Author – Lucy Holland
Pages – 416
A very well written, charming historical fiction-fantasy with interesting characters and an obvious passion for the history and folklore, which shines throughout.
Dark Ages Britain is a compelling yet challenging time period to set your story – there isn’t quite so much documented history as the commonly visited Medieval period, but this gives you an emptier canvas to craft your tale.
What Lucy Holland has achieved with Sistersong is to take advantage of both the history available and the emptier canvas, whilst weaving fantasy elements throughout.
A Passion for the Setting
The story glows with Lucy’s own imprint and ideas whilst somehow also feeling like she’s read every book on the time period and travelled back there in a time machine for a holiday. What’s especially important though is that she also has an obvious love and passion for the history and folklore, which rubs off on you as a reader.
This passion permeates through from the main plot to the cultural aspects, society and attitudes and any other element featured. Saying that, societal attitudes of the time do play a big role in the main plot.
This isn’t a story in which the author has just read about some of the places, laws of succession and types of warfare and thought it enough to give an air of authenticity. Lucy Holland has made sure every minor detail is legit, and that really creates a feeling of immersion and a reassurance that you are in capable hands as you travel through the book.
The book is inspired by the folk song The Two Sisters, though I’d never heard of it before. It’s quite apt that the book should be based on a folk song as Holland’s prose has that flowing quality to it.
I looked up the lyrics and I really like how the author has adapted it, using the song to structure the skeleton of a story in places whilst also delving more deeply into the words too. There are other nods to folklore though; most notably perhaps being the character of Myrddhin who has some parallels with the similar namesake from Arthurian legend and is one of my favourites in this, with a very fresh take on the character.
The three main characters are the titular siblings, two sisters and a brother, Keyne – who is born a sister.
Goodreads cynics, of which there are many, might jump to premature conclusions about the trans inclusion. I’m without an intimate knowledge on trans issues or the trans experience but I can with confidence say that this is done very delicately, thoughtfully and essentially to the story the author wanted to tell. Identifying as the opposite sex to the one you were born in isn’t new, and it’s enlightening to experience this perspective through the lens of a historical setting.
There is also disability representation through Riva, with this playing a big part in her mindset and the way she approaches things in life. It’s refreshing to have these representations seamlessly feature in a historical novel and one that is already looking to be a popular book.
Sinne’s chapters didn’t engage me quite as much, but that was I feel more due to my own preferences rather than any lack of quality in the writing. It was also possibly due to Keyne’s chapters being noticeably the strongest of the three.
Tristan is another engaging character I feel most readers will enjoy, with a well developed and fleshed out character beyond the stereotypical warrior whilst Gildas represents everything deplorable about the oppressive patriarchy bearing down on our characters and I loved to hate him.
A dynamic that worked really well was because you have POV chapters for each sibling, you see them through their own eyes, their thoughts and feelings and you also see their actions from the POV of the other two siblings. The character you have spent a chapter with is then a secondary character seen through the eyes of a new protagonist in effect.
I enjoyed the fact that aswell as being quite character driven, looking at the inner thoughts and feelings of the three siblings in particular, there was action too, and it was really exciting. Especially towards the end of the book, things gather a lot of pace. In addition to this, you realise very clearly that the author has made you care about a number of characters!
Despite some mature themes I feel the book would be entirely suitable for young adults too, and there is a bit of something in there for fans of a variety of genres and sub genres. It’s also a book that does have those fast page turner chapters aswell as those sit in the park and enjoy the prose chapters.
Overall, it was a book I very much enjoyed, with many aspects that felt really unique and cleverly thought out.
A lot of hard work has gone into writing this book, but there’s no work involved in reading it – sit back and enjoy.
Thankyou to Jamie-Lee Nardone and Black Crow PR for the copy of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review!
535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.
Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.
Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter.
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.
All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.