Banned Books Week - September 24 - 30

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review and {Giveaway} of Rebecca Hazell's The Grip of God and Announcing the Solomon's Bride Tour

Today is the official start of Rebecca Hazell's Solomon's Bride Virtual Book Tour, second book in the Tiger and the Dove series. Tracy (Pen and Paper) and I are kicking off the tour with reviews of the first book, The Grip of God. Following my review and information about The Grip of God, you will find the tour information for Solomon's Bride, along with a link to the full tour schedule.


My thoughts on The Grip of God
Historical fiction is a wonderful genre. The reader learns so much about historical times, people, and places that they might not have otherwise learned, especially if the book is well-researched. This book is exactly that. I honestly cannot remember learning of Kievan Rus, even in my many college history classes. In The Grip of God, we are introduced to Sofia, a princess of Kievan Rus. And so the education begins.

The book is set smack dab in the midst of the Mongolian invasion. The Mongols are poised to invade and conquer Kievan Rus and Sofia's father, fearing for her safety, sends her ahead to Constantinople with an army of guards and many peasants in tow. The guards are vigilant in their protection of Sofia, but they prove no match for the mite of the Mongols and their raiding parties. Sofia is captured and taken to a Mongolian ordu where she is made to serve an up and coming Mongolian warrior, Argamon, and become his slave...in more ways than one.

Sofia is very naive and, I must say, uppity in the beginning, but as the book progresses, she grows as a person, both in intelligence and compassion. I really liked Sofia and enjoyed reading of her trials and triumphs, although the latter were few and far between. At the heart of Sofia's transformation is a struggle with her spirituality. Raised as an Orthodox Christian, she finds it difficult to embrace the religious tolerance of the Mongols. Her friendship with Dorje, a translator and Buddhist monk, helps her to somewhat reconcile her conflict. Dorje's words of wisdom and conversations with Sofia really guided her transformation. Sofia also becomes close with Q'ing-ling, Argamon's mother, and receives spiritual guidance from her as well. Below are two passages, the first from Sofia that evidences her spiritual conflict and the second from Q'ing-ling which shows her guidance and compassion.

"The heart must find ways to shield itself, if it is not to turn to rock or be crushed by the woes of this world, but I did not know that yet, and mine found none. I was crushed in another way, by shame that my petty dramas and the pleasures of the flesh had chased away the grief I should be feeling. I must be damned!" (Sofia)

"As to your fear of damnation, I leave it to someone more learned than I am to decide about reward and punishment. But this I know for certain: we cannot act in hope for heaven or fear of hell. Some people choose to live in love and some do not, and some who call themselves Christian do not choose to love." (Q'ing-ling)

The Grip of God is a masterful historical novel. The author has created characters who are real and who invite us to live along with them. The story is engaging, touching and exciting, backed up by rich historical detail. Sofia's story carries on and I'm can't wait to join her again in Solomon's Bride.

About the book
The Grip of God is the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove. Set in the thirteenth century, its heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. She begins her story by recounting her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol armies that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is threatened by the bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family, and shadowed by the leader of the Mongol invasion, Batu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson. How will she learn to survive in a world of total war, much less rediscover the love she once took for granted? Always seeking to escape and menaced by outer enemies and inner turmoil, where can she find safe haven even if she can break free? Clear eyed and intelligent, Sofia could be a character from The Game of Thrones, but she refuses to believe that life is solely about the strong dominating the weak or about taking endless revenge. Her story is based on actual historical events, which haunt her destiny. Like an intelligent Forrest Gump, she reflects her times. But as she matures, she learns to reflect on them as well, and to transcend their fetters. In doing so, she recreates a lost era for us, her readers.

Praise for the trilogy
“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

"I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn't put it down." -- from a review on Amazon.com.

"I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful." --author Dede Crane Gaston

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The second book, Solomon's Bride, is out now and the third in the trilogy, Consolamentum, will be released soon.

Excerpt
December? Anno Domini 1239

An evil dream: weird whistling demons were chasing me. I woke into darkness. It took several moments to realize that the whistling was real. A harsh medley of thuds, cries, groans, shouts, clashing metal, and screams of fear and pain brought me fully awake. Our horses, tethered on the far side of the clearing, were whinnying and jostling each other. The dead stranger’s terrible smell was back.
               
“Kateryna?” I called softly. There was no answer. I crawled out of my furs to waken her. She was gone. Thinking to crawl to my tent flap, I threw my cloak over my shoulders and shakily drew my eating knife from its sheath, but another unearthly shriek threw me flat as something tore through the tent. When I dared to look up, small holes on either wall gleamed like little gray stars. I inched forward to lift the bottom of the flap a little, but at first all I could see was a boot sole. I lifted the flap a little higher.
               
A corpse lay on its back, open eyes glittering in the moonlight, knees bent and boots before my face, its beard obscuring its features. A stick jutted out of its throat—no, an arrow. I dropped the tent flap back down, gulped air, stared at those holes. Where was Oleg? He shouldn’t leave me alone—Good God, this must be a bandit attack and he must be with his warriors fighting it off! But then Kateryna should not be out there. More shouts, screams cut short. Why didn’t Alexander come for me? Should I go or stay?
               
It suddenly grew quiet. Oleg’s warriors must be chasing the attackers from our camp. Nonetheless, I hesitated for an eternity, afraid to pass that corpse in case its angry ghost fastened on me. I began to feel both foolish and cowardly. By now Alexander should have come to make sure I was safe—
               
Dear God, had something happened to him? I awkwardly pulled on my boots, fastened my cloak, and slowly drew aside the tent flap.
               
At first the light from the half-moon transformed the meadow into glowing silver and deep black shapes, lending an eerie beauty to the camp. But then I truly saw. It was as if a tempest had struck: bodies scattered everywhere with arrows thrusting up from most of them, tents askew, goods spilled. Strange men with torches were moving among the fallen, bending over each in turn. A terrible stench struck my nose, a mixture of that dead man’s bad smell, loosed bowels, sweat, and blood. I looked down at the corpse.
               
It was Oleg.
               
Just beyond him lay Kateryna, her arms flung out, a knife in her hand, blood still oozing from a slash across her breast onto the pelt that lay under her like a funeral bed.
               
“No!” I cried. The world went black.
               
An iron hand gripped my arm, twisted me around, and pulled me upright. My head cleared, and a stranger stood before me, so like yesterday’s dead man that for a moment I thought it was his ghost. But this man was very much alive. His slanting eyes glinted down at me, his high cheekbones seemed carved of stone. A pointed, plumed helmet covered his head, animal tails dangling absurdly from its sides; metal-plated leather armor covered his clothing. Worst, though, was that foul odor of stale sweat, dirt, and of blood, old and fresh. Not even a peasant stank like that. He grinned at me.
               
I swung my little knife, but the man-beast knocked it out of my hand with a humorless laugh. Others like him came up, and they all began barking in some hideous dog speech. One of them squatted by Oleg and Kateryna, slit their throats, cut an ear off each as if carving meat for supper, and stowed his bloody relics in a bulging bag.
               
I’d have fainted again, but the man-beast wrenched me upright into painful clarity as he lifted his sword, smirking. With cunning born of terror, I twisted from his grip and fled. He shouted; within moments a pack of those dogs was so close behind me that I could almost feel their breath on my neck. Rabbit-like, I bounded one way and another, jumping over corpses and dodging felled tents, slipping right past one man, to his dismay and the hoots of his companions, but they rapidly encircled and then closed in on me until I had nowhere to go. I was panting with fear and frustration, and they were laughing!
               
The circle parted. The warrior who had first found me stepped into it, followed by another with a torch. He glared at me as he marched up, wicked sword in hand, reached out and gripped my arm so hard it nearly broke off, shook me like a rag, forced me onto my knees, yanked my hair up, and raised his sword once again. I closed my eyes, waiting for the sword to strike.
               
The blow never came.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of the post below to enter for a chance to win a Kindle copy of The Grip of God by Rebecca Hazell! (Open Internationally)


Solomon's Bride Virtual Book Tour - May 15 - June 13
Author and Tour Information

About the book
Solomon's Bride is the dramatic sequel to The Grip of God. Sofia, the heroine, a former princess from Kievan Rus' was enslaved by a Mongol nobleman and then taken as a concubine by the leader of the Mongol invasions, Batu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Now, having fled the Mongols with a price on her head, Sofia escapes into Persia and what she believes will be safety, only to fall into the clutches of the Assassins, who seek to disrupt the Mongol empire. In a world at war, both outer and inner, the second phase of her adventures unfolds. Can she ever find safe haven, much less the lost love and family that was almost destroyed by the Mongols?

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The second book, Solomon's Bride, is out now and the third in the trilogy, Consolamentum, will be released soon.


About the author
Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:
Website | Goodreads | Facebook

Visit the Official Tour Schedule

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.

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5 comments:

I apologize for word verification, but I turned it off and had close to 50 spam comments within 12 hours (nobody has time for that) so I had to turn it back on. Sorry!

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  1. Glad you asked that question. No, I have never read about the Mongolian Invasion. I love Historical Fiction too. Ofter, i find myself stuck in a period of American or European History. That means I miss learning about other periods in History. I would love to win and read this novel. A long time ago I went to the movie with friends to see a movie titled Taras Bulba. Yul Bryner was the main actor. I think that was about a Mongolian invasion. May be I'm wrong. I'll have to look up the movie to see. Sorry if a few words are misspelled.

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  2. I have heard of the Mongolian invasion, but not Kievan Rus .

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  3. I have heard of the Mongolian invasion and my only familiarity with Kievan Rus was on a trivia quiz just the other day! could do with a read I think!

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  4. Jennifer ConwellsMay 19, 2014 at 5:25 AM

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  5. MaryKate SullivanMay 19, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    I've never heard of Kievan Rus! I love finding out that I don't know something because then it gives me a chance to read and learn more about it. I also love when authors write historical fiction about little-known events or places. What an exciting idea for a book! Thank you for the giveaway.

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