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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

I treated myself to The Price of Blood a few months ago. I say "treated" because I had high hopes and it met every one of them.

I was looking for a novel that immersed me in a time long past. You'll think your memories of this book really took place a thousand years ago.

I wanted specifically to know what it would have been like to be Queen Emma, faced with important men and Viking attacks. Bracewell's Emma is easy to sympathize with and the historical stakes are clear without it ever feeling like a textbook. I took away a vivid image of Emma and Athelstan looking out at London from the castle that I don't think comes from any film I've seen. It comes completely from Bracewell's evocative skill.

I wanted characters whose motives I could understand while the plot maintained historical authenticity. I didn't expect to be so disgusted by King Aethelred while still feeling the same political and family pressures that made him act in such outwardly bizarre ways. I didn't expect the Elgiva subplot to be so fascinating and to give the reader another female character possibly even more vibrant and true than Emma.

This novel exceeded any expectations I could have had in the way it keeps the suspense going even when the snippets from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle at the beginning of the section give away some of what's going to happen. I found Emma's big scene at the end of the novel, where she really comes into her own, so amazing as to make me want to recommend the book to every reader, everywhere. It's even more amazing now that I know the scene was the author's creation, an imagining of what must have happened in order to produce the results seen the history books.

The Price of Blood is all that I hoped a historical novel could be. It's even more impressive because it's the second in a trilogy.

Novels I've Read in 2015: 
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Along the Far Shores by Kristin Gleeson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A Kiss at Kihali by Ruth Harris

Mermaids in Paradise  by Lydia Millet

Raven Brought the Light by Kristin Gleeson

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma

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