Review: A Queen from the North

Title: A Queen from the North (A Royal Roses Book)

Authors: Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

Published: 2017

Format: Ebook

Set in an alternate universe where the Wars of the Roses (between the Houses of York and Lancaster) never truly ended, the Unified Kingdom of England, Scotland, and Wales is still caught in the aftermath of the conflict. Arthur, the widowed Prince of Wales, needs to marry again to provide heirs to the throne, but is Lady Amelia Brockett, the daughter of a Yorkist earl and nearly twenty years his junior, the right woman to be the next Queen?

While this is, ostensibly, a romance novel, the romance isn’t the only plot worth following. The novel is as much political drama concerning the history (and the present) between the north (York) and south (London) of England, as well as the Commonwealth, as it is about the two people trying to navigate through courtship and engagement in the eyes of not only their family and friends, but also the public and the press.

Admittedly, for me, the political drama could be more intriguing than the romance, but that might just be my inner history nerd trying to parse together the differences between this novel’s universe and the English history we are all familiar with. While the Battle of Bosworth Field happened (ending the reign of Richard III and the Yorkist camp), history is altered from there. And while it would be easy to make comparisons between things happening in the novel and events happening today, they are still grounded in the history of the world the authors created, making them fit into the novel as organic events, not thinly veiled commentary on our world.

As for the main couple, Prince Arthur and Lady Amelia, they were believable as well. Well rounded, flaws and all, the authors made them human enough that the reader became invested in their lives and their world. And it appears there may be more books to come in this series, which has me excited. And maybe hoping to get a little more of the history of the world, if only for my inner history nerd’s happiness.

I give it 5 pages.

Book Review – 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Title: Marvel 1602

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Artwork: Andy Kubert & Reinhard Schweizer

Format: Graphic novel/comic collection

Published:  2004

1602 is a collection of 8 parts that operate under a very interesting premise – what if all the Marvel characters start their stories 500 years too soon? – written by the incredible Neil Himself Gaiman.   The story starts with a girl on a boat – 14-year-old Virginia Dare and her protective Indian guide on her way back to England to ask Queen Elisabeth for more money for the Roanoke colony.  At the same time, King James and the Inquisition are both trying to get all the freaks killed.

After that, there is *a lot* that goes on, and honestly, I think that it loses a little something if you’re not really into the comics.  For instance, Hawkeye makes an appearance as an apprentice… named Peter.  And if you weren’t really into Hawkeye or you missed the one offhanded comment that made you go… Oh, wait a minute!… you’d probably miss it.

So, truth be told, I missed most of them.  I mean, Thor was pretty easy, since he came down as, um, Thor.  But was that other one Arachne, Spider Woman or Black Widow?  And if it was Black Widow, who was the other one that I *thought* was Black Widow?  I’m pretty sure those are the X-Men, but I couldn’t name all of them, and even my Ultimate Marvel Character Guide isn’t helping with some of these.  Others aren’t so hard to come up with – Doom, Strange and Banner are called Doom, Strange and Banner, for instance.

Since this is a graphic novel/set of comics, let’s talk about the artwork for a minute.  The artists used a combination of techniques that made the art title pages (there are eight, one for each of the original parts) look like old wood carvings, and really gave the collection a feel of old 17th century artwork.  But some of the illustrations came out a bit odd.  For instance, Queen Elisabeth looks a bit like a groupie for Insane Clown Possee in a couple of them.  And because of the techniques, we lose a lot of the details that we expect in a graphic setting.  Not going to lie, it’s the only reason I read these – for the artwork that accompanies.

So although I give the story a four, I have to give the overall a three out of five.   If you’re into Marvel, don’t miss it, but otherwise, you’ll miss a lot.



Bonus: Book Review – Dementional by Tonya Cannariato

Title: Dementional
Author: Tonya Cannariato
Format: Paperback
Written & Published: 2012

Mark Inman has two loves: particle physics and Sarah. Just moments after the wedding, his Higgs Bossom program work goes terribly terribly wrong, and he leaves his very new bride with the promise that he won’t miss his wedding night.

Except he soon finds himself in another universe, seemingly parallel to his, where he’s a lizard-esque creature instead of human.  Sarah’s still there, and she’s just laid three eggs, which they start to care for.  When he soon finds himself in another universe, where he’s closer to human, although able to climb and with much less body hair than he expected (note, I think they put this line in so you knew he wasn’t a monkey, but it seemed really weird to me), and it’s before his wedding to Sarah, and he has his parents and a brother (that he didn’t have in ‘reality’ or any other dimension)…

I’ll stop there.  The book is written in first person, and there’s not that much dialogue.  So for most of this, you’re getting the observations of the main character.  Unfortunately in this book, the main character is a scientist, thinks like a scientist, and talks like a scientist, so if you like big words that you’ve probably never had the need to use ever in normal life, you’re going to love this, because every now and then, the author throws one in that just kind of stops the flow of reading.  I don’t know if it’s the case of the author trying too hard or what.  (I’ll let you in on a secret about me – I’ve read thousands of books in my life, but I somehow managed to suck at spelling and vocab, so I hate reading books that feel like I need to keep a dictionary handy just in case…)

Regardless of the author’s intent, this comes across really stiff.  What I felt like I was missing was the emotion of what was going on.  All of a sudden the MC is a lizard, and all we get is “I need to find Sarah, and observe this new life.”  I wanted to feel what he was going through, suddenly being a lizard and all.  Also, some of the details that he feels the need to tell us just seem weird to me.  (Did we really need to know that he could adjust his wedding garb properly so he could get to his junk if he needed to pee?)

Also, there were jumps in story that really bothered me.  For example, a character that was introduced in one jump was in another jump, and there was no surprise that she existed whatsoever.  I would have at least expected a comment that said something like “oh, so she was here too…”

If you know nothing about the publishing industry and don’t want to, skip this paragraph.  But I got the book, and the first thing I noticed was that the margins were wrong and the paragraphs had an extra blank line between them but no tabbing.  Also, the font was not one we usually see in books anymore – I think it was Times New Roman; the font as sort of gone out of style in the past decade.  Another red flag was that the cover price was only $7.99.  I know that if you don’t know the business you might not understand, but the book is underpriced for the average market.  This is usually a dead give-away that there is something amateurish about the production of the product.  (Or, if not, you’re presenting your product this way and hurting yourself.)  Unfortunately in this case, it’s not just perception.  Oh, and I handed the book to a couple of other author buddies that are published together on a small press, and said “looking at formatting alone, would you read this book?”  They noticed more things than I did.

There’s also the issue of the title.  “Dementional” is not a word.  “Dimensional” is, as is “Demential” (although spellcheck doesn’t think so), and either would have worked in this case.  Clearly, I am very irked by little details.  If there was a reference in the book to why that was the title, I didn’t see it.

Also, for the record, I talked to somebody who has seen Cannariato’s other book, and she said the formatting in the other one is beautiful, so I don’t know what happened to this one to fall so far off the mark.

My summation is this.  If you’re an analytically and/or scientific person, or you yourself have traveled to the lizard dimension via a bump on the head, I think you’ll like this more than I did.  There were a few things the author did that needed a bit of tweaking.  And I very seriously think the layout issues need fixed for future printings of this book (which the author should totally do).  With that said, I think if you catch it laying around and need something to read, it’s fine.  Because of that, I’ll put it solidly in the three out of four pages rating.

I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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