Wednesday, January 20, 2016

REVIEW: Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Bohemian Gospel
by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Publisher: Pegasus
Page Count: 400
Release Date: November 15, 2015
Format: Hardcover

How got: personal library; bought via Amazon

First attention getter: pretty cover


From GoodReads:

Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King,Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.

When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?

A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3.5

Bohemian Gospel proved to be far different than I was expecting. I went in expecting a historical fiction with a fantasy element but got some great horror elements, too. Those combined with a great main character makes the book, yet it also suffers a bit in its latter half.

The shifting alliances of medieval Bohemia, and to a lesser extent the Catholic Church in that land, were a fascinating subject to explore. I googled Ottakar and glanced through Wikipedia before reading so I had a rough idea who was who, but Carpenter really brings them to life. She also incorporates Bohemian/Czech folklore and details of daily medieval life to really bring forth a vivid world.

The fantasy and horror elements were great individual story points, if Mouse’s abundant powers did seem unbelievable at times. The pit and baby cemetery scenes are great examples of the horror: creepy, eerie, and just not right. I loved the imagery the author used in these scenes; they raised the book to a whole new level.

The amount of powers that Mouse employs did seem a bit much at times. I mean, dang! That girl could pretty much do anything. The explanation for those powers, her father, also seemed over the top. Like another reviewer I read, I too rolled my eyes at that detail once it was revealed. So while they did add a great fantasy element to the historical struggle of court intrigue and a father-son relationship from hell, she seemed too powerful by far in the story.

I loved Mouse as a character, despite her crazy amount of powers. She has courage, pluck, and grit to spare, especially with some of the crap that Mouse goes through. Her journey from sheltered monastery “Mouse” to a more worldly and darker woman kept me intrigued. I liked how flawed she was too; that helped balance out the whole powers thing. There were times where she wish-washed back and forth in her courses of action and she tended to let look at the pessimistic side of things more often than not. It made for a very balanced character.

The one biggest problem with this book was the lack of a focus for the plot in the latter half of the book, at least for me. After Mouse arrives at court, “saves the day” with the whole Ottakar/father relationship, and boxes in the horrors that were plaguing her, it seems like the story didn’t quite know where to go. Mouse would wonder through different relationships, landscapes, and tragic situations before arriving at a conclusion that just seemed confused. I frankly got bored with this latter half and was glad once I was done.

I enjoyed our lead, her journey, and the world in which she inhabited. All were attention-getting and vibrant. Yet, a lackluster, weak latter half and Superwoman-level powers keep this book from reaching awesome levels. I enjoyed the expedition into a historical period/place I’m not familiar with, though. So in the end, this was still an enjoyable read, and I look forward to what they author comes up with next.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to see someone else who has read/reviewed this book. I fell in love with it! It ended up being one of my favorite books of 2015. I was also surprised by the story and unfamiliar with the historical period it was set in. I found the horror/dark fantasy elements to be sooo intriguing. I'm glad you mostly enjoyed the book. :-)