ancient world

The Problematic, Yet Entertaining “A Promise of Fire”

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A Promise of Fire by Amanada Bouchet
Sourcebooks Casablanca: August 2, 2016
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Source: Free From Publisher

I’d go there again!
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A Promise of Fire is one of those books that’s a bit tricky to review. On the one hand, it’s a bit of a problematic read considering that it’s a romance and the so-called hero kidnaps the heroine. On the other hand, I found it an entertaining read that I couldn’t peel my eyes away from. So keep in mind that you too may be frustrated by some character’s actions in A Promise of Fire but you will ultimately enjoy this one for being a breath of fresh air in the romance genre.

Catalia “Cat” Fisa is a psychic who works in a circus. Cat is also in hiding from the powerful Fisa family. Cat’s powers make her unique; she can sense when a person is lying, which makes her valuable as a political tool. Due to her ability to sense a lie (just one of many fantastical abilities) Cat is known as a Kingmaker. Since escaping the Fisa family Cat has successfully hidden her abilities and carved out a life for herself in the circus. Naturally, that life is not mean to be and Cat is kidnapped by the Sintan warlord Griffin who wants to use Cat’s ability to solidify his sister’s leadership after overthrowing the previous leaders of the Sinta and bringing in a non-magical leader. Enter magic and mayhem and things get complicated very quickly. (more…)

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Vibrant Empress Theodora lives on in The Secret History

thesecrethistoryThe Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton
NAL Trade, July 2nd, 2013 (Historical Fiction)*

My rating: Outstanding Adventure

This rags-to-riches novel, about Theodora, wife of Roman Emperor Justinian I, contains intrigue, political maneuverings, travel and adventure, romance, hardship, betrayal, heartbreak, and personal success. The author transports her readers back to sixth century Byzantium with vivid prose about daily life in the late Roman Empire, from the impoverished circumstances of Theodora’s youth to the glittering world of the nobility.

It follows Theodora’s struggle to succeed against all odds, to make a better life for herself and her children – and along the way, she enchants and captures the heart of the very Emperor.

Her characters are complex and compelling. Theodora herself is charming, independent, tough, determined, and shrewd, but with a troublesome (and endearing) unerring ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Relationships between protagonists in this novel are complicated and realistic (there’s the rivalry, affection, misunderstandings, good intentions and sometimes hatred between Theodora and her sister). There are plenty of strong female characters, who work within the patriarchal system to get what they want and need, which for me, made the time period more believable and the story more enjoyable.

The novel is packed with action, travel, adventure, and suspense. At times it loses some of the up-close-and-personal atmospheric setting, but makes for a very intense, engaging read.

A few anachronistic phrases threw me out of the story, but I found the novel completely engrossing otherwise – for its action, characters, depictions of relationships, and believable world building.

Fans of historical fiction and adventure will love this tale of the Eastern Roman Empire.

*e-ARC provided by Edelweiss

Read-alikes

For strong heroines and stupendous historical fiction that brings the past alive:
Into the Wilderness (Wilderness #1) Through a Glass Darkly (Through a Glass Darkly #2)

For historical fiction about the ancient world:
The Beacon at Alexandria Mara, Daughter of the Nile