoléon’s armies marched through and occupied Cassel, freeing the serfs and bringing other freedoms, but putting terrible pressure on the economy of the city. Unable to find work under the new regime, Wilhelm begins to collect folk stories to preserve them. His brother Jakob supports his whole family on his meagre librarian’s wage.

Many people (myself included) think that the Grimm fairytales were told to the brothers by various people all over the country, or written by the brothers themselves. In fact, many of them were told to Wilhelm Grimm by the young Dortchen Wild, of whom very little is written. Others of the stories were told to Wilhelm and Jakob by other well-to-do young ladies of their acquaintance, and in the well-researched The Wild Girl we are introduced to those ladies and to the original, less child-friendly versions of some of the most popular fairy tales of the present day, including Cinderella (Aschenputtel), Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, and many more.

The Wild Girl not only tells the story of the creation of the fairytale collection of the Brothers Grimm, it is also a beautiful love story between Dortchen and Wilhelm, heartbreaking at times but very sweet at others. The tale of the people of Cassel and their suffering at the hands of the French armies is not an overwhelming part of the story but there is just enough historical context to frame the other events of the story. Kate’s telling of dark and dramatic events is interspersed with light-hearted moments which made reading this book an absolute delight.

It wasn’t only the research into historical events that interested me about this story, but also the extensive herb lore Dortchen and her father use as part of their apothecary work. The garden of medicinal plants just fascinated me, much like the herbology also discussed in Bitter Greens!

The real highlight of this story is the characters themselves. Kate Forsyth does such a wonderful job of bringing characters to life that I felt I was sharing their joy, terror or anger. Herr Wild, Dortchen’s father, is such a creepy and at times terrifying man in this story, but at the same time we see his despair at his country being trodden down by the French and his kindnesses to those less fortunate families in the town. Dortchen herself starts out as such a carefree and happy girl, but the hardships throughout her adolescence make her into a much more subdued young lady – something that I’m sure has happened to many women throughout history. That doesn’t stop her from being a selfless and kind person, always putting others well-being before her own, sometimes putting herself in harm’s way instead.

The Wild Girl is not just for historical and romantic fiction readers – those who love fairy tales will also find plenty to fascinate them here. It’s certainly one of my favourite reads so far this year!

Warnings: Violence including towards children, sexual situations (some abusive)

What did others think of The Wild Girl?

  • “An engaging historical novel about fairytales, love, despair and hope that at times reminded me of Little Women- only a little darker.” – The Australian Bookshelf
  • The Wild Girl is about yearning and love, poverty and sacrifice, but it’s also a very dark tale.  Those expecting the same tone as Bitter Greens should prepare themselves for a darker journey, and a greater struggle that lasts almost a lifetime for Dortchen.” – Carpe Librum
  • “A stunning achievement, and a book that I would reccomend to anyone interested in romance, historical fiction or fairy story interpretations.” – InkAshlings

Review: Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth

Bitter GreensTitle: Bitter Greens (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Kate Forsyth (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from court by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of Bitter Greens …

After Margherita’s father steals a handful of greens—parsley, wintercress and rapunzel—from the walled garden of the courtesan, Selena Leonelli, they give up their daughter to save him from having both hands cut off.

Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1513 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-one years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, growing to womanhood, Margherita sings in the hope someone will hear her. One day, a young man does…

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.

Details

Series: Stand-alone
Genre: Fantasy/historical romantic fairy tale
Published: Vintage Australia, March 2012, tbp Allison & Busby in the UK, 25 February 2013.
Pages: 576

Paper copies: Amazon.co.uk (pre-order) • Book Depository (pre-order) • Booktopia (AU – available!)
E-copies:
Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk (pre-order) • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Review

Bitter Greens is partly a heart-breaking retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale, and partly historical drama set in 17th-century France. I enjoyed every moment!

Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, a writer and great lover of the salon scene in Paris, has been banished to a convent by the Sun King, Louis XIV of France. The past twenty years of her life at court in Versailles has been filled with scandal and rumours of black magic, and during the course of Bitter Greens we hear about these stories through a series of flashbacks.

While working in the garden at the convent, Charlotte-Rose is told a story by one of the nuns. In Venice during the late 16th Century, a young girl, Margherita, is stolen from her parents by Selena (known as La Strega), a beautiful but dangerous witch. Margherita is locked in a high tower on an island and La Strega only comes to visit once a month with supplies, calling for Margherita to let down her long hair so that she may climb up. Each month, La Strega takes nine drops of blood from Margherita’s wrist and bathes in it to keep herself looking young and beautiful. Margherita longs for someone to rescue her.

The lives, loves and losses of Charlotte-Rose, Margherita and Selena are woven together in Bitter Greens. Each character, setting and emotion are described in such gorgeous detail I almost felt like I was watching a drama on TV rather than reading! I found it very compelling and found myself snatching moments to read whenever I could.

The only thing that put me off slightly at times was the way the story jumps back and forth to the different story arcs after many chapters. One moment I was happily absorbed in the story of Margherita and then was jolted back into Charlotte-Rose’s France. By the end of the book I was used to it, but at first it was a little jarring.

There have been some horrible moments in the histories of France and Venice, and some of that horror has been captured in Bitter Greens – the plagues in Venice that decimated the population, the slaughter of the reformée Huguenots in France and other, earlier persecutions.

Reading about how women were treated in times gone by makes me really grateful to those women who fought for equality during the twentieth century. Women like Charlotte-Rose and Selena did their best to survive and then make a difference in a world dominated by men. Nowadays, we modern women should never take our ability to work, vote and speak our minds for granted.

Bitter Greens is a fairy tale wrapped within a historical drama. With the character of Charlotte-Rose based on a real woman and the settings and events taken straight from history, it is obvious that a great deal of research and effort (and fun!) went into the making of this book. Well done, Ms Forsyth, you have created a masterpiece!


Interested in reading more about the creation of this book? All the Books I Can Read hosted a guest post from Kate about Vampire legends of Venice, and the author Elizabeth Storrs posted an interview with Kate on redroom.com, talking about inspiration and the art of Bitter Greens.

Warnings: Violence including towards children, graphic sexual situations (some abusive)

What did others think of Bitter Greens?

  • Bitter Greens is a stunning novel. I was spell bound from beginning to end by the lush prose, magnificent characters and intriguing story.” – Book’d Out
  • “Forsyth demonstrates her skill as a Fantasy writer, with the storytelling every bit as enchanting as fairytales of old.” – Devoted Eclectic
  • “It’s the sort of novel that has so many elements that it will appeal across the board, to historical fiction fans, fantasy fans, even fans who enjoy a bit of the romance. But ultimately if you like a good story no matter what the particular genre, then this book is definitely for you!” – All The Books I Can Read

Review: Besieged, Rowena Cory Daniells

BesiegedTitle: Besieged (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Rowena Cory Daniells (website) (twitter)

Rating: ★★★★½

Sorne, the estranged son of a King on the verge of madness, is being raised as a weapon to wield against the mystical Wyrds. Half a continent away, his father is planning to lay siege to the Celestial City, the home of the T En, whose wyrd blood the mundane population have come to despise.

Within the City, Imoshen, the only mystic to be raised by men, is desperately trying to hold her people together. A generations long feud between the men of the Brotherhoods and the women of the sacred Sisterhoods is about to come to a head. With war without and war within, can an entire race survive the hatred of a nation?

Details

Series: The Outcast Chronicles #1 of 3
Genre: High fantasy
Published: Solaris, June 2012
Pages: 670
My copy: For review from the Author, thanks!

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:
Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Barnes & Noble

 

Review

It’s been a while since I read any high fantasy, since a lot of it these days tends to be quite dark and depressing. While still containing some violence and oppression, Besieged isn’t nearly as dark as other books in the genre and I found that made it all the more enjoyable a read. That, and the fact that the author lives in the same city as me. Hooray for local awesome talent!

How to describe this world? Chalcedonia and the nearby kingdoms are peopled by two races, who have lived in peace for the last several hundred years. There are the True-men, who are also called Mieren by the T’En. The other race is the T’En, also called Wyrds by the True-men. Tall and silver-haired, the T’En have violet eyes and six fingers on each hand. They also have strange abilities – while the men are physically stronger and are often gifted warriors, the women are very powerful and are able to segue to the spirit world. Some can see the future, while others are able to heal or read others emotions. All of the women can kill by separating a soul from its body, and for that they are feared.

T’En society is split into sisterhoods and brotherhoods, each with their ambitious leaders and hierarchy below. Men and women live separately, only coming together at festival times to select trysting partners. At other times, each group may take lovers from within their own sisterhood or brotherhood, or among the Malaunje – half-bloods who have the T’En characteristics but none of their power. Usually in servitude with the brotherhoods or sisterhoods, the Malaunje are despised and persecuted by the True-men. Malaunje can be born to True-men or T’En parents and no-one is quite sure why. True T’En babies are prized and carefully cared for, but all T’En babies, true blooded or not, are given up to the sisterhoods in their first year and cared for and trained until they are eighteen. The boys are then returned to their brotherhoods, while the true-blooded girls remain with the sisterhoods for further training and development of their gifts.

There are some, however, who are not happy with the control the sisterhoods and brotherhoods hold over society. All-father Rohaayel, the leader of a brotherhood, smuggles away a child to a secluded island, intent on bringing her up ignorant of the way T’En society works. Imoshen’s powerful true-blooded child would be able to challenge the leaders and bring about change.

Meanwhile, the Queen of Chalcedonia has just given birth to a half-blood Malaunje and the King is furious. Rather than destroy the child, high priest Oskane sneaks Sorne away to raise him and study the half-blood ways, to try to find a weapon that can be used against the T’En and their magic.

Those are just two of the storylines threaded together in this story – spanning a period of about thirty years, the story often jumps forward by several years between chapters. Each story arc follows the events from within the brotherhoods, the sisterhoods and from within Chalcedonia, as well as from Imoshen and Sorne’s points of view. The end result is a rich presentation of life from almost every angle – the mothers giving up their children, the wars ravaging the land, the manoeuvres for power within the T’En society and the loves, prejudices, affairs and betrayals of everyday life.

This is the first book by Rowena Cory Daniells that I’ve read, but I understand that her Last T’en series is set in the same world. I managed to catch up with the magic systems and societies without being completely in the dark, but I wonder whether the information overload at the start of the book might have been a little less overwhelming if I had read the previous series first! A glossary at the end may have helped understanding all the new terms as well.

I found the T’en societies fascinating – the way the Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods are kept separate and in fear and contempt of one another. I found it almost as fascinating that Imoshen, who was kept away all her life from the strict societal laws and expectations of the Celestial City, is able to see all of it and realise that it is wrong – that her people suffer and that there should be a better way to live. Despite all the horrors that are going on around this world, this is still a story of hope – of how just a few people can effect great change in society.

Once I got through the rather lengthy set-up early on in the book, I found all of the different story arcs to be very engaging and by the second half I found it very difficult to put down. Of course, this is only the first part in a massive trilogy so I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the second book, Exile, very soon!

Warnings: Violence including towards children, sexual situations (some abusive)

The Outcast Chronicles

Besieged exile sanctuary

 

What did others think of Besieged?

  • Besieged is a book that I think will appeal to all those fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.” – Ticket to Anywhere
  • “Fantasy adorers will consume this book. Besieged was intriguing in all aspects; it has fantastic characters and a fascinating plot.” – Book Probe Reviews
  • “If you enjoy stories laced with political scheming, you’ll love Besieged… In Besieged Daniells has created a rich and complex world and used it as the stage for an engrossing story.” – A Fantastical Librarian

Australia Day Giveaway Hop

australiadaybloghop

Welcome to The Oaken Bookcase’s stop on the Australia Day Giveaway Hop! This hop is hosted by Book’d Out and Confessions from Romaholics!

It’s Australia Day on January 26th each year – a day to sit in the sun, enjoy a swim at the beach or have a barbie with family or friends. This year we get Monday off in lieu of the 26th falling on Saturday, so hooray long weekend! Unfortunately here in Queensland there’s an ex-cyclone hanging around so there’s going to be plenty of rain and wind all weekend, so I’ll mostly likely be curling up inside with a book instead!

To share the Aussie spirit of the weekend, I’m joining in with the Australia Day Giveaway hop and giving away a book by an Aussie author.

Extra entries are available for those who share word of the giveaway on twitter. You don’t have to also follow me, but if you are able to it would be really appreciated 🙂

You can see all the other sites participating in the hop by visiting the main hop page at Book’d Out. If you can’t see the Rafflecopter widget, you’ll need to click the “More” link or the post title to open up the post itself.

The Prize

You can choose any one of the great books by Aussie authors pictured below, to be ordered from The Book Depository.

This giveaway is open Internationally, as long as the Book Depository ships to your country. If you’re not sure, check here.

Please note, I will only accept entries via the rafflecopter form! Please don’t put your email into a comment, it won’t be included as an entry!

The Rafflecopter form will be open until the middle of midnight, January 28 AEST, then the winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond with their address. Good luck, and happy Australia Day!

 

Edit Jan 28: Sorry everyone, I realise I’ve mucked up my rafflecopter and finished the giveaway a day early *blush* Thanks so much for visiting, anyway!  Hop on to the next blog instead 🙂

Stormdancer Finnikin of the Rock Shadowfell

 

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Review: This Green Hell, Greig Beck

Title: This Green Hell (Goodreads)
Author:   Greig Beck (@GreigBeck)

Rating: ★★★★☆

In the jungles of Paraguay, Dr Aimee Weir and her team are in trouble.

While drilling deep into the Earth a contagion strikes, their camp is quarantined, but workers start to vanish in the night. 

Is it fear of contamination – or has something far more lethal surfaced? 

Alex Hunter – code name Arcadian – and his Hotzone All-Forces Warfare Commandos are dropped in to the disaster area to do whatever it takes to stem the outbreak. But for the mission to be a success, the Arcadian must learn to master his violent inner demons long enough to confront the danger that not only threatens his own immediate survival, but that of mankind.

Details

Series: Alex Hunter #3 of 4
Genre: Science fiction thriller
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia (print) April 2011, Momentum Books (electronic) August 2012.
Pages: 326
My copy: Momentum Books for review

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository • Booktopia.com.au
E-copies: Amazon.com • Bookworld.com.au (epub)

Review

Dr Aimee Weir, deep in the Paraguayan jungle, is on the verge of making a discovery that could change the world – a source of renewable energy from bacteria deep within the earth that produce natural gas from carbonates. When the samples are brought up though, the bacteria begins to feed on any carbon available – including human flesh. On top of that, an ancient evil has been disturbed and is gradually picking off the workers at the drilling site. Can the Arcadian and his team get in there in time to get the survivors out?

This Green Hell is actually the third Alex Hunter book. I wasn’t aware of that before I started reading it, but the fact that I haven’t read the first two didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book. There is a potted explanation of the Arcadian project and references to previous stories in the first few chapters, so I had some idea of what was going on as This Green Hell got under way. Basically, Alex Hunter was a soldier, brought back from the brink of death by a procedure to his brain that has given him enhanced senses, strength and speed (a bit like Captain America, I suppose). Unfortunately it has also made him slightly unstable, and his commanding officer is protecting him from the military scientists who’d like to dissect and study him. He’s an operative in the HAWCs, a marine-style division in the US military.

Alex himself is pretty bad-ass, but also seems quite tortured and prone to losing control in violent ways. His romance with Aimee may rekindle in this book, but I thought she should just stay the hell away, personally!

This book is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There’s plenty of grisly descriptions of the melting-death disease unearthed at the drill site and also the general ripping apart of people that the undead priest is fond of. I’m not usually a huge fan of blood and guts and it was perhaps slightly overdone in this book, but not enough to put me off completely. The detailed descriptions aren’t all grisly though, and the descriptions of the surroundings really put you right into the action. I mean, this is the tropical jungle, here. It’s steamy, sweaty and full of bugs, and you certainly get that feeling while Aimee and the drill site team are at work.

The action is a little slow in the first half of the book but the suspense builds up so well that by the time it all starts happening, it was very, very difficult to put the book down. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger ending which is slightly disappointing after all they had just been through, but the next book is due out very soon so there’s not long to wait to find out what happens next!

I’d recommend This Green Hell to those who enjoy military thrillers with a sci-fi twist, and who don’t mind a bit of blood and guts in their violence.

Warnings: Extreme violence and horror themes. Sexual situations. Language.

The Alex Hunter series

  1. Beneath the Dark Ice (2009)
  2. Dark Rising (2010)
  3. This Green Hell (2011)
  4. Black Mountain (TBP December 2012)

What did others think of This Green Hell?

  •  “This Green Hell is a smart, delightful read with a big heart.” – 4 stars – Coeur De Lion Publishing
  • “I love a great action/adventure thriller and Greig Beck is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in this genre. This was an edge of your seat nail biter for me the whole way through.” – The Speed of Write

Review: Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta

Title: Quintana of Charyn (Goodreads)
Author:  Melina Marchetta (@MMarchetta1)

Rating: ★★★★★

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn’s unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict?

When the forces marshalled in Charyn’s war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

 

Details

Series: Lumatere Chronicles #3 of 3
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Viking Australia, 26 September 2012 (will be published overseas by Candlewick on March 12, 2013)
Pages: 516

Paper copies: Amazon.com (pre-order) • Amazon.co.uk (pre-order) • Book Depository (pre-order) • Booktopia.com.au (available!)
E-copies: Amazon.com (now available!) • Bookworld.com.au (epub)

Review

Please note: This is my review for the third and final book in this series, and contains spoilers for the first book, Finnikin of the Rock, and second book, Froi of the Exiles. You may prefer to go and read those reviews instead to avoid spoiling things!

The fate of the kingdom of Charyn hangs in the balance. Froi finds himself with the priests of Trist, recovering from the attack outside Paladozza. Quintana is missing, and the entire kingdom begins the search for her and the curse-breaker she carries. Meanwhile, in the valley between Lumatere and Charyn, strange events are unfolding.

I had spied a copy of this book at my local library a couple of weeks back and thought I’d better snap it up seeing as how it wasn’t due to be released for another two weeks! Quintana of Charyn launched straight into the events of the cliffhanger ending of Froi of the Exiles so I was happy that I had it ready to read right away.

With the way that everything was so dispersed at the end of Froi, it almost feels like it and Quintana are one long book that has been split into two parts. The action begins right away with each party travelling around trying to find the others, but contains all the suspense, heartbreak and laughter we loved in the previous books. This is a story of sacrifice, determination and loyalty in the face of terror and despair. Despite all the adversity and horror experienced by the people of Charyn, I was left with an overall feeling of hope and a sense that everything turned out alright in the end.

My favourite thing about this series was the gradual revelation of events to each group of people and the piecing together of the mysteries. Everything fit together so nicely at the end, and I couldn’t help but admire Melina Marchetta for planning it all out so well from the start (at least, I assume that’s how it happened!).

Another aspect that I really enjoyed was the adorable family parts with Jasmina. She’s not in the story a whole lot but when she is, parents will glimpse their own toddler there. It’s not a huge part of the story, but these small touches really bring this world and these characters leaping out of the page.

As I’ve said in my other reviews for this series, the characters are brilliantly written and really come alive from the page. There are so many interwoven stories all the way through – Finnikin, Isaboe and Jasmina and the Lumateran people, Froi and Quintana and the little King, Trevanion, Beatriss and Vestie, Lucian and Phaedra, Gargarin, Lirah, Ajuro and De Lancey, Tesadora and Perri and and and… I felt I knew them all so well by the end and will miss them all.

I really hope Melina Marchetta writes more about this amazing world – it feels like there is more story to be told here. I find myself wanting to know about Celie’s adventures in Belegonia and what life is like in the other regions of the world. What happened to the young prince of Yutlind Sud? I’d also love to hear more about the future of both Charyn and Lumatere. No pressure, Melina!

Don’t be put off by the “Young adult” classification of this series – it will be enjoyed by adults just as much as by younger readers. I even feel the relationships in this book will make it appeal to those who don’t usually enjoy fantasy.

I really loved reading this series – I’d encourage everyone to get your hands on them!

Warnings: Some violence and sexual situations (thankfully all loving in this one).

The Lumatere Chronicles

What did others think of Quintana of Charyn?

  •  “Quintana of Charyn was perfect, unforgettable… beautiful.” – 5 stars – Book Probe Reviews
  • “If you have read and love Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles then you will love Quintana of Charyn just as much.” – 5 bookstacks – Claire Reads
  • “Fall in love again, and again.  Grow up and learn, live, cry, make a bunch of life-long friends, and then do it all again with the next book.” – 5 stars – Kat of Cuddlebuggery

Review: Froi of the Exiles, Melina Marchetta

Title: Froi of the Exiles (Goodreads)
Author:  Melina Marchetta (@MMarchetta1)

Rating: ★★★★★

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home… Or so he believes.

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

Details

Series: Lumatere Chronicles #2 of 3
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Viking Australia, October 2011
Pages: 593

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository • Booktopia.com.au
E-copies: Amazon.com • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld.com.au (epub)

Review

Please note: This is my review for the second book in this series, and although I have tried to avoid spoilers for the first, Finnikin of the Rock, you may prefer to go and read my review of that book instead!

Three years have passed since the curse of Lumatere was lifted, but all is not well in the Kingdom. Crops are not growing, and Charynite refugees have been settling in a valley just outside of the Mont borders. Queen Isaboe and her consort Finnikin receive intelligence that this possible threat from Charyn can be eradicated by removing the instigator of the trouble there – the King of Charyn.

Froi has begun to settle into and enjoy his life in Lumatere but soon he is sent into Charyn on a most important mission. What he finds in the Citavita, the capital of Charyn, is not at all what was expected.

I knew I was going to enjoy this book very soon after I started reading it – it felt like catching up with old friends. The characters in this series are the real stars of the show, even though the kingdoms of this world are amazingly described and built. I laughed, cried and winced along with each of the main players in this story, and was completely delighted with the descriptions of family life in Lumatere, while at the same time completely horrified by Quintana’s situation in the Citavita. I thought that the brothers Gargarin and Arjuro were very tragic, but completely hilarious, even if their story got pretty confusing at times!

Although I felt Finnikin of the Rock was very serious and quite dark, Froi of the Exiles has a much lighter tone despite its often dark subject matter. After each major dark plot development there is usually a funny episode to lighten things again and this made reading this book utterly riveting. Despite its almost 600 pages I raced through it as often as I could get to it.

If you loved Finnikin of the Rock, then you’re really going to enjoy reading Froi of the Exiles. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this series to those who enjoy fantasy of any type. Haven’t got yourself a copy yet? What are you waiting for?!

Warnings: Plenty of violence and sexual situations (some abusive).

The Lumatere Chronicles

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