Sword Song (The Saxon Stories #4) by Bernard Cornwell

4009500Sword Song (The Saxon Stories #4) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year: Harper, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 314
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children–and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex…with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred–Alfred’s sharpest sword–must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.

IMG_20180419_200200_066What I thought

I have truly loved every book in this series, but I think that this one was my favorite so far. Again, I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but I have definitely grown attached to this cast of characters. I have enjoyed their journey (and in particular, Uhtred’s journey) all along, but I think that this installment has a plot that I was able to get lost in more than the last book. Not to mention, the writing was some of Cornwell’s best, in my opinion. I can’t count the number of times I found myself pausing & rereading passages just because they were so beautiful. Once again, I loved it, simply put. I’m having such a wonderful time with this series, especially getting to read it with my hubby!

Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories #3) by Bernard Cornwell

2679014Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories #3) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year: Harper, 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 317
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born. 

The year is 878. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has helped the Saxons of Wessex defeat the invading Danes. Now, finally free of his allegiance to the victorious, ungrateful King Alfred, he is heading home to rescue his stepsister, a prisoner of Kjartan the Cruel in the formidable Danish stronghold of Dunholm. Uhtred’s best hope is his sword, Serpent-Breath, for his only allies are Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and Guthred, a slave who believes himself king. Rebellion, chaos, fear, and betrayal await them in the north, forcing Uhtred to turn once more, reluctantly, to the liege he formerly served in battle and blood: Alfred the Great.


What I thought

I truly believe, upon finishing this book, that I will never tire of Uhtred’s story. This is the third book in this series, and I loved it just as much as the first two. Yes, the structure of each book remains similar, but to me, I love that it feels familiar. As I pick up each subsequent book in this series, it feels like going home. I LOVE them.

In this installment, we see Uhtred really start to come into his own. He’s becoming wiser and he’s learning to be cunning, but he is still my beloved Uhtred at heart. Some scores get settled that I was dying to see how they turn out. And one of my favorite parts was when Beocca finally had a badass moment.

I’m going to keep this short, because I don’t want to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read this far in the series. But this is brilliant historical fiction, end of story. Read this series! I’m onto book #4!

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

12971662Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Publisher/Year: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 295
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 1/2




Monstrous mermaids. Vengeful ghosts. A century-old curse. 

When fierce mermaid Syrenka falls in love with a human named Ezra, she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land. The choice comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Generations later, seventeen-year-old Hester knows that love and death are inextricably linked for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect, or a curse? Hester’s solution is to avoid love altogether, until she meets an enigmatic stranger named Ezra and feels drawn to him in a way she can’t explain or resist. Ezra may be able to help her tease apart the strands of her family’s strange history: Ezra knows a thing or two about curses.

The answers Hester seeks are waiting in the graveyard, in the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean–but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and the tragedy of so long ago.

Monstrous Beauty is a dark and brilliantly plotted thriller about sacrifice, enduring love, and hope.


What I thought

I loved this book! As a fan of fairy tales, I really enjoyed how the author portrayed the folklore of mermaids. Like a true fairy tale, this story was very dark & evocative. Actually I was surprised by just how dark, gruesome, and even gory the plot was in some parts. That is not to say that this book is all doom & gloom, but it does get pretty tragic. I would recommend this for more mature readers, as it does touch on some heavy topics, including death, gore, rape, and grief.

But anyway, back to my original point, which is that the writing was deliciously atmospheric. To me, it felt like the perfect rendition of mermaid folklore. When I think of the ocean, the words that come to mind are: dark, mysterious, tempestuous, eerie, beautiful, and lush. I think Elizabeth Fama captured that perfectly with her writing.

I also enjoyed the two storylines–one set in the past & one set in present day. I was worried that this would make the flow feel choppy, but it felt natural to me. In reading the sections set in the past, I was able to figure out the mystery before Hester did. I didn’t find that to be a bad thing though, I thought it added to the suspense as I watched Hester start to piece together the clues.

I will say again that I absolutely loved this book, but there were a couple things I wasn’t crazy about. The first one was something minor: Hester’s swearing. Now, I’m not a saint myself & swearing in books doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I guess it just sounded unnatural in her case? Unnatural & unnecessary. But that wasn’t really the thing that bothered me. I loved this book, but I did not buy the insta-love.


I get it, what the author was trying to do with the Ezra-Syrenka-Hester thing. I just never really felt the connection between Ezra & Hester. I would think if Ezra was a ghost, he would know that Hester is Syrenka’s descendent, so on his part, it felt a little creepy. And as for Hester, I really didn’t get how she went from this cynical, anti-love girl to falling instantly head-over-heels for a guy she met in a cave. All that being said, I do recognize that this is a book for young adults and that, as someone who used to be a teenager, teenagers can fall pretty hard & pretty fast. Also, I’m aware that insta-love happens pretty regularly in fairy tales. Maybe I’m just overthinking all of this, but it just kinda bugged me.

Despite the insta-love thing, I did really love this book & I can absolutely see myself re-reading this at some point. I loved the atmospheric writing & the mermaid folklore & the seaside setting. If you are looking for a mermaid tale that’s on the darker side, you NEED to read this!