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Review: The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley

The Hangman in the Mirror book coverThe heroine of the tale, Françoise Laurent, is a 15-year-old living in the slums of colonial New France, Canada. Even in the slums, her family is among the lowest and poorest of families. It’s a tough life, between her parents raging alcoholism and having to beg for rotten scraps of food, there really is not much Françoise has going for her.

Things get drastically worse when the measles sweep through the town leaving both of her parents dead. The future as a laundry woman for the neighborhood holds no attraction for her. Françoise believes if only she can become a lady’s maid, then her fate will be changed. When she reveals her grand plan, the local ladies scoff at her. But one of them makes it possible by calling in a favor to get the required letter of reference.

Françoise becomes a lady’s maid and settles into her new life after a rocky start. But her high-handed ways and her natural inclination to distrust anyone alienate her from the rest of the household staff. Her inability to foster friendship is ultimately her undoing. That and a purloined pair of gloves from her mistress.

Charged with stealing, Françoise is sent to prison with the sentence of hanging over her head. As luck would have it, there is no hangman, so she awaits her hanging until one can be found.

Françoise has a habit of concocting wildly imaginative stories. She uses this ability to ensnare a fellow prisoner into loving her, and ultimately becoming her savior.

I enjoyed this tale, even though at times the narrative felt a bit forced. According the jacket notes, this is based on historical accounts of the real-life events. The story ends where the historical records do, leaving the reader unsatisfied with a less than clear ending.

I felt as a character Françoise was not fully developed and much of her motivation was hidden behind her prickly personality. I would have liked to see more growth on her part. The character portrayed in the book was a conniving know-it-all without much in way of redeeming qualities to soften her and make her more likeable. I would have liked to see the something she possessed which made her co-prisoner fall in love with her, sight unseen, to take on the most reviled occupation in the colonies and make her his bride.

Good for an older teen as many of the scenes are quite graphic and disturbing in nature.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from NetGalley.

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Review: Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

Peaceweaver by Rebecca BarnhousePeaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

A well-crafted historical novel based on the epic verse of Beowulf, this book follows a minor character from that tale on her own adventure.

In historic Scandinavia, 16 year-old Hild is a member of Shylfing nobility, niece to the king. As she moves from role of pampered child to take her place in adult society she learns that life is not always what she expects. Her lofty visions of being her uncle’s trusted adviser and stepping into her ill aunt’s place are not to be.

Shortly after her first official appearance in the king’s court, she begins having visions. Only these visions do more than just invade her mind, they take over her body completely. In a vision-induced rage, she kills a visiting ambassador. She “knew” he was going to murder the king’s only son and heir. She expects to be rewarded.

But the king’s skald, a holy man and adviser, declares she is controlled by evil spirits and recommends expelling her from the village.

The king decides to send her to a far away tribe as a peaceweaver and wife to the about-to-be-crowned Beowulf.

She journeys with several of her uncle’s warriors, and her slave-nanny across the dangerous wilderness to her new home. Along the way she will need all her cunning, the violent visions she learns to control, and to come to terms with the prejudices of her upbringing against the people she is sent to become queen over, to realize just what a gift losing everything she’s ever known and held dear will turn out to be.

I like well-wrought historical fiction. I truly enjoyed this book. My only compliant is that the reader needs to have either read Ms. Barnhouse’s previous book or know the original Beowulf verses to really understand the storyline. Some of the sections of the book will leave readers without background at a loss as to what is going on.

I recommend this book for readers13 years old and up.

Note: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley for review.

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Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (YA fiction)

If you are a fan of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, you’ll fall in love with this book.

Even readers who are not fans of old Bill’s works will be drawn into he improbable world where Titania and Oberon are real beings.

As the days draw close to Samhain, the door between the world of Fea and mundane New York City widens just enough to let all manner of fairy folk access to the mundane world from their other worldly realms. The hole in the wall between the worlds is guarded by human changelings. Human children stolen form their parents of ages past brought up in the Fea realms and taught to defend the gap in the gate.

Things get really interesting when the heroine, Kelley Winslow, comes face to face with the truth of her parentage. She falls in love with one of the changelings, Sonny Flannery, and as things progress from bad to worse realizes that the world she knows and even the people in it are not at all what the seem.

I completely enjoyed this fantastical tale. William Shakespeare’s tales are the basis for the story premise, but the author jumps off the deep end from there in her execution of a believable modern day explanation of old Bill’s plays.

Fans of fairy lore and old English plays will be well please to pick up this book.