The Literary Horizon: The Plague, The Silver Skull

We’re battling the plague and the realm of Faerie this week on The Literary Horizon!
The Plague, by Joanne Dahme

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From the product description: “In a land overshadowed by death, fifteen year-old Nell’s uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan brings her to act as her double—what young girl wouldn’t want to leave a life of poverty and pretend to be a princess? But when the plague catches up to the royal entourage, thwarting the King’s plan for the princess to marry the Prince of Castile and seal an alliance between their kingdoms, Nell’s life could change forever. Princess Joan’s brother The Black Prince schemes to make the wedding go on declaring Nell will no longer double for Joan, she will become the princess and dupe Prince Pedro into marriage! With the aid and protection of a quirky band of friends—a Spanish minstrel, a monk, a gravedigger, a band of merchants—Nell must evade not only the Black Prince, a practitioner of the dark arts, but the plague as well, as she fights to return to the King and country. Based on historical truth, Dahme beautifully captures the dark terror of a Plague-infested fourteenth century Europe, while bringing to life the daily existence of medieval life for young adult readers.

Plagues, doppelgängers, and fantasy? You had me at doppelgängers.

However, while it’s caught my eye, I’m cautious–a handful of bloggers seem disappointed by it, while other readers seem over the moon for it, especially teen-oriented reviewers like TeenReads. I think it’ll be quite simple fantasy–she even has a “quirky band of friends” along with being a princess’ double, so I doubt the fantasy and the story will be challenging. Some bloggers mention that the fantasy isn’t really well explained, which I’m not too happy about, but the overall consensus appears to be that The Plague is definitely worth a shot.

The Plague was released May 4.

The Silver Skull (Swords of Albion), by Mark Chadbourn

thesilverskull


From the product description: “A DEVILISH PLOT TO ASSASSINATE THE QUEEN, A COLD WAR ENEMY HELL-BENT ON DESTROYING THE NATION, INCREDIBLE GADGETS, A RACE AGAINST TIME AROUND THE WORLD TO STOP THE ULTIMATE DOOMSDAY DEVICE… AND ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND’S GREATEST SPY!

Meet Will Swyfte — adventurer, swordsman, rake, swashbuckler, wit, scholar and the greatest of Walsingham’s new band of spies. His exploits against the forces of Philip of Spain have made him a national hero, lauded from Carlisle to Kent. Yet his associates can barely disguise their incredulity — what is the point of a spy whose face and name is known across Europe?

But Swyfte’s public image is a carefully-crafted facade to give the people of England something to believe in, and to allow them to sleep peacefully at night. It deflects attention from his real work — and the true reason why Walsingham’s spy network was established.
A Cold War seethes, and England remains under a state of threat. The forces of Faerie have been preying on humanity for millennia. Responsible for our myths and legends, of gods and fairies, dragons, griffins, devils, imps and every other supernatural menace that has haunted our dreams, this power in the darkness has seen humans as playthings to be tormented, hunted or eradicated.

But now England is fighting back!

Magical defences have been put in place by the Queen’s sorcerer Dr John Dee, who is also a senior member of Walsingham’s secret service and provides many of the bizarre gadgets utilised by the spies. Finally there is a balance of power. But the Cold War is threatening to turn hot at any moment…

Will now plays a constant game of deceit and death, holding back the Enemy’s repeated incursions, dealing in a shadowy world of plots and counter-plots, deceptions, secrets, murder, where no one… and no thing…is quite what it seems.”

Yes, this is a book about a magical Cold War between medieval England the realm of Faerie. You can understand why it caught my eye.

Will Swyfte sounds like he can definitely become a figure akin to James Bond, only a fantastical one. I have a crippling weakness for alternate history, and so much alternate history I’ve come across these days is steampunk or sci-fi–fantasy alternate history should be a delicious treat. (Interestingly enough, Elizabethan England is often used as a setting for period fantasy, such as Elizabeth Bear’s Ink and Steel.)

Since The Silver Skull is released next month, the only review available is from RT Times Review, which won’t release the review to the public until a month after publication. It is suitably glowing, however, according to the author’s blog.

The Silver Skull is released November 24.

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