Muse's Books (muse_books) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Muse's Books

Books 136-137 (2011): The House of the Wind and The Dark Mirror

These two novels were my final reads for 2011 up to the end of November. I did start a few books in December but to date they remain unfinished.

Book 136: The House of the Wind.
Author: Titania Hardie, 2011
Genre: Romance Historical/contemporary. Mystery.
Other Details: Hardback. 458 pages

In contemporary San Francisco, lawyer Maddie Moretti is in mourning following the sudden death of her fiancé. Her grandmother encourages her to visit Tuscany in order to connect to her ancestral roots and to find healing. There she becomes fascinated by the mystery of a ruined villa that had been destroyed centuries ago in a legendary storm on the Eve of St. Agnes. It has been known ever since as the Casa al Vento—the House of the Wind. In Tuscany 1347, Mia is a young woman who has refused to speak following the death of her mother. She now lives with her beloved aunt. One night a young couple seek refuge in their villa and Mia becomes fascinated by the radiant young bride who refuses to reveal her name.

I felt this was an excellent example of a novel in which contemporary and historical settings are skilfully interwoven. It is not an easy task but it is one that I felt Titania Hardie accomplished. She takes her time in developing her characters and settings, which may not be to everyone's taste but this pace suited my mood perfectly. Hardie also exhibits her extensive knowledge of myth, legend and esoteric symbolism with confidence and grace. She handles Maddie's bereavement with insight and compassion. I enjoyed it very much, appreciating it on various levels.

Book 137: The Dark Mirror (The Bridei Chronicles 1).
Author: Juliet Marillier, 2004.
Genre: Historical Fantasy. Scotland.
Other Details: Paperback. 670 pages.

Bridei is a young nobleman fostered at the home of Broichan, one of the most powerful druids in the land. It becomes clear that Broichan has long term plans for Bridei. Then Bridei's world changes forever when he discovers an abandoned child on their doorstep one MidWinter Eve; a child who appears to be one of the Fair Folk. Broichan is deeply wary of the child but Bridei insists that she be allowed to remain in the household. Thus, Bridei and Tuala grow up together, inseparable friends. However, as they grow to maturity other factors come into play that threaten to separate them forever.

This was my first encounter with Juliet Marillier's writing and I found that I was drawn very quickly into the rich world she was creating. The story of Bridei coming to manhood within the household of the Druid Broichan, had echoes of Arthur and Merlin as did the ongoing interaction with the old gods of the land and the Fair Folk. I was even more impressed when I reached the end of the novel and read her end notes that advised that this was a tale based on the life and times of the real-life Sixth Century Bridei I of the Picts.

I quite consciously took my time reading this novel, reading a little each night before sleep. It impressed me deeply and I certainly plan to continue with the Chronicles as well as her other writings. Her story-telling style just clicked with me and it is obvious from the many glowing reviews that her other writings are considered equally as good. It is a delight to discover such a writer.

Juliet Marillier's Page on 'The Dark Mirror'
Tags: contemporary, fantasy, historical fiction, historical romance

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