The Knight’s Secret

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The Knight’s Secret by Jeffrey Bardwell (Fantasy)

This novella by Jeffrey Bardwell (Rotten Magic) is currently available only as part of a Kindle anthology called Myths and Magic: An Epic Fantasy and Speculative Fiction Boxed Set. The anthology of 16 science fiction and fantasy authors is available for a limited time on Amazon. I did not read the entire anthology and offer only this review of The Knight’s Secret as requested by the author of that work.

Bardwell writes about mages and knights who fought together in defense of the Iron Empire but are now at odds. A mage has been accused of murdering the emperor, and all mages are now being hunted down in a pogrom ordered by the reigning empress. The elderly, highly decorated knight, Sir Corbin, has a daughter who is a mage, putting his family into a no-win situation. But before he can travel to meet his fellow knights and turn the tide, Sir Corbin dies. Now his twenty-year-old granddaughter — his biggest fan who knows all his war stories — must impersonate him, with a little help from her magical mom and a ring he always wore on a chain around his neck.

The tale that follows takes a number of twists, some humorous and some dark. The young woman now possesses male parts, which take her on an adventure she’s never had before. She meets people her grandfather never told her about and learns the story behind the ring. She witnesses and participates in some dark deeds. And the story ends abruptly, to be continued in four more named installments in The Mage Conspiracy. Unfortunately, that series doesn’t seem to exist as all links at the end of the novella lead to a “page not found” message on the author’s website and the books don’t seem to be available anywhere else. Very confusing and probably not worth your time (or ours) as the entire thing appears likely to disappear before long.

Bella gives The Knight’s Secret two stars. 2-stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of The Knight’s Secret from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Spider and the Stone

The Spider and the Stone

The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney (Historical Fiction)

Lovers of castles and keeps, knights, and the lore of Scottish clans will thoroughly enjoy this well-written novel. Covering the years 1296 to 1330, the book brings to life the struggles of disparate and often warring Scottish clans to name a king they can all support while striving to rid Scotland of rule by the English kings Edward I, II, and III. Robert the Bruce, James Douglas (also known as The Black Douglas), and William Wallace (Braveheart) are among the familiar Scots portrayed here. We also meet Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II and sometimes known as the She-Wolf of France, plus a myriad of other characters including Edward II’s male lovers, some interesting clerics, a group of Knights Templar, and Isabelle MacDuff, a Scotswoman who played an important role in the crowning of Robert Bruce and is depicted here as James Douglas’s lover.

Glen Craney makes it clear that he has fictionalized the details and stories of historic characters about whose personal lives little is known. He has done extensive research, nicely displayed in his use of the vernacular and in his descriptions of countryside, castles, and towers. As one does from any good work of historical fiction, I came away with a desire to learn more about the time period – in this case, the wars for Scottish independence, the Plantagenet kings, the Knights Templar, and the Culdees. The book, although long, moves steadily and kept my unflagging interest, much of that driven by Craney’s writing style which fits the era in its elegance. The book includes intricate battle scenes based on real events, minor love scenes, and some gore.

Grandma gives The Spider and the Stone five stars.  5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Shield

The Shield Cover

The Shield by C.J. Bentley (Children/ Historical Fiction/Time Travel)

The Shield is described as a book for children ages 8 to 12, but I believe it will appeal to readers of all ages. The story moves right along, is fun and interesting, and is not at all childish in its content or style. It takes the narrator and the reader back in time to Medieval England, a fascinating period to visit and experience.

The narrator is a spunky ten-year-old girl who changes her name regularly and is called Peggy when the story begins in 1962. Before meeting her, however, we meet Sir Kay of Percefleet back in 1340 A.D., a knight who is about to lose his shield. Six hundred years later, while playing in a brook, “Peggy” and her friends find the shield, and the fun begins. Time travel, knights and kings, and a missing ten-year-old girl locked in a dungeon will keep the reader’s interest.

The author is British, and I enjoyed the British-isms in her writing. However, I have two complaints: the presence of run-on sentences throughout and dialogue that seems stilted and unrealistic for kids. British phrases aside, current-day speakers in England use contractions, but too often the dialogue labored under the weight of precise wording that might have been a distinctive pattern for the Medieval period but felt unnatural for the 1960s. Overall, however, the author’s style kept me reading, and I enjoyed this book.

Bella gives The Shield four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.

For a guest post from author C.J. Bentley, please go here.