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The Lost Shrine by Nicola Ford – Book Review

I reviewed the first book by Nicola – The Hidden Bones – last year and now the series has its own name. “Hills and Barbrook” after the two main archeology characters.

The Lost Shrine can be read as a stand alone although there are mentions to some of the events in book one, and an unfinished thread to move us forward. Clare, David and Jo, and others are back and already they feel familiar. There’s also some new characters including a local druid who makes things – interesting.

Clare is let loose leading her own dig in the Cotswolds, one their unit needs the money from to stay afloat. They’ve been hired by a commercial property developer to disprove the theory of the previous site lead. At least that’s what he’s hoping. The ethics of such a job is explored really well, especially when the neighbourhood is against the development too.

The police are back too. Sally, David’s other half is back in Salisbury heading up a murder investigation, the ladies in this series definitely have their work cut out for them. And is Mark Stone in the Cotswolds a help, a hindrance, or something more? Was the previous site lead’s death really a macabre suicide?

As with the previous book the tension grows throughout from a Time Team style dig (loved the drone operator’s nickname) to English country crime thriller. Hills and Barbrook have settled in with book two and I’m with them for the journey.

I was gifted a copy by the publisher for the purposes of this honest review.

The Lost Shrine is our now and ebook readers are in luck because the book is available for a mere 99p this week. Go dig it up.

The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford – Book Review

Recently I hosted a guest post from author Nicola Ford about the archeological inspiration for her debut novel “Digging Up Bone, Digging Up Secrets. I’ve now finished the book and you can read my review below.

Synopsis

Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation.

But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.

Author

Nicola Ford is the pen-name for archeologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. You may have seen her on TV on Countryfile or Britain’s Secret Treasures.

Through her day-job and now her writing, she’s spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.

Website: nicolaford.com

Twitter: @nic_ford

What I Thought

For some reason crime books are one of the genres I am drawn to the least which is odd because I usually really enjoy them when I get stuck in and have watched no end of crime shows on TV in the past. This book was no different and it definitely hit the ‘need to find out who done it’ spot.

Although reminiscent of Bones this book deals with archeology rather than forensic anthropology in order to solve crimes although the osteo-archaeologist/ bone expert that appears is delightfully American. The police do take a bit of a back seat in this story because of how and where it begins, but I wonder if they might become more involved in future sequels.

This is a very British book, and it was refreshing to read about places I have heard of and even visited. There is a very country rural feel to the story with the English village busybodies out to help or hinder the investigation.

Like “Robert Galbraith’s” Cormoron Strike series and Bones the human interaction between the investigative team is as interesting as the case to be solved. There’s also some dramatic tension as Clare gets closer to solving the case. The killer is still out there and determined to keep their identity hidden.

I’d definitely recommend this to fans of the genre and odd bods who don’t always read it like me. I’m looking forward to reading more books in the series and getting to better know Clare, David, Jo and the gang on future cases.

I received an advanced review copy for the publisher for the purposes of taking part in the blog tour and for an honest review.

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Hunter – Book Review

Synopsis

In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented – and highest born – sons of the kingdom are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…

Gray’s Britain is a fragmented kingdom of many tongues, many gods and many magicks. But all that concerns Gray right now is returning to his studies and setting right the nightmare that has seen him disgraced and banished to his tutor’s home – without a trace of his powers. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Although she has no talent of her own and has been forbidden by her father to pursue it, Sophie Callendar longs for a magickal education. But she started a bookish rebellion in her father’s library long ago, and her sheltered upbringing conceals a mysterious past and what may prove a catastrophic future. Her meeting with Gray sets off a series of events that will lead them to uncover a conspiracy at the heart of the kingdom and into the legend of the Midnight Queen, who vanished without a trace years before.

What I Thought

I was immediately drawn into this British alternate history fantasy world that author Sylvia Hunter has created. Men are the only ones allowed to study magick, even though women can possess it too. The magick system seems to be quite complex and some can be taught and other aspects need to be harnessed. There’s shapeshifting (the front cover might give you a clue into what), scrying, elemental and summoning magicks. There’s an awful lot to learn. Cue a library and books and also practical demonstration.

We are first introduced to Gray who has got himself, through no fault of his own, thrown out of Oxford and – not all that kindly – invited to his tutor’s house for Long Vacation. He meets Sophie and their instant connection is apparent and she is particularly intriguing to both Gray and the reader. She is definitely a feminist who wants to challenge the status quo.

But then she learns that her own status quo isn’t exactly all she thought it was. Thus begins a thrilling journey to find out the truth and foil an assassination with a little burgeoning romance thrown in for good measure.

The other character I adored was Sophie’s younger sister Joanna who is a handful, and a half.

The pace is a pleasantly odd mix of regency travel and society with added crime busting and magick but it kept me reading and comfortably entertained. Near the end is a scene that personally I felt was surplus to requirements – it was a little like Hercule Poirot explaining how a crime had been committed but we and most of the characters already knew most of the information. That being said I still loved this book, the character and the world, and it had a satisfying conclusion. Some elements introduced I would love to see explored more (the worldbuilding is masterful and hints st lots of aspects, religion etc without being an info dump) and the story is left open for more adventures but the main plot is completed and I would say it could be read as a stand alone.

Books 2 and 3 in the series are also out now – Lady of Magick and A Season of Spells – I’ll definitely be checking them out. Fans of Zen Cho, Leigh Bardugo and Jane Austen should enjoy.

Thanks to Allison & Busby for the finished copy for review. It is beautiful inside and out and all opinions above are my own.

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