Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Voice of the Ancient (The King's Men # 1)

Voice of the Ancient
By Connilyn Cossette
Published by Bethany House

Description from the publisher:
As the eldest son of a Levite and a Philistine, Avidan is torn between his duty to his family legacy and the desire for something more. When Ammonites attack the city of Yavash-Gilead, he takes the opportunity to fight with his cousins for the newly crowned King Saul. But when one of the cousins goes missing during the battle, Avidan stays behind to search for him in hopes that he's still alive.
Keziah is the daughter of one of the most powerful clan chiefs in the territory of Manasseh. On the brink of a forced marriage to a loathsome man decades older than her, she has no choice but to run. Dressed as a boy, she takes her horse and heads for the south, hoping to find sanctuary with her mother's family.
Battling to survive the dangers surrounding them, Avidan and Keziah make a pact to travel together. As Keziah's true origins are revealed and Avidan's search for his cousin becomes increasingly futile, they must not only rely on each other to stay alive but learn to trust the true and eternal King of Israel to guide their every step.
With impeccable research and award-winning writing, bestselling author Connilyn Cossette brings to life the first years of King Saul's reign.

My Review:
Great piece of Biblical fiction and great opener to a new series--it left me totally wanting to read the subsquent books in the series to find out what will happen to Avi's cousins (who I presume will be the male protagonists in the rest of the series).
I really liked seeing Avi's journey, both physically as he searched for his cousin and spiritually as he came to know more both about Yahweh and himself, and how he came to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. I found Keziah, an Israelite who had unknowingly strayed from truly following God, coming to know Yahweh, to be quiet compelling as well. I quite enjoyed learning a bit about this period in history. I think my favorite elements of the book, though, were the reminders that Yahweh is the God who Sees and the God who Hears--and that no one is beyond His view or His hearing.
4 stars.
I read an ARC publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

The Queen and the Knave AND The Dread Penny Society by Sarah M. Eden

The Queen and the Knave 
By Sarah M. Eden 
Published by Shadow Mountain 
Publication Date: September 5, 2023 

Description from the publisher: 
Romance and mystery come full circle in the fifth and final book of Sarah M. Eden’s best-selling Victorian Proper Romance series. 

London, 1866 
Móirín Donnelly has spent the last five years working in the shadows for the Dread Penny Society, a secret fraternity of penny dreadful authors who use their profits, influence, and street smarts to protect the poor and vulnerable of Victorian London. But spending so much of her life in secret is taking its toll on her soul—and her heart. When members of the Dread Penny Society begin disappearing, Móirín turns to her friend Detective Constable Fitzgerald Parkington for help. The two have developed a friendly rapport, and Móirín feels like she can trust him, though perhaps not with all of her secrets.

Fitzgerald Parkington has a sixth sense when it comes to tracking down criminals, which is why he’s recently been transferred to the Detective Department at Scotland Yard. But when roadblocks and red tape keep him from tracking down the criminal mastermind known as “The Tempest,” he must rely on the one woman who has unexpectedly captured his heart—the brash, bold, and fiery Irish lass, Móirín Donnelly. 

As the Tempest’s deadly reach threatens to overwhelm all of London, Móirín and Fitz are caught in an elaborate game of cat and mouse that leads down back alleys, through dark London buildings, and right to the gates of Kensington Palace. Móirín has one chance to save Fitz and the Dread Penny Society from the Tempest, and she might have to sacrifice her one chance at love to do so. 

My Review: 
First, let me emphatically state that this series MUST be read in order, so if you haven't read the earlier books, stop reading this review and get a copy of The Lady and the Highwayman and dive in! 
If you need a quick review of the other books in the series, take a look here: 
Now, my review...
I love everything about this book! This has been my most-anticipated book of the year, and I'm happy to report that it exceeded my very high expectations. 
Characters--Móirín Donnelly is just a fantastic lead character. I've loved every glimpse of her throughout the series and was so stoked when I first found out that she'd get her own book, and this totally exceeded any expectations I had. Detective Constable Fitzgerald Parkington hasn't had as many appearances in the series, but seeing him alongside Móirín, I totally adored him. They are perfect for each other. They're terrific at supporting each other and teasing each other. I absolutely adore a book with good banter, and Sarah M. Eden does banter better than just about anyone! Secondary characters are also great; I love seeing all of my favorite characters from the earlier books in the series.

Plot--Holy cow! I reread all of the previous books right before reading this one so everything would be fresh in my mind, and while that's not strictly necessary to enjoy the book, I'm so glad I did because it just made it that much more intriguing as I tried to guess what would happen next based on what had happened before. I'm so impressed by how everything came together. 

Setting--This series piqued my interest in Victorian England, and it's only grown since the first book. I love seeing what life was like for various classes of people in Victorian England. 

Writing--Sarah M. Eden is my favorite author; I just really love her writing style. Everything is planned out so well and the writing is smart, fast, and engaging. (I also love the fact that she's an avid researcher so I can trust that the details are right!) I know there are some readers who don't love having the penny dreadfuls thrown into the books, but I've enjoyed each one. I love seeing the parallels between the penny dreadfuls and the plots as well as seeing what the penny dreadfuls reveal about the character who is authoring each one. (I also think it's totally brilliant of Sarah Eden to keep the voices of each distinct, rather than making each penny dreadful sound like every other one.)

So, again, I loved this book and the series. I think this was a practically perfect ending to the series, and I can't wait to re-read it. 
5 stars. Not only is this one of my picks for one of the best books of the yea, it gets the title of my favorite book of the year.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Dread Penny Society
By Sarah M. Eden
Published by Shadow Mountain

Description from the publisher: 
This beautiful, cloth-covered hardcover collector’s anthology compiles all the penny dreadful short stories from Sarah M. Eden’s five-book Victorian romance series. Included in this edition are three new, never-before-released stories. Each short story is written in the style of the Victorian fiction that became so popular during that time period. From ghost stories to adventures to mysteries, Sarah weaves these gothic tales among her romantic storylines, making it the perfect way to celebrate the Dread Penny Society series.

My Review:
I think it's so cool that these stories are gathered together--and I was especially excited that one of the three new stories is by Stone--he's one of my favorite characters. I'd love to have seen him get his own book, but since that didn't happen, this is the next best thing. The penny dreadfuls are so fun to read, both for the parallels to the main books and for the insights into the "author's" of each's personality. (As mentioned above, I think the fact that Sarah Eden could give each author a distinctive style and voice in an excellent illustration of her amazing writing skills!) I thoroughly enjoyed each story and each character. So well done!

I read an e-ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

So, there you have it. This whole is absolutely fabulous. I've loved each book, and I can't wait to re-read them!