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Kingdom of Shadows by Barbara Erskine

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Location: U.S.

Kingdom of Shadows by Barbara Erskine

Postby JaneConsumer » Fri September 5th, 2008, 8:36 pm

My earlier review, reposted here:

Since childhood Clare Royland has been haunted by dreams of Isobel, the Countess of Buchan, mistress of Robert the Bruce. And now she has stumbled on a way to enter the past ... a mysterious pathway into a misty era. Ignoring every warning, Clare will return to Duncairn, her family's castle in the Scottish Highlands. And once there her life will become irrevocably linked to the fiery Isobel's as she is swept into a maelstrom of ancient treachery and modern hatred fueled by an insatiable hunger for power, and the raging passions of an undying love.

The paths of a strong-willed late 13th/early 14th century woman named Isobel and Clare, a modern day woman, cross in this paranormal historical romance. Isobel, the Countess of Buchan during Robert the Bruce's struggle for power, disappeared from the records of history during 1313, according to the author's note. In this story, she is the Bruce's mistress.

Clare is a naive, wealthy, pampered, and yet, unloved 20th century woman struggling to come to terms with her inability to have children as well as frightening dreams involving Isobel. She's married to a guy who would win awards for sociopathic behavior, if any existed. She escapes the disappointing reality of her world through meditation.

The lives of these two women run parallel. Both struggle in unhappy marriages, although Clare doesn't immediately realize she's unhappy in her marriage. Both escape many dangers. One is strong; one is weak. Yet through time, they help each other survive their hardships.

This is a strange story that flips the reader back and forth between the time periods of the two women. It comprises two stories in one, held together by something supernatural. The story itself suggests a haunting and possession. There's even a half-hearted exorcism. But the ending leaves no doubt as to the outcome of the attempt.

Nonetheless, this being a romance, Clare has a HEA ending. Isobel does not. But, then, her real life was difficult, and no one knows what happened to her after the English returned her to the custody of her husband.

Paranormal isn't my cup of tea. I like romance, as long as it isn't silly or completely unbelievable. So, with these caveats in mind, I give it 3.5/5 stars. It's about 200 pages too long. (The story picked up for me around page 300.) The characterizations of the historical figures were credible. The fiction - Isobel's love affair with Robert the Bruce - was interesting and fit with what is known about him.

Recommended for fans of historical romance, particularly with a supernatural element.

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Location: Travelers Rest SC

Postby Leyland » Tue September 23rd, 2008, 7:37 pm

I read it a few years ago and remember the story as very intriguing. It's indeed a paranormal historical romance in regards to Jane's recommendation.

While I can't identify with Clare's life at all (I'd have shot the @$$ or at least fed him some Exlax laxative brownies), I did appreciate Erskine's invented and real-life characters and her development of both the modern and historical settings for the complex situations in which the characters found themselves. And, of course, I had to find out more about Isobel and her life after I finished reading her fictionalized story.

I've kept it and intend to read it again someday. Erskine's become a favorite of mine and whenever anything new of hers is published, I try to get right on it.
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams ~ Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Ode

Location: Scotland

Postby Mara » Tue September 23rd, 2008, 9:11 pm

I read it a couple of years before I moved to Scotland and of course had to read up all about the real characters after this. ;)

At the time it was one of my favourite novels, and I followed it with others by the author but grew tired of the similarities - present time girl meets past time girl. Still, this is one I've had good memories of.

It's still on my bookshelf so I might give it a try again soon.

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Currently reading: Jonkvrouw - Jean-Claude Van Ryckeghem
Interest in HF: I love history
Favorite HF book: Can't pin that down to only 1 :-)
Preferred HF: Medieval, Tudor and Ancient Egyptian
Location: Ghent, Belgium

Postby Carine » Wed September 24th, 2008, 6:31 am

I read it not so long ago. I agree with Jane that it could be shortened although I did enjoy it.
I loved the parts back in history but got frustrated with that terrible man, Clare's husband and with Clare herself too for being so naive and not fighting back more.

I have a few more of Barbara Erskine's books on my shelf but I'm not reading them one after the other, that way I won't get tired of the timeslip theme I think. :)
Last edited by Carine on Wed September 24th, 2008, 6:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Currently reading: A Trail through Time by Jodi Taylor & Angel by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Wed September 24th, 2008, 10:43 am

I read this ages ago and enjoyed it although I agree that it's probably a bit too long (have you read Child of the Phoenix? that's endless!), I also hated Claire's husband but he's a typical baddie and I'm glad he finally got his come-uppance. I like timeslip novels and think BE does them very well, some of her later books are ghost stories (House of Echoes, Midnight is a Lonely Place) and I always look forward to a new book by her.

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Postby Carla » Wed September 24th, 2008, 1:38 pm

I read this a while ago. I remember I was most interested in Isobel, and I got so fed up with Clare that I ended up skimming most of her story. It's a great shame, or possibly a blessing, that history doesn't record what really happened to Isobel MacDuff. I first met her in Nigel Tranter's Bruce Trilogy, and I would really, really like to imagine that she had some happiness in her life after all the awful things she had to endure.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
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Currently reading: A Trail through Time by Jodi Taylor & Angel by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Fri September 26th, 2008, 11:04 am

Yes I always prefer the historical side of this type of books to the present-day story, the past is much more interesting!

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