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Daughter of Mystery (Novel of Alpennia) Paperback – February 18, 2014
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It's set in the fictional country of Alpennia, but the backstory is soundly based on real European history and life in the 18th century, and the details ring true. I'm especially fond of the magic, found in the Alpennian world through the intercession of the saints -- it's just that some people have a "talent" for being able to get more results from their prayers to the saints than others. This is very well thought out, and as a bonus, the magical events are breathtakingly beautiful and meaningful.
As a swashbuckling novel, there are the classic inheritance conflicts, mysterious parentage, swordplay, political dangers, dastardly plots, romance, and a manuscript that contains key revelations. The romance is sweet and true, but hardly free from obstacles: it's important to the plot, but there's so much else going on that it's not the only important thing. It's also very discreet, with curtains drawn gracefully over any bedroom scenes.
There is resolution at the end -- no cliffhangers -- but there are dozens of intriguing loose ends that I'm sure will lead to several more books in this delightful world. I've already heard hints of the next one.
There's magic, sacred mysteries, a sword-wielding bodyguard named Barbara and the young woman she is charged to protect. These two protagonists just happen to find scholarly pursuits more pleasurable than the balls, parties and dinners of social and political intrigue that form the daily fabric of a society on the verge of determining royal succession. The plot and the love story, as well as the subplot and the back-story revolve around the disputes inherent in this royal succession. The fabric of this story is woven so intricately and tightly that the measured intrigue of Alpennia's current woes is the perfect counterpoint to the wild abandon that couples our two heroines even as they must pretend to invoke the measured responses--to everything--their stations in society demand.
The two protagonists step gingerly amidst the potential faux pas and gaffes of untested ground as they realize they are falling madly in love with one another. They discover, through a series of misunderstandings, miscommunication and mystique that their love can only go forward once they conquer their individual fears about one another and their chosen, rather than assigned, place in society. It is an altogether lovely, alluring dance of fate and destiny propelled by their uneven social status, their absolute shared love of intellectual pursuits and the blessed and sacred reverence they share for the holy Mysteries they study. But it is the social status that becomes both a bridge and a wall to their desire to live together. Jones's sumptuous storytelling talents are both pioneering and brilliant. The bewitching intersection of magic and sacred texts mirrors gorgeously the same tantalizing matrix of illusions and realities between the two lovers.
I adore the writing talent of Heather Rose Jones; it is at once sublime and down-to-earth in a way one might not expect of the complicated subject matter. It is, amongst other things, a mystery book.
The author takes you on the journey with the two lovers without compromising the privacy of their most intimate moments while still leaving you privy to their innermost thoughts, desires and passions. That alone is quite an accomplishment of subtlety, finesse and masterful artistic impression. If you always must have full descriptive sex scenes in your reading, this book is probably not for you. But for those who want their sacred and profane in a more nuanced and sensual interpretation, read Daughter of Mystery today! There isn't a page you won't want to turn, not a scene you're willing to miss--and many you will want to reread and revisit. And I do mean revisit: I was completely sorry when this book ended because the adventure pulls one in, mesmerizes the senses, fulfills the romantic promise and doesn't let go; the adventure was as real as the five stars this books deserves, and really, five stars aren't enough.
The chapters switch between the two main characters while time mostly progressing in each. There is often overlap as each experience different adventures during the same time. They are two complex women and HRJ has woven them into a world full of wonder and nuance. The naming is quite innovative and
The writing was fun to read and showed the many diverging areas with our world. Not actual time was wasted in massive exposition (as in science fiction technicalities) with fanciful explanations and rationalizations. Things simply are and are explained as needed to those cast members that lacked the talent to see or experience a particular complexity.
I recommend this book, and its author, to any that delight in alternate worlds with more complex realities than merely our own. Please read about two charming and complex women and their path, side by side.
I recommend it.