Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: _The World Tree_ by Sarah Isidore

Charlemagne was a powerful Christian king of long ago. His reign spawned many legends and myths of heroes. Fantasy author Sarah Isidore uses the time of this Frankish king with the conflict between Christianity and paganism to conclude her “Daughters of Bast” trilogy. _The World Tree_ blends Celtic and Egyptian mythology to bring this Historical Fantasy trilogy to an entertaining, satisfying end. The book’s realistic characters, intriguing plot and vivid setting brings it to life with action that is hard to put down.

Realistic characters are important in books to keep a reader interested. The characters of this book act in realistic ways for their times. Sirona changes and grows throughout the novel. She begins as a healer, denying to use her magical powers even at the request of the goddess Bast. Pressure from hostile Christians and her own people make her change into a warrior with a conscience. Bathilde is a widow and noble woman trying to protect her land from an encroaching Lord. She possesses magic of her own, which drives her to some ruthless acts. Mau is a cat, protector and advisor to Sirona. He states his opinions clearly without and sugar coating. The author brings these characters to life through subtle changes as the plot advances to the end.

The plot is intriguing, keeping a reader hooked. A clash between paganism and Christianity plays in the background to the story of Sirona’s growth. Sirona refuses to kill Bathilde’s unborn baby. Her refusal plunges her into a series of attempts on her life. She struggles to maintain her life of being a healer and uninvolved, but events do not allow it. The hatred of a Christian noble adds more fuel to the flame with his ambition to steal other people’s lands. Magic appears in this ancient world, manifested by gods of Egypt, Norse and Celtic mythology. The manipulation of these deities deepens the plot and adds wonder to the story to keep you reading.

Finally, the vivid setting brings the story to life. Ms. Isidore writes descriptively in plain prose. The descriptions of Saxony, with its forests, manors and monasteries, come to life as if they exist today. Descriptions of the supernatural elements like the great World Tree and Chaos serpent give a sense of wonder to the story. Having a clear setting in a book allows a reader to get drawn in and enjoy the story without confusion. This book fulfills the requirement with its setting.

_The World Tree_ by Sarah Isidore is a satisfying conclusion to the “Daughters of Bast” trilogy. Realistic characters, an intriguing plot and vivid setting provides this Celtic Egyptian Historical Fantasy with enough action for an entertaining read. Ms. Isidore tells the stories of three remarkable women in three different harsh but interesting historical time periods. Readers will enjoy this concluding book. Seek out the other two books too.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Review: _The Shrine of Light_ by Sarah Isidore

History holds a fascination for us. It connects us to our roots. The distant past is cloaked in mystery, which has been fertile ground for stories. Fantasy authors mix history with fantasy elements to produce the subgenre of Historical Fantasy. These novels can be entertaining. Sarah Isidore gives readers an entertaining read with _The Shrine of Light_, the second book of "The Daughters of Bast" trilogy. Ms. Isidore provides an exciting story with a different setting, memorable characters and stimulating plot.

The book’s setting gives it a touch of reality. The story takes place around 481 CE in Eire (Ireland) and Gaul (France). With the Roman Empire in decline, whole groups of people are on the move to new lands. This creates conflicts between the different groups and cultures. Christianity is on the rise, adding more stress for the pagan religions trying to survive. The author describes this ancient time in detail, bringing the time to life with vivid descriptions of the people, land and the clashes. She also adds different magic to the story, which makes the setting more mysterious.

Next, Ms. Isidore inhabits her vivid setting with memorable characters. Damona is a woman with a life full of tragedy. Her life is traced throughout the book as she must overcome anger and grief to save her land. She is helped by an enigmatic black cat that serves her goddess. Along the way, she meets Rionach, the queen of her kingdom and a Christian as well as Chlodweg the ambitious king of the Franks and his pregnant wife. These characters and two Egyptian goddesses play important roles in Damona’s life. All of these characters fit their time with the powerful descriptions by the author that brings them to life.

Finally, the setting and characters combine with an interesting plot     for entertaining results. Damona is the priestess of the shrine dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bast in Eire. The lord of her kingdom comes for a prophecy. When it is not to his liking, he massacres Damona’s family, setting into motion a cycle of revenge and redemption. Damona pledges herself to Sekhmet, Egyptian goddess of destruction, to exact her revenge on the king. She brings a curse on her people and must travel to Gaul in  order to find the wands to break the curse. The plot has struggles between the goddesses, Christianity versus paganism, and the Franks against the Alemmani. There is a lot of action driven by this plot to keep a reader entranced to the end.

Historical Fantasies are very entertaining to read. Authors blend history and fantasy to create intriguing works that appeal to our interest in the past. _The Shrine of Light_ by Sarah Isidore is such an entertaining read. Its different setting, memorable characters and interesting plot gives the reader a lot of action and suspense. Ms. Isidore blends Celtic and Egyptian mythology to provide her novels with a unique story. This second book of "The Daughters of Bast" is a good addition to the genre. Read this book if you get a chance.