Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Sisters of the Bruce, 1292-1314 by J.M. Harvey

Received free review copy from publisher via NetGalley.

Robert the Bruce was King of Scots and a key figure in the Wars of Scottish Independence against the English and as such, he plays a major role in several novels. This book attracted my attention because it’s the first novel I’ve seen devoted to the women of the Bruce family, initially the two eldest sisters of Robert, Isabel and Christina - or Isa and Kirsty as they are called in this novel. A large portion of it is told through letters between the two of them (and occasionally Robert the Bruce himself), and later letters include Matilda, so there is a lot more “telling” than “showing”, not my preferred method of storytelling. When events are described in the letters, however detailed they may be, they still felt as though they were merely glimpses of what should have been so much more, and I kept wishing I could read a scene of the event taking place, hear the dialogue, etc. It meant I never really formed an emotional attachment to what should have been important characters in the sisters lives.

It’s obviously very well researched and portrays the medieval world accurately. However, even once the letters cease being the primary storytelling method, the book continues to tell the story often more as like an overview of events. For example, there is rarely any dialogue, which I found very strange. Though there was internal dialogue, it was too little too late. I couldn’t get into it and spent the second half of the book skimming it. There could have been a great story here and I really wanted to like it but the method of storytelling let it down.

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