Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: Naked by Eliza Redgold

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Release Date: July 14, 2015

This is a retelling of the legend of Lady Godiva, who rode naked through the town of Coventry to convince her husband to lift the harsh taxes he'd imposed on the people there. By proving that she would shame herself in order to save her people from starvation, she succeeded in shaming her husband into lifting the taxes.

Although this is very much a love story, Redgold draws on the political state of England during the 11th century to create a more elaborate tale of deceit and betrayal. It is much more than a simple tale of a selfish and cruel Lord and his high taxes, and his caring wife who makes him see reason. Godiva, a Saxon, lived during England's Danish reign of King Canute. Despite the fact that Canute was viewed as a more apt ruler than his Saxon predecessor, the Danes are very much the antagonists in this story. Leofric, the Earl of Mercia is rebuilding his Saxon lands after they have been decimated by the Danish warrior Thurkill the Tall, while also attempted to prevent the same thing from happening to his neighbors in the Middle Lands, including Godiva's Coventry. Godiva realizes the best way to defend her newly inherited lands from the invading Danes after her parents have been murdered by Thurkill, is to spurn her childhood best friend Edmund, who had hoped to marry her, and instead marry the powerful Earl of Mercia, a man she barely knows. But she fears Earl Leofric only intends to swallow her lands into his own, to gain more power. Can she trust him? Can she rule Coventry as well as her wise parents had?

Godiva is strong, independent, and educated in both politics and battle, having been raised as both son and daughter in the absence of any siblings. At the same time, she is young and can be naive at times, making her a flawed but likable character.

The writing style may take some getting used to for some. Much of it is written with short, choppy sentences which I think was an attempt at sounding dramatic and poetic. However, this may just be a matter of personal preference, some readers may enjoy the writing style. Regardless, it is not unreadable or poorly written, just a different style.

My only complaint therefore is that I feel as though the ending was wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly. The antagonist spills out his master plan and motives in some kind of Scooby-Doo-like reveal, in a clear attempts to explain everything to the reader even though much of it we could have figured out for ourselves. But worse is the fact that Godiva had little to no involvement in or knowledge of any of these greater events going on behind her back, which was a little disappointing. Her world was very limited to Coventry and her marriage (which is spun as a result of her devotion to her lands and people) and yet, despite being told from her first person point of view, the novel still managed to have a steady and eventful plot. In a slightly murder-mystery style, there are clues and mysteries along the way that keep the reader wanting to know more and wanting to read more. All in all, an enjoyable but light read.

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