April 21, 2014

Book Review—The Queen’s Handmaid

From the servant halls of Cleopatra's Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.

Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC

Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.

But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she's had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.

Trapped among the scheming women of Herod's political family-his sister, his wife, and their mothers-and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.

* * * * *

The Queen’s Handmaid is the second book I’ve read by Tracy Higley. Honestly, I enjoyed City on Fire a bit better than this book. I don’t think I was truly able to get into it until about the last third to quarter of the book when the plot really picked up. It took place over quite a long period of time—several years. I think this may have somewhat distanced me from the characters since such large chunks of time were skipped. And it felt as though it lacked the action was I was hoping for.

All that said, it was still a fascinating read. I have not read much about this particular time period. It brings in many historical figures—Cleopatra, Herod, and Marc Antony just to name a few—and they are very prevalent characters in the story. Many of them even have POV scenes. That alone is fascinating. And I love how she tied the story in with the magi at Jesus’s birth.

Though it felt (to me) as if it dragged a bit, and I had a little trouble warming up to the characters, I very much recommend the book, if only for the amazing history involved in it. If you’re looking for fiction that really gets into the details and way of life of the time period, Tracy Higley is the one to go to. She does an amazing job of setting the scene and making you feel like you’re really there without going overboard on boring description. It was definitely worth my time to read. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers free in exchange for my honest review.

April 11, 2014

Resistance Cover Reveal + Giveaway

Today is a moment I’ve been anxiously awaiting for probably the last two years or so—the reveal of the cover for Resistance, the first book in my NA (New Adult) fantasy series, Ilyon Chronicles (published under my pen name Jaye L. Knight)! Seriously, it really has been that long. I started putting the cover together very shortly after I started writing the book almost three years ago. I was always very excited about it, and now I can finally show everyone!
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00026]
This is personally my favorite cover I’ve ever put together so far. Between the forest background and the gold and black sword, it fits the story so perfectly. I certainly had fun tweaking it over the last couple of years. (I will be posting on my “behind the scenes” Ilyon Chronicles blog in a couple of days showing the transformation from the first test cover to the finished version.) And I’m quite excited about how it looks with the rest of the series. Yes, I do have all six covers put together, at least in temporary form, and I desperately wish I could share them all! Sadly, that will have to wait. But I can tell you that all six books will have the same torn paper at the top as well as the swirly border in the background to tie each of the six books together.
My main vision for the covers of this series was to have them be simple, but bold. That seems to be a trend with a lot of popular mainstream fantasy novels these days like Game of Thrones, and I thought it would work well with Ilyon Chronicles.
Below you can read the back cover text, and as an added bonus, I’m sharing a short excerpt from the book. Also, be sure to enter the giveaway for one of two of my handmade sword bookmarks inspired by the cover! And check out what others are saying on the blogs listed here.
The Kindle version of Resistance will release on May 20th. I will do my best to have the paperback ready at the same time, though it may get delayed depending on how the first proof copy turns out. (Cover colors can be tough to get to print just right.) To celebrate the release, there will be a week long blog tour May 20-27. It will include reviews, interviews, a giveaway, and more! Mark your calendars, and check the blog tour page in May for more information. Hope to see you there!
About the Book
“Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.”
Could God ever love a half-blood all of society looks upon with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape.
Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair and her twin brother live every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God.
Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are endangered. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance.
      Just when he lowered his guard enough to relax, a grating voice sent tension knotting across his shoulders.
      “Look what the excitement dragged into town.”
      Jace ground his teeth together and turned. He should never have stopped watching his back. Wrong move on his part.
      Flanked by two of his smug-faced friends, a red-haired young man smirked at him, his eyes harboring all sorts of ill will. Jace barely bit back a sharp retort, but the other man’s smirk only grew at his silence. He peered around Jace.
      “Rebekah, what are you doing with this . . .” He glanced back to Jace and turned up his wide nose. “. . . half-blood?”
      Jace balled his fists. Warmth seeped down his arms and into his muscles, pulsing with the preparation for a fight, but he fought to still it.
      Rebekah came to his side, her face set in a frown that looked entirely out of place. “Stop it, Morden.”
      He gave her a condescending little grin. “Why don’t you run along? We’ve got business here.” The grin stretched wider. “I’ll gladly come find you later.”
      Rebekah put her hands on her hips, glaring at him, and opened her mouth to speak, but Jace beat her to it.
      “A gentleman would treat a lady with more consideration.”
      Morden snorted. “And what would you know about that?”
      A blaze erupted inside that Jace struggled to contain. He breathed in hard, cursing the impulses he had to battle so often. He couldn’t let it take control of him. Not again.
      “Come on, Jace, we still have to find something for Kalli.” Rebekah’s soft voice quieted his growing agitation, and she tugged lightly on his stiff arm.
    His blood still burned hot in his veins, calling him to action, and was almost too strong to resist. He thought of Rayad who told him time and again to go to Elôm when he struggled like this. He forced himself to turn away from Morden and whispered silently, “Elôm, I need help.”
      But Morden, who must have caught the movement of his lips just before he turned completely, let out an incredulous laugh. “Are you praying?”
      Jace froze. His heart thundered.
      “Who could you be praying to? Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.”
      An evil pang of doubt knifed through Jace’s heart, colder and more painful than the steel of any dagger, and robbed the breath from his lungs. His eyes settled on Rebekah’s face, but it was her pitying expression that caused the weak grip on his emotions to fail. Heat flared in his muscles. He spun around and smashed his fist into the side of Morden’s jaw, sending the man reeling. Regret followed, but it was too late. Morden’s friends caught him by the arms and steadied him as he shook his head to clear his vision.
      Jace dragged deep breaths into his tightened lungs and waited for Morden’s next move. Just walk away. The silent plea went out in desperation. If only it would just end here. But satisfaction lit Morden’s eyes, and his lip curled in a malicious sneer.
Copyright © 2014 by Jaye L. Knight
(U.S. residents only)
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