Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fires of Winter - Roberta Gellis

I am a big fan of Roberta Gellis medieval romances. Although she is better known for her Roselynde Chronicles whenever I find one of her books I always feel pretty happy and save them for a rainy day.

Melusine of Ulle, daughter of Scottish nobility, is given in marriage to Bruno of Jernaeve, who secures her land for his sovereign, King David. Born enemies, the pair has an inauspicious beginning when Melusine attempts to kill her new husband on their wedding night. But what makes this more than just a story of two people's rocky relationship is Gellis's wonderful style. Alternating chapters are written from the perspective of husband and wife, the work is historically accurate, and the narrative is sensitive and insightful. For Gellis fans, the fact that some characters appeared in Tapestry of Dreams makes this work all the richer.

This story is set during Stephen de Blois' reign and develops during its ongoing war with the Empress Matilda. The first half of the book is dedicated more to the relationship between the hero and the heroine. Growing up as the daughter of a noble family for her and as an illegitimate son of a noble man for him. They meet in less that happy circumstances as Bruno, a knight in King Stephen's entourage, is invading Melusine's keep as her father and brother have turned traitor. The King and Queen Maud decide a marriage of convenience for them and one could say that this more romantic side of the story continues till they come to terms with each other.

The second half is about the fight for power and the political movements of the period. How Stephen alienated his brother's support who went to Matilda and how after Matilda and Robert of Gloucester invaded Germany and eventually fought till they imprisoned King Stephen. He would end up being released when Queen Maud imprisons Robert of Gloucester planning and exchange between them but it led to Henry, son of Matilda, being sworn heir to the throne of England after Stephen's death. Bruno follows King Stephen's actions on the field and shares his imprisonment and Melusine stays in attendance of Queen Maud thus presenting different perspectives of what’s happening around them. The book has one particularity I have not seen often, each chapter is written in the first person but alternating between Bruno and Melusine. This means we have their different views regarding what's happening, sometimes their different views on the situation they are in.

Gellis is really good at delivering interesting, true to their period, characters and in immersing her story in history. It made for a very interesting read!

Grade: B

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