16 Jun 2015

The Forgotten Princess of Elmetia- Rachel A. James

 Kindle Edition, 246 Pages
October 2014, Prism Book Group
"It is 616AD, and one fatal night the ancient Kingdom of Elmetia falls. Saxons kill the Elmetian King, and capture Princess Teagen. Teagen poses as a slave girl and works for the Saxons in the Kingdom of Deira, until she discovers her brother is alive. She finds a way to escape, and her path crosses with Ryce the Warrior.

Struggling with his past, and angry against the tyrant Saxon king, Ryce helps the princess in pursuit of her brother. But just as the connection between them intensifies, obstacles get in their way. The Saxon king now wants vengeance, and will stop at nothing to get it"
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I picked this book almost as soon as I realized it was written by a British author. They are few and far between in the Christian Historical Fiction Genre (and I naturally gravitate towards my fellow country people), and because am fascinated by Britain in the seventh and eighth centuries. The period of warrior Kings and saints, when the disparate Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms were gradually converting to Christianity. The world which inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth. 

This was certainly a very sweet and very heartfelt Christian story, which would certainly appeal to young girls obsessed with Princesses, or teens looking for a clean romance with a deeper theme behind it. On that level, I did in some sense enjoy the book- but- (here it comes), I do prefer my historical fiction to be more realistic and plausible- in other words to really get a ‘feel’ for the time.
I understand that this is Historical Fantasy, rather than straight Fiction, but for me the main problem was that there seemed to be no real sense of period. Swords and some of the clothes aside, it could have been set is almost any age, and didn't really do the justice to the time.
Perhaps I expecting too much and all along consciously comparing it to the works of Edoardo Albert, which are set at about the same time and include some of the same characters- but are of a very different style which this author was not trying to emulate.
Yet some of the details were jarring which really did not help- like the many references to the ‘Hospital Office’ were the physician Sherwin is to be found- behind his desk- where an Apple Mac and filing cabinet might not have been too much of a surprise. 

In terms of the style, this seemed to be one of those stories that seems to rely strongly on action- upon the characters being in danger or peril much of the time, in the midst of thier blossoming relationship. The romance and Christian theme added something, but maybe things could have been padded out a little more?

Also, the characterisation, whilst suitable for the genre and target audience, did not always seem very strong. Princess Teagan was a little too perfect, yet often whiny when people told her to do something she didn’t want to. She and most of the good guys seemed invincible, able to survive assassination attempts, major injuries and falls from cliffs- when the baddies in the battle scene could be killed with a single sword trust. 
I was a little discomfited by the depiction of King Edwin of Northumbria. I appreciate that he was meant to be the villain (and the descendants of the Celtic peoples of Britain probably still is regarded as such) but he was very much the stereotypical indolent caricature of a villain- cowardly, oafish and rather stupid. Hardly believable as the warrior King of history, whose power stretched over most of Britain.
Overall, this is a worthwhile story with a strong Christian message that does not demand too much of the reader. It would very much appeal to the target audience, and is worth a read for adults, but it’s just not a favourite. However, I would certainly consider reading more by this author, and see her writing develop.

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