Wednesday, 29 August 2007

This might seem a bit like blowing one's own trumpet, but then if I don't do it, who will? I first contacted Ms Marr way back in January. In fact it might have been even earlier than that, but let's not quibble over a month or two. Reviews do take their time to come through. I feel this one was worth waiting for: read and see what you think.

The Banners of Alba Review on http://www.nightsandweekends.com

"In the Dark Ages of Scotland, men fight for the crown, sweeping aside contenders by any means available—including murder. Alliances are made or broken by marriages of convenience, and human character is ever the same, no matter what period in history.

Malcolm of Alba sends Daveth mac Finlay to forge an alliance with his nephew, Thorfinn Sigurdarson, Lord of Orkney, by marrying his half-sister, Ratagan. But Prince Duncan prefers Finlay dead—because he’s a real possibility to take the throne. So he plots behind the King’s back, to have Finlay assassinated before he reaches Thorfinn. Finlay reaches his destination without harm, but he has no intentions of marrying the beautiful and clear-headed Ratagan. He’ll choose his own wife—and not a minute before he’s ready to get married. He has no interest in becoming king, but Thorfinn, though he will not force it, advises Finlay that an alliance between them, through his sister, would be a wise thing to consider.

Ratagan doesn’t want to marry Finlay any more than he wants to marry her, but there’s an attraction between them that they cannot deny. Ratagan will not be ruled by her future husband—she has a mind of her own and will not be obedient just because it’s required of her. Finlay wants to control her, but Ratagan is too strong-willed for that to ever happen.

Kilda had her heart set on marrying Finlay. They’d known each other since childhood, and it was understood that they would marry. But the king thought otherwise and forced her to marry Finlay’s cousin, Gille, to keep Finlay from the crown. Any child born to Kilda would be in line for the throne, and any man would be willing to marry her—but would it be for her or just for a chance to rule before her son becomes old enough to take the throne?

Hareth mac Enna has loyalties to no one but himself. He can choose sides at will while disregarding life-long friendships like the one he has with Finlay. The beautiful, spoiled Kilda plays right into his hands—except he may have truly fallen in love with her. Hareth is a devious but intelligent man, and he’s not entirely heartless. His emotions and honor go a long way in deciding his future plans, even if he doesn’t know it himself.

I can’t imagine the amount of research required in writing The Banners of Alba, but Ms. Black has done her homework. The settings, characters, and history are well-written, taking you back to a time when men fought for land and power and women were considered nothing more than possessions to be used to further a man’s standing.

I love it when an author creates real characters with real human flaws. I can say, “Oh, now, that was a really stupid thing to do,” and still like the character. Ms. Black has definitely done this in The Banners of Alba. All of her characters are unique and rich in personality, and they act just as you would expect men and women to act when emotions run high. It’s not always pretty, but it’s honest. Engaging to the very last page, The Banners of Alba entrances you with a bold story of love and deception. It’s a medieval soap opera that will keep you coming back to see what happens next in this epic tale of love and war."

Well, was it worth waiting for? You tell me. I'd love to know if review influence readers at all.

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