Tuesday, May 31, 2016

REVIEW: The Deepening Night by Jayne Castel

The Deepening Night
by Jayne Castel

Publisher: self-published
Page Count: 230
Release Date: February 16, 2014
Format: Kindle

How got: personal buy from Amazon

First attention getter: setting and synopsis

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

BRITAIN - 630 A.D.

Saewara, sister to the King of Mercia, has just lost her husband. Finally free of a cruel bully, Saewara wishes to take the veil and retire to a life of peace and solitude.

But, the king destroys her plans when he orders her to remarry – to her people’s enemy.

Saewara will wed Annan of the Wuffingas, the King of the East Angles. Following his kingdom’s humiliating defeat to Mercia six months earlier, Annan must ‘bend the knee’ to his new lord. However, what begins as a forced marriage develops into a slow-burning passion between Annan and Saewara. Two proud individuals, they must come to terms with more than an unwanted marriage.

A woman of quiet, indomitable will, Saewara leaves her past behind and attempts to forge a new life for herself as Queen of the East Angles – but her fragile happiness risks destruction by the ambitions of her ruthless brother.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

I’ve gotta say I was fairly impressed with this work. While most self-published works seem to get some things right while lacking in others, this one impresses in all areas but one. This is a great look at a historical era often ignored in fiction.

Dark Ages Britain doesn’t get much love when it comes to historical fiction, especially the century this one is in, the 600s. We’re talking pre-Viking, pre-Alfred the Great, pre-anything the average person nowadays is aware of. For a self-published author to tackle this seems all the more impressive knowing this. And she does it fantastically well!!

Castel goes the extra length to pull real names from the fogginess of poorly recorded history and fleshes these people with real personalities. Most of the characters and settings that people this work are real individuals and places too, even down to the babes-in-arms and where they were baptized. Towns, protective works, landscape features, and counties are all vibrant settings that could be located on a map today. Obscure, barely legible names on parchment splash their motives, plans, love, and revenge across the page with panache.

All the characters are well-fleshed out, even the antagonistic ones that drive me up a wall. However, I have to give a special shout-out to our lead, Saewara.

She’s a woman with guts, especially given the timeframe she lives in and the special hardships women faced in it. She tries to shape her own life only to fail. She pays the price for her independence striving and goes to a truly dark place emotionally. Yet, she doesn’t let that completely overtake her life; she takes stock of her situation and creates other opportunities and connections to for a new life. As a result, she is able to find a new purpose in life and a beautifully passionate love match that she never saw coming. Where she ultimately ends up in the end is jaw dropping. Badass doesn’t even begin to cover it! The phrase “You go, girl!” echoed through my head more than once.

My only hitch with this book is a specific scenario that happened once Saewara got to her new home. Of course, being who she was and in the locale she found herself, she was bound to get some flack. Yet, it developed into a scenario one would find more in a modern high school than Dark Ages Britain. The exchanges and personalities involved came off as more juvenile teenager exchanges than between female romantic rivals. Saewara faced everything with her calm, strong exterior, but every time she was engaged with these people, I cringed.

Despite that one ding, this book is a solid historical fiction and romance. With strong characters (You go, Saewara girl!! LOL) and fantastic research, this author has proven her skills and chops along with the best of the field. I look forward to diving into more of her works!!

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