The Velshaan are divine rulers of the desert, raised above the rest of humankind by their magical powers. Magical powers that have been lost since the last great civil war, when Velshaan fought Velshaan and the magical battles reshaped the land. The ruling family believes there is a way back to that power, and they’ll scheme and betray to get it. Syrina, princess and younger sister to Raskah, has been persuaded to marry him, because the legends say the magic only manifests in the union of two siblings. Yet, the brother she once loved has become terrifying and hateful (reader’s warning: explicitly violent scenes explain how). For her refusal to accept her family’s plans for her, she has been sent to the dreaded salt mines, where troublemakers are sent to fade into obscurity, drudgery, and starvation. (more…)
My Rating: Beach Vacation
Daughter of the God-King is my second encounter with Anne Cleeland, my first being Murder in Thrall. These two novels couldn’t be more different, especially considering Murder in Thrall was a contemporary murder-mystery. But, in Daughter of the God-King we will have some of those same elements of intrigue; in this case, they just happen to be set in Egypt during the Napoleonic Wars.
Hattie Blackhouse has had it with her famous parents leaving her behind in the English countryside while they travel the ruins of Egypt. Hattie’s not all that interested in ancient Egypt, but she is interested in having an adventure. With that in mind, Hattie and her unflappable companion, Bing, travel to Paris never guessing that it will lead to an impromptu trip to Egypt, while on the run from some overly solicitous suitors and dangerous men. Of course, Hattie does not mind when the mysterious and handsome Berry seems to be following along as well. As long as you’re being followed by a handsome spy, your worries are apparently non-existent.
When in Egypt Hattie learns things about the parents that she never really knew. But, the attention it is a revelation that she is getting from everyone – the British, the French, the Egyptians. They all want something from Hattie, a secret that her parents were apparently killed for. The mysterious Berry assures Hattie that he will protect her, but she wonders if she can really trust him despite her growing feelings for him. But can Hattie trust anyone else? It becomes clear that she didn’t know her parents at all. Her childhood friend is clearly out for the information she can provide rather than supporting her as a friend. The only person Hattie truly seems to be able to rely on is her companion, Bing.
I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I loved the setting. I think this colonial period is fascinating (terrible, but interesting). The fact that the British and French could just come into a country and essentially rob its graves for their museums is hard to comprehend. Although, the practice certainly continues into present day, throwing controversy into the museum world when the public finds out. If you’re interested in the facts behind this, I would recommend Chasing Aphrodite, a very interesting look at the dubious practices of the Getty Museum. While I find this an interesting read, archeological practices are not the focus of Daughter of the God-King, rather the focus is on the spies and Hattie’s questionable family history. I also thought it was very interesting how the Egyptian setting was incorporated into the novel as there was a very specific reason why events came to a head in Egypt. I won’t go into the details since it would spoil the big reveal, but I will say that it wasn’t something I was expecting.
I had an issue with the romance aspect. I liked that this was included, and it certainly wasn’t a romance novel, but I had a problem with how it was conveyed. It just didn’t sit right with me. The entire novel is from Hattie’s point of view and we are continually told by her that Berry is attracted to her:
She did not respond immediately, thinking that it was almost amusing – he was setting up a mighty resistence to the attraction that leapt between them, the intense awareness that made him lose his train of thought while the breath caught in her throat. (p.46).
Hattie is always saying that Berry is attracted to her, but I felt that something was missing in their interactions because I never really believed that Berry was attached to Hattie. Rather than making me believe there was a relationship there, I felt more that Hattie was just being conceited and reading more into the situation than was warranted. Ultimately, I was looking for a better romance and I think it could have been stronger if we got something from Berry’s point of view, especially because he was such a mysterious character. Without actually knowing how Berry felt, I still wonder if Berry was manipulating Hattie for his own ends rather than having an emotional attachment to her.
While the romance aspect didn’t live up to my expectations, I still like the intrigue and mystery that kept me guessing till the end. I read the book fairly quickly and enjoyed the pace. If you’re looking for more of light historical mystery, I would recommend this one. It’s got a little bit of everything without being overly complicated.
*Review copy provided via NetGalley.
Chasing Aphrodite: The real story behind the looting of foreign countries for those showstoppers in Western museums. Focuses more on Italian and Grecian artifacts, but the impact would have been similar in Egypt.
Silent in the Grave: The style of writing reminds me of Cleeland’s, as does the amateur sleuth Lady Julia. Brisbane’s also another mysterious character, just like Hattie’s Berry.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation: The tone here is quite a bit sillier; however, there’s something about the heroine, Amy, that reminds me of Hattie. The Pink Carnation series is also set in the same period as Daughter of the God-King.