Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Raven's Heart by Jesse Blackadder

The Blackadder family has long awaited for Mary, Queen of Scots return to bring them justice. Alison Blackadder, disguised as a boy from childhood to protect her from the murderous clan that stole their lands, must learn to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, building a web of dependence and reward. Not everyone welcomes the widowed queen to her native land, a soulless place which has known only death, violence and misery. Where Mass is outlawed and Mary's bastard half-brother is intent on keeping his iron grip on government.

Just as the Queen can trust nobody, Alison discovers lies, danger, and treachery at every turn.
Robbie Blackadder, son of the exiled William Blackadder, has spent his life hiding from Lord Hume, the man who stole the Blackadder Castle, and forced a marriage with William’s mother.


Robbie dances with Queen Mary on her first night in Scotland, and William Blackadder, determined to win her over in his claim to Blackadder castle, has one weapon left.  His child. Only Robbie has become accustomed to a life lived as a boy, a situation forced on her to avoid another forced marriage with one of Lord Hume’s relatives, or murder by Hume himself. Becoming Alison Blackadder again is something she is unsure of.

But William is determined and she has no choice and is taken into the new Queen Mary’s household at Holyrood House, where her quest begins. However, Lord Hume is one of Mary's most trusted Lords and who will believe Alison's story of a stolen birthright?

The author researched her family name for this book -and what a fabulous name it is! - and discovered an untold story of her ancestors which she has woven into this epic novel, using historical fact and fictional licence to make a compelling story.

It is not often I say this about a book, but this one grabbed and held me from the first page. Ms Blackadder is a masterly writer with active and descriptive prose, which not only engaged immediately with the young and confused Robbie/Alison, but took me with her through the Edinburgh streets of a dirtier, harder time and into a royal court where every nuance is watched closely, the rules of survival and success are unyielding and there is little compassion or love to be had. Alison jumped off the page and accompanying her through her everyday life as Robbie, the queen's spy, , her 'Raven', as well as her conflicts when she tries to live as Alison, was fascinating and beautifully drawn.

This is also the story of Mary Queen of Scots, although mixed in with some poetic licence, one of the most beautiful royal women whom all men wanted to own and influence, but were willing to betray. This is a long, complicated story that deals with all Queen Mary's battles with unruly Scots lords and her own husband.

It's a deeply emotional story, and quite raw in that the 16th Century was no time for faint hearts, where forced marriages and murder were a way of life. Anyone who enjoys reading about this era and will love this book and it will create a new fascination for the tragic queen. I can honestly say I look forward to Ms Blackadder's next novel.





Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Books in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour

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