The Mystique Woven in Our Land
Historical fiction with mystery and romance, set in 1792. The unlikely combination of witchcraft and high treason lead to treachery and murder haunting a hero’s daughter and the soldier she loves. Vanishings in a growing Kentucky town spark fears of government conspiracies combined with the supernatural. An experiment in tolerance and unprecedented freedom for women unexpectedly yields chaos, attracting evil in a way no one predicted. Named at birth by her dying mother in hopes she would be a light in the world, daughter of a heroic general, and only 17, Lantern Leshoward finds herself at the center of excitement as her town prepares an elaborate celebration in the midst of a string of disappearances of young women. The post war generation faces unique challenges neglected by their elders who are preoccupied with politics and social status. Upper and lower class women disappear but their fates are secondary to an upcoming political masquerade gala, diverting everyone’s attention from the ongoing crimes, whether or not they are products of the dark arts. Complicating this is an openly labeled witch no one can find with a strange hold over Lantern’s father. Lantern’s admirer, Shears Plate, a skeptical soldier with a detective’s mind, suspects common criminality but he is shocked when he confronts spies involved in animal sacrifices that lead to political assassinations. His unlikely assistants in his quest for the truth include Lantern’s mysterious cousin Genevieve, reappearing after years of subterfuge, an abandoned slave who lives in the forest, and a solitary sword maker whose products have a fame transcending borders. Then a strange beautiful woman arrives as his betrothed, despite their never before having met and it becomes harder than ever to distinguish the good from the bad. Plate must plan an elaborately staged killing, risking prominent victims, to expose those invoking the evil art of murder to undermine the new republic.
Plot/Idea: 5 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 4 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 5.25 out of 10
Plot: The book puts an interesting spin on the traditional marriage plot, layering it with a murder mystery that leads to the story’s unexpected conclusion.
Prose: Kralich’s novel often reads like play with minimal stage direction. Though much of the dialogue is strong, many important details and key events are revealed unnaturally through confusing information-loaded exchanges. The book might have benefited from additional exposition.
Originality: Kralich presents an original combination of genres, but this stacking sometimes leads to confusion about where readers should direct their focus.
Character Development: While the author presents an impressively large cast of convincing characters, they are often difficult to keep straight. However, despite some confusion with the minor characters, there are standouts that readers are sure to appreciate, including Lantern Leshoward, Shears Plate, and Abigail Fichton.
Date Submitted: August 18, 2017