on 10 April 2014
I only came to this series of books at the fourth novel but found it surprisingly easy to pick them up from this point and not be lost to what went before (indeed, it has made me resolve to go back and read the others on account of the story and writing being so good!).
This is the fifth book in The Graham Saga and it is every bit as good as the previous installment – I suspect the whole series is of the same level, as Belfrage’s writing has thus far been of a consistently high calibre that should be the envy of many other authors: She achieves, seemingly with ease, what all writers strive to reach, but is often out of their grasp.
Our favourite characters return; Alex and Matthew Graham continue to carve a life for themselves and their ever increasing family in The New World, but their past is catching up with them and old feuds are resurrected by the return of the Burleys (ooh, how much would I like to get my hands on those guys and wring their necks myself?!); their third son runs off to sea, but not before creating complications with the girl he loves; and other family trials are threatening to tear the family apart. Is there anything life won’t throw at these good people? It makes for gripping reading and I found myself often on the edge of my seat, never wanting to put down the book, even when other things in life demanded my immediate attention – that’s exactly what a good book should do to readers!
I find myself wondering if Belfrage can put a foot wrong with this series? It would seem not, and I, for one, am incredibly glad we have another three books of the saga still to be published – I can hardly wait to get my hands on them! Till then, I shall content myself by going back to the beginning and reading the series from the very start…
on 4 April 2014
I recently received a copy of Serpents in the Garden by Anna Belfrage in exchange for an honest review. I’ve read several time slip novels during the past year or so and I’m always fascinated by the idea of time travel and what it would be like to find yourself in another era. This novel is the first one that has transported me to seventeenth century America and I enjoyed the experience. Serpents in the Garden is well written and has a plot that keeps the reader’s attention. I was intrigued by the storylines of each of the main characters and found myself wanting to continue reading about a particular character whenever the narrative shifted away from his or her story. I knew we would get back to it but I was impatient to find out what happened next.
There is a good contrast in settings between the American wilderness and seventeenth century London. The author describes both settings vividly so that they are easy for the reader to imagine. I was especially intrigued by the world of the English apothecary.
Characters are, of course, central to any story. This was my first introduction to Alex and her family but I related easily to the twenty-first century woman who has found herself in a very different world from her own. Alex is a modern woman who has been dropped into the past and I thought she is very credible as such. Her husband, Matthew is also realistically drawn, reacting with a mix of courage and fear in dangerous situations. He isn’t a larger than life hero but a man who faces what life throws at him. I like this believable portrayal of a character. I found the main characters engaging and quickly became immersed in their stories. I also particularly liked some of the minor characters such as the feisty Mrs Parson and Alex’s wily brother-in-law, Simon Melville.
I did not find it difficult to pick up the threads of the story even though this is the fifth book in a series. Details from previous books were seamlessly woven into this novel and explained so that the reader isn’t confused. It’s possible to read Serpents in the Garden as a standalone book or as part of the series.
All the strands of the story come together for a satisfying conclusion to the book. But it’s not the end of the story: one key strand is left hanging, making the reader eager to start the next book
in the series. It seems I’ll have the next novel to add to my TBR pile....
I can honestly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, fantasy/time-slip or just a good story.
on 29 March 2014
Anna Belfrage’s novel, Serpents in the Garden, has something for everyone. There is lots of romance and erotica, a fair amount of violence, some history and a lot of period details, and for lovers of fantasy, time travel.
The Grahams, Alex, Matthew and their growing family have fled Scotland due to religious persecution of the Covenanters and have settled in colonial Maryland of the 17th century. Alex was born and raised in the late 20th and early 21st century but she found herself in a time warp at a crossroads during a terrible thunderstorm and ended up in the 17th century. She was found by Matthew Graham. She and Matthew took to each other like Mandarin ducks and they married and have had ten children, nine of whom survive. She seems to have adjusted remarkably well to life in the 17th century.
The Grahams have a farm in Maryland, prosperous at these things go. At the beginning of the book, Jacob, the eldest son is apprenticed to a lawyer in Providence, and a younger son, Daniel, is apprenticed to a minister in Boston. Jacob has a great yearning to go to sea and see the world. After marrying the lawyer’s daughter, Betty, in a “hand fast,” ceremony, contrary to her father’s wishes, he stows away on a ship bound for England. Poor Betty is soundly whipped and packed off to the Grahams.
Graham’s Garden, as the farm is called would be a paradise, but, as the title suggests, there are serpents in the garden. There are, of course, Indians, always a concern, and there are also the brothers Phillip, Walter and Steven Burley, scoundrels of the lowest sort. Matthew has killed their youngest brother in self-defense, and the surviving brothers have sworn revenge. Throughout the book the encounters between the Grahams and the Burleys become increasingly violent.
The family is also plagued by domestic strife. Matthew has a son, Ian, by his first marriage who is married to a woman named Jenny and lives on a nearby farm. Jenny’s father, Peter, has married a much younger woman named Constance who is as nasty as they come and she and Jenny fight like cats. On top of that, their bond servant, Patrick, seduces Jenny and she becomes pregnant, not knowing whether the father is Patrick or Ian.
Serpents in the Garden is a very rich and engaging novel which held my interest throughout. I’m not a great fan of the use of time travel or other violations of the laws of physics in historical novels, but, as Diana Gabaldon might attest, there are many readers who are.
on 16 March 2014
I have been hooked on he Graham saga books since book 1 and this one is just as good. I love the uncertainty throughout about what might happen. Will the Burley brothers get heir revenge? Will Matthew get the Burley brothers? Also a good twist to the story revealed in this book relating to Margaret, I really didn't expect that with the differences in time, but I won't spoil it by saying any more. Read the book, you won't be able to put it down! Can't wait for 1 st July when the next in the series is released.