Daughter of Mystery

Daughter of Mystery - Heather  Rose Jones First thoughts:

5 stars! Didn't think i would like this after the first couple of chapters almost put me to sleep. :) But once I got used to the prose and realized the import of what had initially seemed like pointless minutiae, it was just Wow! simply amazing writing and world building. Loved the incredible attention to detail, logic, language and imagery. All of that plus a gripping tale of impossible love, mystery, intrigues, treachery and even magic! If only all period romances were like this, I would not have avoided them like the plague. :) Detailed review later....when I'm done with book 2.

Note: Definitely not a lazy afternoon read. One needs to give the book the careful attention it deserves. A dictionary will come in handy too. :)

Review Proper:

This book is the first of a series set in a fictional principality named Alpennia around the time of 18th century Europe. It is about the struggles of two young women against the traditional gender roles and expectations demanded by respectable society and by their particular social class.

All her life, Margerit has dreamed of scholarly pursuits rather than snagging the most eligible man her meager dowry can buy. But being an orphan means she is completely at the mercy of her uncle's financial means and generosity...or lack thereof. And that means a traditional life and future that has already been pre-planned for her--marriage to a respectable gentleman and children. A sudden fortuitous turn of events finds Margerit inheriting a huge fortune which opens doors to unlimited possibilities. But being a minor, Margerit's uncle is still in charge of her financial affairs, and therefore her life. How can Margerit escape her uncle's clutches and the endless parade of husband-shopping balls? And how can she pursue her dream of studying in university and dabbling in the mysteries of the saints? Due to the machinations of Margerit's benefactor, Margerit also inherited an enigmatic bodyguard named Barbra, who seems to have her own agenda and her own dark past to deal with. Surprisingly, the two bond over books, philosophy and a passion for learning. And thus begin their adventures in Rotenek.

The author's use of period language lends an air of authenticity to her depiction of the noble and upper class life. The prose is appropriately formal and stuffy which took a while for this contemporary reader to get used to. I admit the last time I tackled a similarly styled work (Gay Pride and Prejudice) I gave up after the first chapter. And I almost did here too. But the unusual and intriguing plot drew me in. The idea of taking traditional religious canon and worship and turning them into vehicles of magical spells is as audacious as it is logical (the author's explanation almost made it plausible). Once you get beyond the first two chapters, you realize the detailed world the author constructed is nothing short of astounding. From the physical settings, to the social structures, to the legal vagaries of inheritance and succession and most especially to the methodical and 'scientific' way of harnessing spiritual power--everything speaks of an intelligent, scholarly, well-researched and expertly-plotted book. There is so much to enjoy here. Aside from the feminist struggle for freedom from traditional gender roles, there is also a more earthly struggle for control of a vast estate, power struggles for control of the throne, a mystery or two for the reader to unearth, and lots of legal and political maneuvering in between. All that plus the archaic prose, and you have a book that requires the reader's full attention to truly appreciate. Definitely not a lazy afternoon read.

My only complaint (more of an observation really, because this book is really so much more than just a romance) is that the development of the 'romance' wasn't given all that much attention and as a result felt somewhat rushed. It is not the lack of explicit scenes. I thought the demure intimate scenes were quite appropriate and in keeping with the tenor of the book. But the jump from admiration for a best friend to lust for a lover of the same gender, for someone as conservatively raised and innocent as Margerit, merited more exploration. Also the lack of anything explicit beyond kisses means I never really found out when exactly was it that they actually took the next step.

Overall though, the book's most impressive achievement is transporting me to another world and another time, and what a grand time it was too.