Today’s review is for the gorgeous The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield, a magical novel based in the time running up to the French Revolution.
Book Review: The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield
Title: The Embroidered Book
Author: Kate Heartfield
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy, historical
Release Date: 17th February 2022
‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’
1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.
The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless.
When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences. In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives. But every spell requires a sacrifice.
And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.
Harper Voyager excel at designing book covers that catch your eye and lure you in as if they are enchanted like many of the articles in this book. The cover made me need this book even before I became intrigued by the blurb. I love books with a magical twist but my European history is dire and my knowledge of Marie Antoinette is patchy so I did worry the plot would go over my head. I love historical fiction but with an attention span of a gnat, I have a tendency to get confused. There was no need for my concerns. With a list of main characters at the front and immersive plot I was thrown into the lives of Charlotte and Antoinette after they discover an embroidered book of magic. The spectacular blend of magic, history and sense of place kept me enthralled.
It is an epic read of 656 pages where the two sisters have to journey through the complex politics of these turbulent times while balancing family and societal expectations when their central reason is to do anything is to do the best for their respective countries. It’s told with empathy and made me consider questions about power, class and influence.
The palaces and characters were brought to life and it was a highly visual experience reading it and would make a wonderful tv series under the right director.
Would I recommend?
Oh yes, The Embroidered Book is one to read, keep and treasure. It is as beautiful inside as out and though it’s a work of fiction it gave me a platform to build my knowledge of this era while I was immersed in magic. Full of imagination, magical world building overlaid by historical fact it is a must for fans of both history and fantasy.
It is a book for my forever shelf and will be popular for visitors to the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf.
Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022. Her debut novel won Canada’s Aurora Award, and her novellas, stories and games have been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, Sunburst and Aurora awards. A former journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.
Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.
My first introduction to runes was at the Jorvick centre in York as a child and they invoked a sense of mystery and magic, yet the pouch of runes I have had for the last 20 years have sat in my drawer unused. Unlike tarot cards which felt instinctive, I’ve never really connected with them and the booklet they came with was dry and hard to grasp. When I saw this book, I hoped it would allow me to learn about my runes in a constructive way. Scroll down to see if this was achieved.
Book Review: The Runes, Grounding in Northern Magic by James Flowerdew
The runes are more than an ancient alphabet. They are a key to the wisdom of the ancient peoples that used them in both language and magic.
THE RUNES, A Grounding in Northern Magic by James Flowerdew aims to help you on your first steps to divining with The Runes and using the magic of these ancient peoples. Actual practical success and failure is also shared candidly in the hope that the reader can learn in a safe and steady manner. All combined into a neat guide to Runic practices and the inner workings of this ancient alphabet.
Full of direct references to ancient texts, as well as ripping yarns and poignant anecdotes, this book demonstrates Rune magic and the underlying principles and culture that inform it, as well as some general magical practices.
This guide helps make sure that the reader’s first steps into Runic mysticism are on solid ground and allows everyone who wishes to work with The Runes to make intelligent choices of their own.
First off, this book is beautiful with many illustrations which are a delight to look at and along with stories help make the information enclosed more accessible. The book goes beyond what each rune means, for very good reasons. Runes are complex items and not something to use lightly, as James Flowerdew discusses. He gives a balanced overview of the runes history, including their dark uses in the second world war and the far right, as well as where runes fit in magical systems and whether runes are right for you. There are then clear instructions on the runes’ uses and magic.
There is a lot of information to take in, but the tone and language takes a topic that from my experience can be dry and complicated into something understandable, interesting and highly readable. It has left me wanting to learn more.
This book maybe titled The Runes, but it offers so much more, including discussions on the Pagan ideas surrounding the runes and the different gods. This book has left me feeling more positive and less daunted about using my runes, especially now I know instead of them being an elitist tool, runes were for the everyday person.
Would I recommend?
Yes, if you are a beginner interested in runes and Northern magic or more experienced, this is a book to read. It went beyond my expectations and gave a balanced insight into not only the meanings of the runes but their history, connections to the gods, and their uses. With stunning illustrations, it was a joy to read and a book I know I’ll return to again and again.
Discovering the runes in his early teens, James is an avid folklorist and historian with a particular focus on ancient pagan cultures. He is a practising neo-pagan with an emphasis on the Northern Tradition, but likes to see that as part of a larger global discourse that spans back to Neolithic times and hopefully distantly into the future. Trained as an artist and illustrator, James Flowerdew currently writes and paints in Edinburgh.
Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.
My first book review of the year is a book I looked forward to ever since I knew it was written, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman. This is book four and the conclusion of the Practical Magic series but with a witchy world full of wonderful characters with many backstories to explore a reader can always wish for more.
Book Review: The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Title: A Book of Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: fiction, fantasy, witchlit
Release Date: 6th Jan 2022
‘Full of Hoffman’s bewitching and lucid prose and vivid characters, The Book of Magic is ultimately about the very human magic of family and love and actions that echo through generations… it casts a spell’ —Matt Haig
THE STUNNING, UNFORGETTABLE CONCLUSION TO THE BELOVED PRACTICAL MAGIC SERIES
For centuries, the Owens family has been cursed in matters of love. When beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the sound of the deathwatch beetle, she knows that it is a signal. She has finally discovered the secret to breaking the curse, but time is running out. She has only seven days to live.
Unaware of the family’s witchcraft lineage and all it entails, one of the young sisters of the new Owens generation has fallen in love. As the curse strikes once again, her love’s fate hangs in the balance, spurring three generations of Owens to venture back to where it all began and use their gifts to break the spell that has marked all their lives.
But doing so threatens to destroy everything the family has fought so hard to protect. How much will they give up for the greatest gift of all?
I had high hopes for this book, and it didn’t let me down. From the moment Jet heard the death-watch beetle and begins a mission to stop the 300-year-old curse for good, I was hooked back into the world where reality is blended seamlessly with magic to discover whether this could be achieved.
The Rules of Magic, which follows the siblings Franny, Jet and Vincent, is my favourite novel in the series so I loved meeting them again, even if they were in their 80s. The journey to find a cure for the Owens’ curse brings the characters to Essex in England, and the descriptions and sense of place reignited my desire to visit there. It has been on my literary tour wishlist since I read Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine.
The strength of these books are the original characterisation, depth of magical world building and the lyrical prose that is littered with references to herbal references. This all adds to the central witchy theme.
It is a strong conclusion to a series about curses, forbidden love and redemption and this one in particular is an ode to books and libraries.
Though it could be read out of sequence, you will enjoy it more and be less confused with the multitude of characters if read in order. This could be done in order of the release dates – Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic, Magic Lessons, The Book of Magic – or chronologically –Magic Lessons, The Rules of Magic, Practical Magic, The Book of Magic.
Would I recommend?
If like me and those at The Enchanted Emporium you love books about magic, witches and books, this is a series to read. With magical prose and storytelling, a unique collection of characters and immersive worldbuilding this novel gives a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful tale of revenge, love and redemption.
I look forward to having a physical copy on my forever bookshelf for rereads and I know as soon as a copy is put on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf, it will be on permanent loan by the witches of Whitby and beyond.
Thank you Simon and Schuster via NetGalley providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.
Have you read this series or watched the film Practical Magic starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock? Let me know in the comments below.
Today I’m excited to share my review for Weep, Woman, Weep by Maria DeBlassie. I was thrilled to be invited to read this novella in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, after falling in love with her non-fiction book Everyday Enchantments. The blurb promised a dark, unusual with a strong character and premise, scroll down to see if it was achieved.
A compelling gothic fairytale by bruja and award-winning writer Maria DeBlassie.
The women of Sueño, New Mexico don’t know how to live a life without sorrow. That’s La Llorona’s doing. She roams the waterways looking for the next generation of girls to baptize, filling them with more tears than any woman should have to hold. And there’s not much they can do about the Weeping Woman except to avoid walking along the riverbank at night and to try to keep their sadness in check. That’s what attracts her to them: the pain and heartache that gets passed down from one generation of women to the next.
Mercy knows this, probably better than anyone. She lost her best friend to La Llorona and almost found a watery grave herself. But she survived. Only she didn’t come back quite right and she knows La Llorona won’t be satisfied until she drags the one soul that got away back to the bottom of the river.
In a battle for her life, Mercy fights to break the chains of generational trauma and reclaim her soul free from ancestral hauntings by turning to the only things that she knows can save her: plant medicine, pulp books, and the promise of a love so strong not even La Llorona can stop it from happening. What unfolds is a stunning tale of one woman’s journey into magic, healing, and rebirth.
CW: assault, domestic violence, racism, colorism
Weep, Woman, Weep is a dark, creepy and atmospheric gothic novella following the life of Mercy, who lives in a town blighted for generations by the actions of the water witch, La Llorona. Set in New Mexico, the descriptions and tone immersed in the culture and scenery. My knowledge of the area and culture is limited; it was refreshing to be somewhere different, hear Mercy’s voice and come away with a longing to know more.
Told in first person, Mercy’s voice and voice leapt off the page and it often felt like she was sitting in the room with me recounting the story. With strong characterisation and sense of place, reading it was a highly visual and haunting experience that often sent shivers down my spine and I felt grateful I am far from any waterways. Mercy’s observations of her fellow neighbours and town folk highlighted the racial and gender prejudices and raised many questions about interactions between communities and family. Witchcraft and magic are threaded in throughout, but differently to any book I’ve read. Like many fairy tales, there are many layers that could be unpicked and discussed, making it a book you long others to read so you can have long and deep conversations. The constant threat of La Llorona and Mercy’s fight for survival against her magic made me keep turning the pages long after bedtime.
Would I recommend?
Yes, if like me you’re a fan of the unusual or gothic and haunting reads this is one to try. With a strong voice, atmospheric creepiness and powerful storytelling, it’s one to enjoy as the nights draw in and we head towards my one of my favourite times of year, Halloween.
The team at the The Enchanted Emporium would also recommend and know it will be a firm favourite with customers on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. In fact, if Dr Marie DeBlassie visited England, Willow would invite her for a cup of tea and a chat about all things witchy and folklore.
Dr. Maria DeBlassie is a native New Mexican mestiza and award-winning writer and educator living in the Land of Enchantment. She writes about everyday magic, ordinary gothic, and all things witchy. When she is not practicing brujeria, she’s teaching classes about bodice rippers, modern mystics, and things that go bump in the night. She is forever looking for magic in her life and somehow always finding more than she thought was there. Find out more about Maria and conjuring everyday magic at www.mariadeblassie.com.
Recently, I found a book that immersed me into the story from the start with an outspoken, waspish centenarian witch who reluctantly takes a woman under her wing. This is one thing I’m grateful to Facebook for as it kept popping up on my newsfeed making it impossible to resist. Today I am very excited to have The Woman and the Witch’s author Amanda Larkman popping in to to talk about her book, magic, reading and writing tips. My review for her book can be found here.
The Woman and the Witch Blurb
‘I see the wood first. A knitted shawl of green and black tossed across the shoulders of the ancient hills. I take a great gulp of breath, my lungs no longer compressed by cages of contorted bone. I want to drink the cool air like water, scented as it is with earth and starlight.But as I drift close to the house, I falter. Something is wrong. I will myself on, ignoring the whispers of pain beginning to curl up from my bed-ridden body. A ball of dread is growing in my stomach; it is so terribly black and heavy it slows me down. My hands shake. The light is gone.’Nothing ever changes in the village of Witchford until the day a hundred year old, bad-tempered witch falls and breaks her hip, and a fifty year old cleaner decides her life is over. Both are haunted by ghosts, but can Frieda help Angie to find out what her long dead father is trying to tell her? And can Angie help Frieda fight off the wolf who circles ever closer?
Hi Amanda. I am thrilled you could join us today. Your book The Woman and the Witch bring together Frieda a 100 year old witch and Angie, who is in her 50s.They are two very different characters, do you share any of their traits?
I very much identify with Angie. The loss of her child was the way in which I processed the loss of my first son, James, who was stillborn at 42 weeks. But more generally, I wanted to explore a character who had ended up limping along in a marriage that died many years ago. At 50 she has resigned herself to a dull, unloved life that won’t change, her adventures are behind her. Meeting Frieda (as well as her husband’s affair) opens Angie’s eyes to everything she was capable of, getting rid of her self-limiting beliefs.
Frieda is a character I really enjoyed creating, very much based on my grandmother who I looked after for a short time when she was in her mid-90s. Absolutely uncompromising and not interested in pleasing anyone. She was very different to me – I hate upsetting people! – so I had a whale of a time having her go round being rude to people. She’s brave, strong and (despite her outward appearance and behaviour) kind. I hate the way our society overlooks and dismisses elderly people – especially women – and I wanted to explore a character who doesn’t give a stuff about ‘proper’ behaviour, and has the power to back it up, righting the wrongs she sees around her.
Angie is a character I connected to from the start, but she isn’t the young apprentice associated with books where a witch takes someone under her wing. Was this a conscious decision?
Both Frieda and Angie didn’t go down the path they were supposed to. Frieda absolutely rejected the idea of taking on a young apprentice and suffers because of that decision. Because of her father, Angie never discovered what she was capable of until she met Frieda. I supposed I subverted the young apprentice trope as I wanted to celebrate women no matter their age, while passing on and reinforcing the idea that it is never too late. Despite what society tells us, life doesn’t end at 29.
Her story gave me a boost to stop procrastinating and continue to follow my dreams. Frieda is a complex character and not the nicest person making her a joy to read when she gets her revenge however small on people by magical means. What came first the characters or the plot?
Definitely characters. The idea for the book sprang fully formed into my head when I pictured a plumber in a kitchen with a bent over, wizened old woman sitting smiling sweetly in the corner zapping him with invisible darts and making his tools fall to the floor whenever he reached for them. The idea made me laugh and got me wondering what else she could do.
The story deals with magic and ghosts. Have you ever had any supernatural experiences and if so, did this influence your storytelling?
Not really. I think of the magic in the book as being very real. I have read many studies that prove the power of nature, walking in the woods can lower your blood pressure, hugging a tree can help with anxiety… as well, of course, the recognised benefits of herbs and flowers. So. what I did with The Woman and the Witch was to take this to the next level and find a woman who could somehow harness the power and energy of the natural world.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
I think a combination of remembering my grandmother, reading articles on the restorative power of nature, and hitting 50!
What is your favourite book?
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Who is your favourite author?
Oooh impossible to choose! The ones on my list whose books I automatically order without even knowing what they are about (in no particular order) are… Marian Keyes, Sophie Hannah, Nicci French, Jilly Cooper, Kate Atkinson, Jenny Colgan, Liane Moriarty, Maggie O’Farrell, and Lisa Jewell.
It is a cruel question because it is hard to choose a favourite but some of my go to authors are on your list too. What are you currently reading?
I’m teaching Chaucer at the moment, and the whole pandemic nightmare has meant I am finding reading anything challenging really hard. So, I am currently working through Marian Keyes’ back catalogue (again) and am looking forward to re-reading ‘Rachel’s Holiday’.
Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
Yes, definitely. I read all the time and have to work hard to not let someone else’s style leak into mine. I think I’ve only just found my voice or style and it took my thirty-five years!
Where is your favourite place to read or write?
Bed! And if my family won’t let me stay there, the kitchen table.
When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
I’ve got drawers stuffed with terrible novels I’ve written every few years since I was about 15. I’ve spent thirty years sending them out to agents and never had any luck. I felt ‘The Woman and the Witch’ had an important message, so I spent three years making it the best it could be. Most of that time was chucking great chunks of it out and re-writing the damn thing! With a full-time job and two demanding children it was very hard to find the time and I had to be terribly selfish.
When I was finally happy with it (and I was really sick to death with it by the end!) I sent it off to agents again. Most didn’t even reply, but a couple said they liked it but as it was difficult to categorise they didn’t think it would sell well to publishers.
This time instead of giving up I thought ‘sod it, what would Frieda do?’ and decided to publish it independently. I was expecting to sell a handful of copies and for it to sink into obscurity, but people seemed to have liked it and I’ve had some lovely reviews that have sent me over the moon! I am so happy people have enjoyed it as well as being kind enough to come and tell me they liked it.
I loved it as you can see from my review here.Do you reread books or do you only read them once?
Re-read old favourites all the time.
Quite a lot of people have decided to write during lockdown. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I can only say what worked for me; everyone is different, so it’s all about finding what works for you. Marian Keyes has put together a series on becoming a writer on YouTube and its brilliant and FREE!
Write every day – I aim for 1,000 but sometimes life gets in the way. But it does get you into the groove. Even if putting a word down feels like climbing a mountain, just keep putting one foot (or word) in front of another. Eventually the brakes will come off and you’ll write a great whoosh of thousands that will tumble out of you. The next day you might be back to one word every ten minutes, but the whoosh will come back.
Get a first draft down. Even if it’s utter rubbish, get the draft down. It’s much easier to work on a rubbish draft than it is a blank page.
Don’t let anyone see it until you finish it. You need to get what is in your head down first and then tweak it. People will interfere and make you lose confidence, which is death to anything creative. Wait until your draft is pretty solid before exposing it to the cold eyes of a beta reader!
I agree with Marian Keyes series, it is wonderful and she is so open and natural in her approach. It can be found here for those wanting to give writing a try or need some advice.
Thank you Amanda for joining me today, it has been great chatting to you and I hope to read some more of your work in the future.
Amanda Larkman was born in a hospital as it was being bombed during a revolution. The rest of her upbringing, in the countryside of Kent, has been relatively peaceful.
She graduated with an English degree and has taught English for over twenty years. ‘The Woman and the Witch’ is her first novel.
Hobbies include trying to find the perfect way to make popcorn, watching her mad labradoodle run like a galloping horse, and reading brilliant novels that make her feel bitter and jealous.
She has a husband and two teenage children, all of whom are far nicer than the characters in her book.