100. The Learn by Tony Halker

"Two thousand years before the Romans came, women and men of Britain worshipped the Goddess while developing their technology and culture. Working stone and building trails for their livestock, they made metal, pots and works of beauty. With purpose and endurance, they harnessed nature, laying foundations for a Celtic Druid culture that would spread through what are now England, Wales, Ireland and Europe."

I'm going to start by saying this book was not my cup of tea. I adore historical fiction, and while I did really find exploring a new era interesting, I just couldn't connect to the story. I really enjoyed how passionate Halker is about his subject matter, you can instantly tell this is someone who lives and breathes the Bronze age, and for this part he really did set the scene well. I also liked the conflicting clans and their beliefs, something that is still reflected in modern society to this day. Interpretation is different for everyone, and if a certain clan didn't understand or agree with the lore of another there was a very real risk of a fall out. 

Unfortunately I need more than setting to appeal to me, and I couldn't connect to any of the characters. Perhaps it is because in 250 pages there was nothing that made me immediately grab hold of a specific character, which I need to really enjoy the journey of the story. While only 250 pages, it did feel longer due to Hanley's writing style. I don't think it is a bad writing style, as I said he set the scene very well, but for me it just dragged on in the wrong places too many times. I wasn't invested in it. I think because there is so much information to pack into the pages about the way of life to make the reader understand it almost has a negative effect. 

If anything, I was far more interested in the story of Owayne's mother and father. That for me was more interesting, although I did enjoy learning of the Bronze Age religion and deities. Trying to keep track of the different names and clan names was also a negative for me, but that is just me being picky. 

If you are partial to fiction of the Bronze Age/Celt/Roman era I think this would be the right book for you, alas it was not for me. 

Be sure to check out the other reviews on the Blog Tour to make your own decision!

Rating: 3/5

Thank you to Authoright who sent me a copy of The Learn in exchange for an honest review. 

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99. The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

I was fortunate to attend Alison Weir's talk at the St Albans Literary Festival a few months back, where she discussed her new series of books, most notably 'Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen'. It made me so excited for the coming books, as I do really enjoy her work as a historical fiction writer. She weaves fact and fiction really well, and it is more believable for it, without bringing nonsensical witchcraft into the plot line (I'm looking at you Gregory!).

While at the talk, my good friend Rachel recommended that I pick up 'The Marriage Game', saying that it was her favourite book by Weir to date and that she hadn't been able to put it down. With such a glowing endorsement I could hardly say no, and duly added it to my pile of books for signing. 

Rachel, you really didn't let me down. I could not put this book down, yet didn't want to rush through it either. I found myself dragging out the reading process, limiting myself to a specific amount of pages on my journey to and from work, and a few slithers of pages in the evenings at home. The temptation to dive back into it during my lunch break was immense, and on some days the lure of temptation was simply too much!

'The Marriage Game' is extremely well written, and provides are very believable argument for why Elizabeth didn't marry, not forgetting her complicated relationship with Robert Dudley, whom like many others, I truly believe to have been the love of her life, or love as far as she was capable of in her position. It is a very well thought out and thorough portrayal into the inner workings of Elizabeth's mind, and although at times she is not the most likeable of characters, and can be said to be the cause of her own problems I did have a lot of sympathy for her. In many ways she was damned if she did, damned if she did not. 

I have never envied Elizabeth's position. She certainly was engaged in an uphill battle constantly - with the Catholic powers of Europe, her cousin Mary laying claim to her crown, constant badgering from her council to marry and provide England with an heir, dancing a fine line of courtly love and goodness knows what else with Robert, all the while trying to find the best way for England to progress under her rule. 

I very much enjoyed the references to her mother, Anne Boleyn. It is a relationship that we know very little of, aside from what history has revealed over time, such as the Chequers ring. I like to think when she returned to the tower she did indeed visit her mother's burial site as described by Weir in the book. 

It is well documented that at the time of Amy Dudley's death it was widely believed Robert had had her murdered to clear the way for his marriage to Elizabeth, however I feel that Weir has provided a clear stance on why this was unlikely - I for one have never believed Robert would take such a chance that in all likelihood would dramatically backfire, which it did, as the book details. 

It was interesting to read how Weir portrayed Robert, and his motivations and how he rationalised his behaviour. I can't imagine it was easy to choose to come second to England, and to continuously bow down to the will of the Queen, in a time when men believed a woman needed to be led by a husband. Not that this stopped him casting his eye about for dalliances, and eventually marrying Elizabeth's own cousin without her knowledge or consent. 

It's safe to say I really enjoyed 'The Marriage Game', and I highly recommend it if you enjoy both Tudor fiction, and historical fiction in general. It is informative without being too heavy, with just the right amount of poetic license on Weir's part to really bring this story to life. Filled with suspense, intrigue, wit and heartbreaking decisions this is one book I will be revisiting again, and again. It is exactly the type of historical fiction that appeals to me, and I can't wait to get stuck into Weir's newest offering, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen in the very near future. 

Rating: 5/5
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