I love reading, there’s no hiding that. I’m the type of person who will continue to buy novels even when I have a stack waiting at home. It’s just something I cannot help, and not something I want to control. Therefore, when I was contacted by Unbound.com, a wonderful community that dedicates itself to getting authors published through crowdfunding, I knew I wanted to be involved. I was asked to read and review The Book of Bera, their latest and upcoming novel due to be released on the 23rd March 2017. I was sent the press paper and I was instantly intrigued: a historical fantasy story which follows Bera on her path. But where this path will lead, neither her nor her twin-spirit are sure.
So, the story itself? *Warning*- The following paragraph may contain some spoilers.
The story starts with Bera, the daughter of clan leader Ottar – they live in a coastal village where they trade their boats to survive. A keen sailor herself, she is distraught when her father tells her she is not allowed to sail and capture the Narwhale. However, her rebellious nature takes her out onto her boat; accompanied by her best friend Bjorn, and others. Eventually they capture the beast, but they run into enemy hands, who demand she hands over the Narwhale, as its tusk has the healing qualities all the tribes desire. She refuses initially, this is until Bjorn is killed at the hands of Thorvald. Vowing revenge, she returns to her land to find her father has sold her in marriage to Hefnir, the chief of their rival clan. Realising she must live in the village with the man who killed Bjorn she vows revenge. Once there she faces many new trails, should she revenge the death of Bjorn or stand up and become the leader she was born to be?
From the beginning of the novel you immediately get the sense of misery and despair. Bera lost her mother at a young age and this has affected her deeply. We begin to feel for Bera as a character and her heartache becomes our own. Her skills as a Valla are important to her, but unfortunately they seem scarce and she is unable to use them at her will – as her mother once had. Her connection with her mother is deep, but her regret and anger at not being able to use her skills in the way that she wishes too, is obvious and you begin to feel the anger that she has about this.
What struck me about the writing of this novel is how fast I was thrown into a new age, a different world entirely to the one that I am used to. Full of different places, animals, beasts and of course the main difference, the power Bera has as a Valla. The way the author captured the world within the story, is amazing. There’s a slight hint of humour and her relationship with her step-son is one that I have found the most intriguing. Initially hatred harboured between the two, but this eventually lessons at the mutual understanding of loss – both have lost their mothers and so lean on each other in different ways. Heggi, her step-son, leans on Bera as a new mother figure, though his reluctance at the start to accept her is classic behaviour for most children who have lost a parent. Bera’s love and affection for Heggi grows and I find myself craving these moments more.
Bera’s vision of a looming disaster is what drives the final stage of the plot. It is what brings her character to life and allows me to fall in love with her. The only issue I had with the book is Bera’s attraction to Dellingr, the blacksmith. She falls in love with him, or the idea of him, very early in the book. She begins to find excuses to see him but at no point has he hinted that he may feel the same way at her. Her infatuation with him is, perhaps, slightly far-fetched but may be what was needed to show that she is human, that she has a heart, and that she has been thrown into a marriage she did not want.
It is the ending however, that really makes this book special, there will be no spoilers here but from every angle there is something exciting happening in the world that Bera lives. She is headstrong, angry, passionate, and also human. She is an intriguing complex character, and I am excited to see where the rest of the story will lead within the next book.
I cannot recommend this book enough to those who love historical fantasy. It is a book whose complexity will thrill likeminded readers!
What’s your favourite book of the moment?