Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Review: Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Bohemian Gospel
Author: Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Publisher:  Pegasus, November 16, 2015
    November 8, 2015 (eBook)
Format: Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $25.95 (Hardcover); $12.99 (digital)
ISBN:  9781605989013 (print); 9781605989020 (digital)
Upcoming: Trade Paperback, October 4, 2016

Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.

When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?

A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Living in an Abbey, Mouse is a young girl who has learned about Christianity but never been allowed to fully participate herself because of her mysterious birth. While both Abbott Father Lucas and Mother Kazi love her despite her birth, her ability to see souls and demons could label her as a witch, and she is always an outsider in her only home. When a wounded King Ottakar arrives at the Abbey, Mouse uses her healing skills to save him, and he invites her to come to Prague as his personal healer. Ottakar, son of King Vaclav, became king by rebelling against his cruel father; however, his father has invited him to Prague to reconcile and end the war. In Prague, the politics of the court and the church nearly overwhelm Mouse. Mouse does feel an overwhelming attraction to Ottakar and he also responds to her. As she works to protect the king from his enemies, he works to discover the name of her unknown father.

Bohemian Gospel is an intriguing read. There is the mystery of Mouse’s parentage and the question of why she appears to lack a soul. In addition, there are the mysterious black demons that seem to follow her from place to place. Finally, there is the intrigue and plotting in the court. Altogether this makes for a robust story. It is easy to feel Mouse’s longing to belong, to anyone. Her mysterious birth, her magical powers, and her position in the court all create a tremendous isolation.

However, while the first two-thirds of this novel work very well, the last third seems rushed and almost forced. Instead of telling about a single day in a chapter, one chapter covers decades. In addition, the relationship between Ottakar and Mouse seems almost one-sided. Ottakar obviously wants her physically, and if he were not a king, he might be able to be the person that Mouse needs, but his position requires him to take actions for the good of the kingdom, not for himself and Mouse.

This novel is not a quick read, but the characterization of Mouse is excellent. Dana Chamblee Carpenter has created a character with whom readers can relate, even if they lack her unique powers. The politics are interesting, but there are almost two stories here. I would have preferred if Carpenter had divided this one into two separate novels and spent more time on the last half. That said, I definitely recommend Bohemian Gospel as a terrific read.


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