An Almond for a Parrot, by Wray Delaney

Wray Delaney has concocted a delightfully scandalous historical fantasy in An Almond for a Parrot. In this wild tale, Tully Truegood tells us about her strange life—from her less than auspicious beginnings on London’s Milk Street as the daughter of a drunkard to the reason she is sitting in prison about to face trial for murder. Along the way there are chases, kidnappings, salacious details about life in a brothel, true love, ghosts, and magic.

I had no idea what I was in for when I started reading An Almond for a Parrot. The beginning of the book introduces us to Tully, who is pregnant and accused of murder, before taking us back to her tough life on Milk Street. Tully—who introduces many chapters with recipes—was mostly brought up by her drunken father’s cook before he noticed her when she turned 12. Being noticed by her father was not a good thing. Before she knew it, she was married off to a boy scarcely older than she was in a half-cocked plan to net her father some money. Tully’s next turning point is when she meets her father’s second wife (another half-cocked plan) and later learns that the woman is a madam.

As if all this weren’t enough for one life, Tully also sees ghosts and can make them appear to other people. Her growing abilities are a constant sub-plot running through the book. After she makes her escape from her father’s house, Tully is taken in by her ersatz step-mother and her conjuring partner—which leads to a dual career as prostitute and magician (though she and the conjurer never use that title for themselves). Tully is often a terrible prostitute. Not because she hates the work. (She is rather fond of the act.) The problem is that Tully keeps falling in love with her clients. Before the plot gets more sinister, the first half of the book is wryly funny.

I would have thought combining an already exciting plot with a weirder one would have overstuffed this novel, but it doesn’t, for some reason. It just added spice to the novel. If nothing else, the magical elements made for a thrilling (if slightly too-convenient) ending. After a couple of rough readsAn Almond for a Parrot was a very enjoyable read. Though it delves into some dark topics, it was original, daring, and quite fun. I look forward to whatever Wray Delaney comes up with next.

I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration. It will be released 28 February 2017.

The Butcher’s Hook, by Janet Ellis

Curiosity is a dangerous thing—especially when it’s coupled with amorality as it is in Janet Ellis’s The Butcher’s Hook. Anne Jaccob is the oldest daughter of an overbearing father and a mother worn out from childbirth and miscarriage. She’s mostly been left to her own devices up until now. But now that she’s nineteen, her father decides that she’s old enough to marry a rich man. And this is where the mayhem begins.

Anne fell in lust as soon as she laid eyes on the family butcher’s apprentice, Fub. She makes up all kinds of stories to spend time with him at the shop while fending off the attentions of Mr. Onions, the man her father wants her to marry. For most of the book, I thought I was reading a romance novel with pretentions to being literary historical fiction. There is a ton of detail about mid-eighteenth century London where middle to upper class meets the lower to middle class. Mostly, it’s smells and filth.

What makes The Butcher’s Hook something else entirely is the fact that Anne is constantly learning while she makes time with Fub. She learned how to turn something living into something dead. Because of her sense of entitlement and lack of morality, Anne is not afraid to try those lessons out on something that’s not a cow or a pig. To be honest, I had no idea what I was in for when I started this book.

I know that some readers will have a problem with this book simply because Anne is so unlikeable. I didn’t. I’m okay with unlikeable characters as long as there’s something else to hold me in the story. Here, what kept me in the book was watching Anne twist between her lack of moral boundaries and the boundaries imposed on her by her father. No matter what she does, she just can’t seem to get free of the man. And because she can’t get free of Mr. Jaccob, she can’t get free of Mr. Onions. They’re too prominent to kill. Without their support, she’d be homeless and hungry. In spite of this, Anne is killing people who get in her way. I stuck around just to see what would happen.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 10 January 2017.

Ross Poldark, by Winston Graham

Coming home from war is hard. Coming home from war to learn that the woman you love is marrying your cousin, your father has just died, your servants are drunken slatterns, and that you have a lot of work ahead of you to turn around the estate’s fortunes is exponentially harder. It’s little wonder that Ross, of Winston Graham’s 1945 novel Ross Poldark, wrestles with anger for most of the novel. With a set up like that and with such a protagonist, I was expecting a much more brooding novel. I was surprised over and over again at how funny this book is.

As the novel opens, Ross has returned to his family estate in Cornwall. He is a veteran of the American Revolution and bears the scars of battle. Like many veterans, before and since, settling back into civilian life is hard. I suspect, however, that Ross’s personality would have made it hard for him to fit in with the socially stratified community. He belongs by birth to the gentry, but has little time for their manners and amusements. His fastidiousness keeps him from fully joining the commoners. As the novel progresses, it’s clear that the commoners have Ross’s loyalty.

Ross Poldark is a meandering tale of the four years after Ross’s return in 1783 and the point of view often shifts to take in Ross’s family members, servants, and friends. We learn much about the economy of the area and more than I ever wanted to know about the tin and copper mines. We see Ross at his best and his worst. There are moments of high drama and suspense as well as scenes that share much with Austen’s ballrooms. Here and there, Graham will insert a comment about one of the secondary characters that had me snorting with laughter. For example, at a ballroom assembly, one character is described as “Whitworth, a swaggering beau who was doing nothing at Oxford with a view to entering the Church” (70*).

I can’t say I fully came to know Ross in this book. I bonded much more closely with Demelza, spending a lot more time in her thoughts, but the main arc of this book is watching Ross learn to let go of his expectations and anger. Mostly through his relationship with Demelza, who he rescued at age 13 from a group of rough boys, Ross eventually finds happiness with his life as it is—not as he thought he wanted it to be. 

Ross Poldark is just the beginning for this character. The novel ends on an incomplete note and readers are supposed to pick up the next volumes in the series to learn everyone’s fates. The end of the book is not a cliffhanger; it’s more an intermission than anything else.


* Quote is from 2015 Sourcebooks’ kindle edition.

Mr. Eternity, by Aaron Thier

Being a literature major and librarian has given me a more-than-healthy skepticism about what I read and hear. It also means that I read a lot, from nearly every time period and as many places on earth as I can find good books for. Both of these circumstances stood me in good stead as I read Aaron Thier’s Mr. EternityThis novel is one of the most demented accounts of American history and climate fiction that I’ve ever read. At the heart of this story is Daniel Defoe (not that one), a man who claims to have lived for 1,000 years, accompanied a Spanish expedition to El Dorado, survived 29 shipwrecks, stolen and lost countless fortunes, poisoned people back to health, and more.

Daniel—known variously as old Dan, Daniel de Fo, or the ancient mariner—does not tell his story to us directly. Instead, we learn about him via a slave turned prostitute turned translator who lived in a city she claims as El Dorado in 1560, a biracial “bookkeeper” in 1750, a documentary maker in 2016, a hapless sailor in 2200, and the daughter of a president in 2500. The narrators try to make sense of Daniel’s tales through what they know of history. A few, the slave, the sailor, and the president’s daughter, roll with Daniel’s preposterous stories. The bookkeeper recognizes Daniel as a fellow con artist and the documentary maker and his partner just think he’s a crazy old man.

Daniel’s stories are packed with historical figures and half-remembered details. I knew just enough to know how much of it was wrong. But I could also see where Daniel arrived at his version of events. Facts are just a little bit off or mispronounced or incomplete. Daniel’s tales are thrown even further off-kilter when he adds medical or biological trivia. He includes things like the headless man mentioned in Herodotus or lambs that grow from flowers. Before long, I recognized Daniel’s ramblings as a blend of everything he’d done, everything he’d read, and everything he claimed to have done. The president’s daughter, Yasmine, is perhaps the most forgiving of Daniel’s version of events:

I also understood that an equivalent logic extended to his accounts of history. I had the revelation that history was only the rabblehouse of facts and details from which human beings confabulated a sentimental truth. At the best-case scenario, at its truest and most illustrative, history was an effort of imagination, mostly fictive, mostly allegorical, like a story of unrecanted love. (n.p.*)

When Yasmine said this, at almost the halfway point of the book, I stopped fighting with Daniel. I stopped trying to remember what really happened and just went with it, even though I think Daniel is the most frustrating immortal I’ve ever encountered in fiction. His memory is shite.

Summarizing this book is almost impossible because so much happens and doesn’t happen and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. There are similarities between the five narrators’ plot arcs. They all include quests into inhospitable hot, humid places. Most include searching for treasure. All feature disillusionment with governments and institutions. Many of the narrators know secondary characters who go mad to a certain extent from heat, isolation, and/or drugs. Everything is always a bit hazy.

Mr. Eternity is a book to float through. Imposing order will only lead to frustration and, possibly, insanity. Readers who don’t enjoy being lied to and working out what the lies conceal should stay away. Readers who love a puzzle may enjoy the many enigmas littered throughout this story. Just be prepared for an Imperial load of weirdness.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 9 August 2016.

Notes for bibliotherapeutic use: Recommend this book to readers who are too sure of their own opinions.


* Quote is from the publisher’s advanced reader copy. It was not paginated.

The Devil’s Cold Dish, by Eleanor Kuhns

Jealousy is a terrible, powerful emotion. In The Devil’s Cold Dish, Eleanor Kuhns shows us just how destructive that emotion is. Will Rees has just returned from business in Salem, but is unable to settle into a routine. His pregnant wife is the object of rumors that she’s a witch. His sister and brother-in-law will not stop plaguing him for support. His son resents his absences. And then, a man who Will brawled with one morning is later found shot to death. The Devil’s Cold Dish is the fifth novel featuring Will Rees, but even though I haven’t read the other four, I had no problem diving into the book.

Everyone knows Will Rees has a temper. He was notorious in his youth for solving his differences with his fist. That reputation has come back to haunt him now that a man who quarreled with Rees is dead. In spite of the support of the local constable, Rees has to fight an uphill battle with most people to convince them that he’s innocent. The battle gets harder when another man that Will had argued with turns up dead. Worse, this man’s murder is set up to make it look like Rees’s wife had something to do with it. Rees has a lot of enemies in the town of Dugard, Maine—so many that it’s hard to figure out who has gone to such lengths to destroy Will’s life.

The plot crackles along in The Devil’s Cold Dish and things get more and more dangerous for Will and his family as the conspiracy develops. There are stand-offs and chases, confrontations and escapes. I couldn’t put the book down during the last third because I was so worried about Will. Kuhns had put her protagonist into such a tight corner that it seemed impossible for him to escape.

In addition to the delightfully tense plot, The Devil’s Cold Dish is a superior historical novel. It’s clear that Kuhns did a lot of research to find out what life was like in rural Maine after the Revolutionary War. Even while Will is trying not to be shot on sight by most of the town, cows need to be milked and dishes washed. I was always annoyed by books with amateur detectives who have nothing but time for their investigations, with plenty of time off from work, etc. That is not the case here and the verisimilitude of Will having to feed himself while on the run made the whole episode seem that much more real.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 14 June 2016.

The Hurlyburly’s Husband, by Jean Teulé

Jean Teulé continues to bring episodes from French history to life in The Hurlyburly’s Husband. Unlike Eat Him If You Like or The Poisoning Angel, this novel does not feature a murder. This novel tells the story of a cuckold. Louis-Henri de Montespan fell in love with Françoise (who later changed her name to Athénaïs) as soon as he met her and she with him. They married eight days after meeting.

If it hadn’t been for their debts, we probably wouldn’t know about Louis-Henri and Françoise-Athénaïs. The two of them loved to gamble and buy new clothes and redecorate—but their combined incomes could not support their lifestyle. Louis-Henri went to war twice in an attempt to gain the king’s favor (and thus riches). His failures were farcical and Louis-Henri ended up even further in debt. Françoise-Athénaïs then takes matters into her own hands and secures a position as one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. It isn’t long before beautiful, witty Françoise-Athénaïs attracts the king’s attention and is offered a new position: mistress.

The Hurlyburly’s Husband, as the title indicates, centers on the husband, not the wife. Françoise-Athénaïs protests when Louis XIV makes his offer, but the king wields the threat of lèse-majesté whenever anyone tries to thwart his will. Lèse-majesté is a crime that only exists in autocratic governments. Essentially, lèse-majesté can be an excuse for the king to imprison, fine, or exile anyone who doesn’t conform to his desires. Françoise-Athénaïs submits, eventually becoming an incredibly powerful woman at court. Louis-Henri does not submit.

The bulk of the novel follows Louis-Henri as he continues to annoy Louis XIV by publically announcing his status as a cuckold and aggrieved husband. (The horns depicted on the corners of the carriage roof on the cover of the book reference Louis-Henri’s status.) At one point, he goes a little mad. Later, he turns down honors and money in exchange for his silence. He goes into exile to avoid prison on trumped up charges. He just will not keep quiet about the fact that the king stole his wife. He keeps up his semi-fugitive existence for more than twenty years.

It isn’t often I get a chance to read something as tragicomic as The Hurlyburly’s Husband. Louis-Henri is not always sympathetic, though he clearly is the wronged party here. His love for his wife is his tragic flaw; he just can’t let go of the hope that he will be reunited with Françoise-Athénaïs someday. In this book, Teulé has captured a remarkable character.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, by Antonia Hodgson

One would think that his experiences in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison (chronicled in The Devil in the Marshalsea) would have set Thomas Hawkins firmly on the straight and narrow. It’s clear from the first pages of Antonia Hodgson’s The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins that this has not happened. We rejoin our hapless hero as he is on his way to Tyburn to be hanged for murder. Hawkins reveals his sorry path to the gallows in flashbacks, hoping against hope that a pardon will come.

After being released from the Marshalsea, Thomas has lived with Kitty in relatively comfortable un-wedded bliss. Kitty inherited a dirty book shop, which mostly keeps them in coin. Thomas has returned to drinking, gambling, and wenching. He is bored. Fighting for his life has made anything less feel dull. I don’t think Thomas knew what would happen when he offered his services to James Fleet—the brother of the eponymous devil of the first book. If he had known what was going to happen, he tells us, he would have stayed far away from Fleet.

Thomas’s troubles begin when his neighbor’s maid sees a thief. Thomas tries to help, but only raises the ire of the hypocritically religious James Burden. Burden starts to spread rumors about Thomas once killing a man, then ends up dead. Thomas is the first suspect, of course, even though plenty of other people wanted Burden dead. Then Fleet calls in his favor and gets Thomas involved in a court scandal. Before long, Thomas has all the excitement he could want and more.

The structure of The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins keeps the urgency of Thomas’s story from dissipating. As Thomas gets more embroiled in Burden’s murder investigation and the court scandal, we are reminded that he is getting closer and closer to Tyburn and time for a pardon is running out. It’s a clever device, skillfully deployed by Hodgson, and she adds a few twists and turns that make it clear that no one is going to figure out how the book is going to end.

The characters, plotting, and pacing of The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins make for a wonderful read, but I have to mention how much I adore how Hodgson handles the setting before I wrap up this review. Mysteries set in more recent times don’t have to spend so much time on exposition as books set in the early 1700s. The 1720s are far enough removed that we need more information to help understand Thomas’s London. Hodgson is a historical fiction writer who has clearly done her research, but she doesn’t overwhelm us with details. The historical details are woven into the book in such a way that London of the 1720s comes back to full smelly, boisterous life without slowing down the relentless pace of Thomas’s story.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 15 March 2016.

The Fair Fight, by Anna Freeman

I have been waiting for Anna Freeman’s The Fair Fight to arrive at my library since I read the first review. The book includes so many of the things I like: set in eighteenth century England, unconventional women, multiple narrators, and women boxing! I finally got my hands on a copy this week and immediately set to reading it. During the day, I would go about my business—teaching people how to use the library’s databases, updating tutorials, buying books—and by evening (and night), I would be following Ruth Webber and Charlotte Dryer as they punched their way through life.

Born in a brothel, Ruth Webber doesn’t have much going for her. She believes she doesn’t even have looks enough to work as a prostitute. She settles for life as a servant in her mother’s brothel while her pretty sister gets all the attention. Nothing would have changed if she hadn’t gotten so mad one night she attacked that pretty sister in front of a man who wants to train up the next English boxing champion. From the age of 13, Ruth fights all comers (female and male) through lost teeth, broken bones, and too many bruises to bother counting. Her boxing even brings her Tom, a young man who loves her in spite of Ruth’s bewilderment at him. Ruth’s career ends with the titular fair fight.

I thought The Fair Fight would be mostly about Ruth. It is about a trio of people connected through Ruth’s “manager,” Mr. Dryer. George Bowden is an old school friend of Dryer’s. Through his perspective, we learn about the gentlemen gamblers who make their living off of betting on (or against) the boxers. George is also the reason the “fair fight” was actually fair. Being the youngest son of a moderately well off family and disinclined to make an honest living, George doesn’t have much of a future ahead of him. The only thing he has in his favor is is relationship with Perry Sinclair, who cannot live without him. George becomes his agent after Perry loses most of his family to smallpox. With this income, he wins and loses fortune after fortune gambling.

George is our introduction to the third narrator, Charlotte Dryer (née Sinclair). Charlotte is the only member of Perry’s immediate family to survive the pox, though she is terribly scarred by the disease. Through George’s eyes, the Charlotte we first see is very quiet and retired, innocent. When Charlotte takes her turn as narrator, we learn just how unusual she is. She and Perry hate each other. When George develops an attachment to Charlotte, Perry gambles her away (not figuratively) to Mr. Dryer. Charlotte is happy enough to escape her brother, but she is terribly bored. Mr. Dryer clearly has no intention of being an involved husband. He prefers training boxers and his mistress’s company to Charlotte’s. Charlotte is filled with an impotent anger for much of the book.

Hogarth-Southwark-Fair-1734

Southwark Fair, 1734, by William Hogarth

For the first half of The Fair Fight, the three narrators are only tangentially involved in each other’s lives. After the fight, Ruth is abandoned by Mr. Dryer, who starts training Tom to be his next champion. Ruth and Tom eventually move into the Dryer’s gatehouse. Charlotte’s first thought when she sees Ruth for the first time, during that fair fight, is that Ruth “is barely a woman at all” (175*). For Charlotte, there is only one way to be a woman. Her life has been so sheltered that the sight of a woman beating a man and being beaten in turn is shocking and revelatory. Charlotte and Ruth eventually meet and become something like friends, though Ruth is too independent to fully take Charlotte into her confidence. Charlotte is drawn to Ruth’s confidence and unwillingness to be humiliated or taken advantage of by anyone. Charlotte wants the same confidence. Before long, she talks Ruth into giving her boxing lessons. The lessons transform the formerly reclusive young lady.

While the women grow stronger, George is clearly on the falling side of Fortune’s wheel. He is what we would call today a fuck up. Everything he touches turns to dross. It’s entertaining, in a grim way, to watch him flail and struggle while the female protagonists learn to hold their own in a society that has such strict roles for them.

The Fair Fight was not what I expected. It is a more meditative book than the British cover or many of the reviews might lead one to believe. The characters are not shown to be very self-reflective, but they grow over the course of the book to show us how women could break through the restrictions placed around them with violence. The “lady boxers” are their own class, outside of society. We also see Ruth and Charlotte learning from each other. Each takes from the other the things they want or need to become independent. A reader might come to The Fair Fight for the boxing, but they’ll be given gritty portraits of female liberation.


* Quote is from the 2015 hardcover edition by Riverhead Books.

Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart

Li Du, former librarian and official exile, has a lot in common with a number of other detectives from across the mystery genre. He is a reluctant investigator. He is highly observant, able to reconstruct timelines based on a few pieces of physical evidence. Most of all, he is more concerned with finding out the truth that with practicing realpolitik. This last characteristic might not have been such a problem if Li Du hadn’t landed smack in the middle of the murder of a foreigner in Dayan (the Old Town of Lijiang) barely a week before the Kangxi Emperor will arrive for the triumphant conclusion of his year-long progress through the Qing EmpireJade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart, plays out over that week almost in the style of a classic Golden Age British mystery. Obscure knowledge frequently comes into play. The detective astonishes other characters with seemingly psychic revelations. Even though Jade Dragon Mountain is set in 1708 and Li Du used to be an imperial librarian, I think he would have been good company for Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes—though he is much more polite than either of these gentlemen.

For decades, the Jesuits have been the only westerners allowed in China. But by 1708, there are Dominicans in Macau and the British East India Company is looking to open up trade by any means necessary. Li Du, however, is not aware of much of this, as he was been traveling by foot across the outskirts of China after being banished from Beijing for having made friends with the wrong people. He has only stopped in Dayan to have his papers stamped before moving on towards Tibet. The magistrate of Dayan is his cousin and the least the man can do is offer Li Du hospitality for a night. But then a visiting Jesuit astronomer dies in his room at the magistrate’s mansion, right in the middle of their preparations to host the emperor’s festival. Everyone except Li Du is eager to have the death written off as natural causes, but the former librarian keeps turning up undeniable evidence that the Jesuit was murdered. He just can’t reconcile himself to political expediency and allow the murder to be covered up.

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Old Town, Lijiang

Over the course of the following week, Li Du questions witnesses and suspects, ponders, deduces, ratiocinates, induces, and detects. By the end of the week, he has found out that the Jesuit’s death is not the only crime happening in Dayan. No one’s secrets are safe when Li Du is on the case. What tickled me most about Li Du’s style is the way he uses knowledge gained as a librarian to catch people in lies. One maid is caught lying about her mistress’s fearful reputation using stories cribbed from Dream of the Red Chamber. Another character is found with a bunch of forgeries among his diplomatic papers because Li Du can spot copied handwriting and stamps that were painted instead of actually stamped. I love seeing a member of my profession (even if Li Du is fictional) use our skills.

The ending of Jade Dragon Mountain leaves the overall story room to continue in sequels and I very much look forward to Hart whisking me away again to Qing Dynasty China in the company of a clever librarian.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 1 September 2015.

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord, by Kim Leine

Explorers and missionaries must be the most stubborn people on the planet. Explorers are firmly convinced that there is something out there, something that must be found. Missionaries, sometimes explorers themselves or in the second wave of colonists, seek to reshape what and who were found so that it looks more like what was left behind. Morten Pederson Falck is one of the latter. Greenland was discovered (more than once) centuries before he heard of a missionary position in a Danish colony on the western coast of the island. Most of Kim Leine’s The Prophets of Eternal Fjord is centered on Falck, but the book is about the people of Greenland—Inuit and Danish—and how the country was shaped and reshaped by its waves of settlers. Falck’s story is grafted on to real history, so skillfully its hard to say where the joins are.

After a brief, disturbing prologue that will only make sense after reading most of The Prophets of Eternal Fjord, we meet Morten Falck as he arrives in Copenhagen in the early 1780s. His father has sent him from their small settlement north of Christiania (later Oslo) to train as a clergyman. Flack would much prefer to be a physician—anything other a clergyman—and spends much of his time at dissections and sneaking into lectures. This changes when he falls in and out of love with the daughter of his landlord. After failing to commit to Miss Schultz, Falck finally commits to being a priest (Lutheran, not Catholic). He barely graduates before signing on to go to Greenland.

The clergy is the only thing Falck doesn’t eventually abandon. (He tries anyway.) This is the great failing of Falck’s life. Over and over again, he angers, renounces, betrays, or leaves the people he used to love and who might have loved him. If Leine didn’t occasionally hand over the reins of narration to other characters—Falck’s catechist, his lover, a constable, and other characters—I don’t know that I might have been able to finish.

Greenland itself also kept my attention. I asked to read this book mostly because of the setting. Years ago, I read Judith Lindbergh’s The Thrall’s Tale, set during an earlier failed attempt to setting the eastern coast of Greenland around the year 1000 C.E. I remember the book as relentless misery. Centuries later, Danish colonization was more successful, though illness and famines kept things pretty harrowing for anyone choosing to live there. Falck comes close to death more than once and there’s a sense that everyone is hanging on by the skin of their teeth. The fat times are not that fat; the lean times are very lean indeed.

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Hans Egede’s eighteenth century drawing of Thule whalers

The title of the book comes from two Inuits, a husband and wife, who took the Christianity they learned from the Danish missionaries and set up a commune in the early 1780s. (Leine mentions the sparse, but real, historical records of the pair.) By preaching and trading without Danish oversight, Habakuk and Maria Magdalena drew the ire of the colonists. Their community at Evighedsfjord (Forever Fjord or Eternal Fjord) was destroyed. Falck (fictional) spent a few short years at Eternal Fjord, experiencing a religious revelation before its destruction.

Destruction is a recurring them in The Prophets of Eternal Fjord. Falck’s peripatetic wandering around Greenland, Denmark, and Norway just as events turn for the worse makes him seem like a victim. Falck might be pitied if it weren’t for his inability to appreciate the love of the good women he finds. Any sympathy I felt for him evaporated when he abandoned yet another woman.

What sticks with me about this book is the sense of enduring stubbornness in many of the characters. The Inuit people are enduring the Danish, as if they know that the colonization attempt can only be temporary. They just need to wait out the pale foreigners. Falck’s nemesis, colony official Jørgen Kragstedt, is waiting for Falck to make a fatal mistake or die—either is an acceptable outcome. Falck spends most of his years in the Sukkertoppen settlement marking time until he can go back to Denmark or Norway, except when he lives at Eternal Fjord. All of the conflicts in The Prophets of Eternal Fjord come from characters butting heads and refusing to back down.

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord will upset readers. There is a lot of violence, sexual abuse, racism, and deadly explosions and fires. Still, I was able to see the beauty in Leine’s exposition about the stark landscape of Greenland. The descriptions of food being eaten after a long hunger sent me scurrying to my own kitchen. And, through it all, I kept hoping that Falck would find a place and a woman he loved enough to settle down. Even in the harshness of late eighteenth-century Greenland, there is always the hope that next time will be better.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 13 July 2015.

Notes for bibliotherapeutic use: Prescribe this book to readers who have too many “first world problems” or are prone to whining.