on April 27, 2012
This isn't the first fictionalized book about ancient Ireland that I have read (Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale, Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel, and Maire all spring to mind), but it is definitely one of the best ones that I have read.
Ciara is an Irish princess who has never felt quite content with the status quo. Raised by her widowed father, in her 15th year she is sent to live with relatives to learn the ways of the ancient Irish court and the even more ancient ways of the Druids. While there, she attracts the attention of 2 young warriors, Aedan and Seamus and, in return, is attracted to Aedan. It may seem like a love triangle waiting to happen but it becomes all the more complicated when, at a Lugnasa fair, she catches the eye of Lorcan, an old enemy of her father, who later exploits the weakness of her father's kingdom to blackmail Ciara's father into giving her hand in marriage.
To further complicate matters, even though Ciara is being tutored in the ways of the Druids, she still finds herself unable to fully embrace their belief system and draws the ire of Ronan, a very powerful Druid high priest. Ciara has the gift of prophecy and Ronan and the other high priests are itching at the chance to exploit this gift -- especially when she foretells the arrival of a stranger who will spell the downfall of the Druids and their gods.
Some inconvenient missteps of the part of Ciara due to this gift if prophecy and inability to fully believe in the gods force her return to her father's kingdom - much to the consternation of both Aedan and Seamus - and it is during this trip back that she is kidnapped by Lorcan who plans to enact his right to be betrothed to Ciara.
Lorcan was one of the most interesting characters in the book. At first glance, he is bad simply for the sake of being bad. However, as the story unfolds the true reason behind Lorcan's wickedness is brought to light and was a twist that I didn't see coming. He may have started out as a caricature but he ends up as a fully 3 dimensional - and reviled - character.
Ciara attempts to escape Lorcan's clutches, and manages to, with the assistance of Aedan who has not stopped looking for her. The 2 manage to spend some time together (:wink wink nudge nudge:) until a powerful geis, or curse, is put upon Ciara by a Druid in Lorcan's household. Because of Ciara's second sight, she gets the message of the geis, return to Lorcan or Aedan will go insane, and decides to not tempt fate (as it were) and returns to Lorcan.
A number of months later, an unknowingly pregnant Ciara, who also studied healing while living at her relatives, has the chance to possibly end her suffering...permanently...and escape Lorcan's clutches when she attends to his grievously injured self. However, she does not and this action serves to be a bit of a detente between the 2. However, how long the peace will last remains to be seen.
The time around the confirmation of Ciara's pregnancy and subsequent of her son is one of upheaval. The prophecy of the foreigner - Patrick - who will spell the end of the old ways has a arrived and Ciara, along with her slave, Eleri, become converts to this new religion.
Lorcan is not amused.
However...what happens next? Well, that's for you to read! I can't go and spoil it all! Where's the fun in that? Plus, you'd be missing out on reading this amazing book that has to be the next best thing to time travel!
Ms. Yancy's love for the setting is abundantly apparent due to the amount of research that must have been done to capture a time and a place that is, to this modern day reader, otherworldly. Add to that the fact that the ceremonies and practices of the ancient Druids were all oral, and rarely, if ever, written down, and you have just upped the ante extraordinarily so.
One drawback, for me, was I did get a bit confused on the timing of everything. While the ancient Celts followed a very seasonal calendar and had holidays that reflected time for the harvest, time for spring, etc, I did find myself sometimes having to go back to exactly figure out what time of year it was supposed to be. However, that was just a minor inconvenience and in the grand scheme of the whole book and might have just been a case of me not fully paying attention when a rough timeline had been plotted out a few pages earlier. I was also left a little confused as to the Anglicization of Patrick's name rather than him being called his Gaelic equivalent. Ms. Yancy also noted fully recognized that there were some grammatical errors so I do appreciate her forthrightness in regards to that. I don't know if it was because I was reading a copy on my Kindle app - and not an actual Kindle - but towards the last few pages, the formatting got a bit wonky. Nothing major and none of the story appeared to be truncated. It was, at most, just a bit distracting. Again, these points did not take away from the overall story, but, grammatical issues and formatting aside, did have me scratching my head just a bit.
I do hope this is the beginning of a multi-book series! The fate of some pretty key supporting characters were left with big question marks so, if this is a series, perhaps they will be the stars of the upcoming books? Despite my confusion over his name, Ms. Yancy's characterization of (St.) Patrick was also very fascinating and to see him also take the lead in some upcoming books would be very welcome as he didn't show up until towards the end in this one.
As this point really didn't fit in with any of my other paragraphs, the arch of the story that revolved around Ciara's medical abilities was also very well researched and thoughtfully included in various parts of the story that called for a healer's touch.
All in all, I am so glad I had the chance to read this book. If you are a fan of historical fiction, like your historical fiction faith-based, and/or have an itch to visit Ireland but find yourself not able to get there just yet, immerse yourself in this book. You will not be disappointed! What are you waiting for? Go download this to your Kindle!
Disclosure: Special thanks to Ms. Yancy for providing a gratis copy for me to read so I could offer an honest review in return. Sometimes, when an author provides a copy of their book to be read, quite frankly, you never know what you're going to get. Thankfully, this is one I can completely and 100% recommend!
on June 3, 2012
A Secret Hope by Renee Yancy
In the year 432 AD druids held the tribal suzerains captive to harsh, ancient laws. Their superstitious, ritual appeasement of ancient gods governed Ireland's ringforts. Life took second place to ritual. Transgression led to loss of life or banishment. Doubting the word of the druids got severely punished. Consequently, people lived in mortal fear of vengeful gods.
Ciara was born into this world as a princess. Her father, Cullen, presided as king of a lesser, but prosperous tribe (or tuath). Ciara, sent to be tutored as a druidess and physician by the druid Tiernan at her foster-father Devin's bigger tuath, had many young warriors courting her, but she only had eyes for one. Who would ultimately win her? Seamus or Aedan? Enter the villian, Lorcan. He vowed to gain revenge against Ciara's father and deceased mother,Riognach, by taking Ciara. Will he succeed? Add St. Patrick into the plot, and.... well you'll have to read it for yourself to find out what happened.
This is no formula historical romance written from two points of view, three at most, with the first kiss at a predictable point only to end at the engagement or wedding. This is no sanitized Christian novel. Oh no, this book is much, much more.
A Secret Hope revolves around the images of darkness and light. The story line tells the tale of kindness and love versus revenge, violence, and superstitious rituals. After a methodical beginning, to establish the era and setting, the novel morphes into a gripping novel. In spite of a complicated storyline,it propels the reader to the end where it skids to a halt leaving the reader wanting more, needing more, like a sequel. This book is in the tradition of literary fiction and well worth wading through. I received A Secret Hope on my Kindle for PC free of charge and am under no obligation to provide a positive review.
*Yancy, Renee (2012-01-24). A Secret Hope (Sword and Spirit Series) (Kindle Location 35). Kindle Edition.
on May 23, 2012
Set in Ireland during the time that Patrick was preaching, a young noblewoman finds herself not believing in the gods of her anscestors. Ciara feels that the gods are empty and that there is something more. She's sent to be fostered at a later age than most noble children and during her fosterage, she learns not only additional healing arts but is also introduced to more druidic training. She also meets and falls in love with Aedan, a young man being fostered by the same family she is. When a vengeful man seeks her as his wife, she agrees only to save those she loves. What follows is a tale of betrayal and yearning for something more.
I enjoyed this book. I'm a sucker for all things Irish. The characters development through the story was well written. Ciara's longing for more than what the ancient gods offer is so much like our own search for Christ. I loved Aedan and that he was willing to give up everything to show how much he loved Ciara. Book 2 will tell the story of Ciara's maid, Eleri, and I look forward to reading it.
on January 11, 2013
A pleasure to read!!! I have never read a book about druids and their way of life. I am soooo glad that I chose this book, it opened up a whole new world. I couldn't put the story down and took every free moment available to discover what was happening on the next page.
In my opinion, the book is well written and VERY educational too. I learned so much historical information about the druid time period. The author must be quite intelligent to have written such a detailed and descriptive book, with all of the historical data and references. Also, without a doubt, it was intriguing and suspenseful, in that there were all sorts of subplots developing as the main plot was being revealed. The love story was truly heartbreaking and touching.
Last but not least, the revelation of a foreign God and His story of hope and redemption absolutely made the book for me. The book made me consider the spreading of the gospel in a whole new way---even though the book is far from being a religious read. I found myself meditating on the courage it must of taken to profess your faith as a christian among the druid society that didn't accept the christian way of life---and would even kill someone who challenged their ways. It also made me think of the first century church sacrifices that were made so long ago. The book truly tapped into a vein of personal growth and redemption. Even if you are not a believer or a christian, per se, this book has so much to offer. It is about a woman struggling to find herself, discovering new passions and beliefs and living under a suppressive, superstitious system that would deny her of any right to believe differently. It was bold and daring and delivers a strong message about fortitude and pressing on even in the darkest of circumstances---something we can all relate too.
As far as having any cons to discuss, I can only mention that I noticed the descriptions were sometimes vivid and lengthy and occasionally I would have to reread the info. to understand what was being described. The book was loaded with so many interesting facts, details and rich text....I didn't want to miss anything and I didn't want to confuse what I was learning with any other concept that was being introduced. I also don't think it is a comprehension thing either. I have a good ability to remember what I have read and learned and am well studied (and NO I didn't worry about the grammar and punctuation here...not my style when I am being casual and just trying to offer a bit of advice on a GOOD READ...plus many more reviews on very different items) THANKS.
Overall, I give this book 4 wonderful stars!!!!