29 Jun 2023

Healer's Blade by Kyrie Wang: Book Intro and Review


Enemy's Keeper #1

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Age: Young Adult-Adult

June 30th 2023, Silver Dreams 

In a country torn by war, can she change the fate of England? 

1075 A.D., nine years after the Norman Conquest. Eighteen-year-old healer Aliwyn lives in solitude after a series of medical failures leaves her alienated from her village. With the rebellion against William the Conqueror rumbling on the horizon, she finds solace in the tranquility of her home.

But after her beloved arrives with the orphaned daughter of a Norman knight, Aliwyn is plunged into the bloody conflict she’s done her best to avoid. One daring escape from enemy fire entangles her with the revolt's charismatic young leader, Toby, and Aliwyn finds herself swept into a dangerous world of rival factions and secret alliances. Faced with mercenaries and renegade knights, she must make difficult choices about healing those she despises.

And after she unravels the fiery secret underpinning the rebellion, Aliwyn is challenged to take fate into her own hands and save England from sweeping destruction. Can she find the courage to fight for what she believes? And can she resist the magnetic charms of the man she’s vowed to defeat?



My Review and Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


I signed up to be on the review crew for this book so full disclose: I recieved an ARC from the author. Healer's Blade is her debut novel and is touted to be the first in a series of YA Romance/Adventure novels set an an alternative version of 11th century England in the years following the Norman Conquest. 

At first, I have to say I found this novel a little confusing. It was like starting in the middle of a book with characters and relationships who were already established and had backstories, and not at the beginning.
I also found a lot of the action and events in the first part kind of implausible, but I think taking off my adult and history buff hat and remembering this was meant to be written for teenagers helped.

The historical setting is very similar to Tamara Leigh’s Age of Conquest series, but the feel and tone of this book is very different. Less serious historical fiction, more YA adventure with fantasy elements: and vague shades of Game of Thrones.
(The protagonist’s father is called Ransley Bolton: I have not read or watched Game of Thrones but I am well aware there’s a character called Ramsey Bolton who has a reputation for brutality in that series. AFAIC the names are way too close for there to be no borrowing going on...) 

As for Aliwyn: I do wish her life had been explored a bit more to give us more insight into her nature motivations, but perhaps that is yet to come.
The revelations about her adopted brother and her relationship with Toby gave her enough moral and emotional conflict, but I would have liked to see more internal conflict and character development as well.

Toby or Tobias… well he was both interesting and frustrating at the same time. I guess that might be the result of all the major characters being teenagers and teenagers can be frustrating. Toby was more developed I think due to his losses and conflict with his family. He felt more torn between doing what was right and exacting his version of justice.

I did get the impression of people living in turbulent times when their country was in a state of (almost) civil war, but at times I got the impression there was more telling than showing. What I also rather liked were some of the details about Medieval surgery and medicine. As a devoted Cadfael fan of many years it was interesting to read something written from POV of a modern health professional.

I did have a were a few niggles in terms of historical details: one was characters having large pockets sewn inside any and all garments including a gambeston.
How on earth does that work? A quilted garment designed to be worn close to the skin and absorb shock from blows? A pocket inside? Can’t see it. How would you even get to that when gambestons could only be donned by pulling them over the head and not tied a the front?

Not sure what I thought of the sort of fun made up Celtic pagan style since the Celts converted to Christianity long before the English…. or that they were really needed. I think they’re just added to be “cool” and maybe that’s no bad thing in a YA novel.

So yeah, overall, it was enjoyable and a very exciting adventure which would certainly appeal to teenagers. Even this adult liked it. It’s a good adventure with a lot of fun parts as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

Thanks to the author for sending me an ARC which did not influence my opinions.

About the Author: 

Hailing from the unpredictable snowstorms of Quebec, Canada, I'm a medical mystery detective (fancy words for "pathologist, MD") by day and a dreamweaver of historical fantasy by night. Pencil on paper makes me cry and laugh, and every book I write is living another life!

I have a PASSION for crafting stories that explore the humanity common to us all. Where people find their authentic selves, goodness prevails, and the forgotten and voiceless rise as heroes.

​Somewhere between sleuthing with my microscope and crafting hamster toys with my girl, I sit down and type. You'd never catch me without (quality dark) chocolate in my bag and I would bike in Canadian January to a froyo store.

​Just ask my best friend of 11 years- she was the cashier!


3 Jun 2023

The Scots of Dalriada by Rowena Kinread: A Coffee and Thorn Blog Tour

Genre: Historical Fiction (5th Century, Scotland and Ireland)
250 Pages, Print and Ebook


Fergus, Loarn and Angus, Princes of the Dalriada, are forced into exile by their scheming half-brother and the druidess Birga One-tooth.


Fergus conceals himself as a stable lad on Aran and falls helplessly in love with a Scottish princess, already promised to someone else. Loarn crosses swords against the Picts. Angus designs longboats.


Always on the run the brothers must attempt to outride their adversaries by gaining power themselves. Together they achieve more than they could possibly dream of.

Fergus Mór (The Great) is widely recognised as the first King of Scotland, giving Scotland its name and its language. Rulers of Scotland and England from Kenneth mac Alpín until the present time claim descent from Fergus Mór.

Full of unexpected twists and turns, this is a tale of heart-breaking love amidst treachery, deceit and murder.


 My Review: ⭐⭐⭐

It took me a while to get into this book, but by the end it was an interesting fictionalized account of the very early Irish settlements in Scotland. The Kingdom of Dalriada which spanned the Irish Sea consisted of such settlements.

I think "The Scots of Dalriada" is a better title than Fergus McNair, because it isn't really about one character, but Fergus and his brothers and the political forces which drove them to Scotland. I did find the personal/romantic parts of the story a little slower and hard going.
It ranged between narrative accounts (this happened then this happened) and a more detailed portrayal of everyday life. I wasn’t 100% sure it was accurate for the time period either, but that isn’t necessarily a big deal because it was more about the story of the characters.

It wasn’t my favourite book, I think I prefer M.N. Stroh’s Tales of the Clans Series, but that is about Ireland instead of Scotland. It was good for people interested in Historical Fiction and especially an under-appreciated figure from Scottish History.

One point worth noting is that this is *not* Inspirational/Religious Fiction. For my followers who typically read this I will add a content warning for

  • Graphic/Semi-detailed sex scenes, including one in the first chapter. -
  • Character Deaths, incl. violent deaths 

About the Author: 

Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets.

She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era. Her debut fiction novel titled The Missionary is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers in April 2021 and has been highly appraised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.

Her second novel The Scots of Dalriada centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It was published by Pegasus in January 2023.

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