on 7 January 2014
This debut novel described as medieval noir held me captive alongside it's young heroine Romelda. Rarely have I enjoyed a book so much.
The depth of historical detail, underpinning wisdom and down to earth speech tinged at times with humour brought both the story and characters to life, and as it transported me back in time I lost myself in the way only the reader of a `ripping good yarn' can.
The book starts with a grand-father in the role of storyteller narrating a tale to keen young ears but as the story develops we learn that he speaks of their family's own history , by this point I felt that I was sat alongside the children eagerly anticipating the next chapter.
I raged at injustices as they were revealed and openly groaned as death inevitably followed. As revenge was justly delivered I gave an inward cheer and then slowed my reading pace as the story reached it's memorable conclusion so reluctant was I to have it end.
The ravens brought a fabled quality to the book and the hint of supernatural forces at play was truly inspired. I enjoyed every page!
It is 4.00am and I just finished Ravenfold and I am really crying my eyes out.
Ravenfold is the tale of Romelda, a gentle but spirited soul, a slip of girl, who at 14 was married to an 'human ogre', Oswald de Sutton. A depraved, lustful and violent man. There would be outrage nowadays, but in Medieval times, such fate was common, as women were considered as mere commodities and their fathers and then husbands and lords had total control over them. But Oswald could not break Romelda's spirit. He tried to crush her, he did that physically, for sure, but never could he reach her spirit. Even when he cruelly killed her pet, Raven.
Yes, it is a sad tale, but it is not all that gloomy. There are new beginnings too and there is the hope that one can find solace in strong friendship, regardless of one's ordeal. It is very well written, the language is not archaic but not too modern that you cannot feel you are in Medieval time. I liked the set up, it feels like you are sitting on the floor, facing the story teller, you feel the tension and your emotions are on a roller coaster because you feel rage, hopelessness, injustice, sadness. But despite of all these negative emotions, you are comforted by the fact that something good can be born from the most evil. Romelda's child was like her and not like his father. And for this, there is the concealed message that behind every good man, there is a wise woman (and sometimes more than one) who let the men think they are in charge but they are the ones who make things happen. Or at least, I like to think so. Even though, in the case of Oswald, good man is definitely not the description. Maude was one of these formidable ladies. I did not like her at the beginning, but she redeemed herself as the story progressed, as she tried to protect her daughter and then her son.
Just one thing. I thought it might for Y/A and I downloaded it onto my children's Kindles (boy nearly 13 and girl nearly 11) but I will hide it in their clouds. It is not gruesome as such but there are some scenes, like the birthing or the nightly visit scenes that can be too much for sensitive children. It might be fine for teenagers, though but I would recommend the parent to read it first and then decide, depending on their children.
I read it in one sitting (well, I had to get up to get my tissues and my coffee) and when I do this, it is for me, a very good book. And whenever I read a book in one sitting, it means it is an undisputed 5 stars from me.
If you read it, I hope you will appreciate it as much as I did. I do not want to use 'enjoy' because it is hard to enjoy someone else's misery, even if it is well told. Just prepare a few tissues beforehand.
on 12 March 2014
On International Women’s Day, I was lucky enough to have a few hours to myself as I waited for my children to complete various tasks and functions. My choice of book was Ravenfold by Kath Middleton. It had me so involved that by the time I had a few hours free in the evening, it was the book that became my focus.
To my mind, this was the perfect read for a day set aside for reflecting about the rights of women. Not only that, it’s so well written that the journey was a pleasure to take.
The ravens alluded to in the title are birds that have become close to their human friends, a group of teenagers who hang around together enjoying the things that only children can. Life’s an adventure of sorts for all of them, but the fact that they’re growing up means that there’s a dark cloud hanging over them, especially the girls.
Ravenfold is set in medieval times. Things were very different then and those differences are woven into the detail of the story rather skilfully. Above all, the role of girls and women is so limited and rigid as to make the framework tense and charged in itself.
Romelda Bolt is almost fourteen and has caught the
attention of a brute of a man who rules the area,
Oswald. He has the power to crush people or to raise
their status at his whim. It’s not long before Romelda is
learning to sew and is then chained in marriage to her
Marriage doesn’t make life any easier for Romelda or
her family. Oswald is no noble man and lacks any of the
qualities that a decent human being might possess.
There’s a sense of claustrophobia about the whole tale
as Oswald tightens his fist and we get to see what
powders crumble from between his fingers.
I’m loath to give away too much. Suffice to say, things
don’t go well and Romelda and her family are deeply
damaged by what occurs. It’s this damage that leads to
thoughts of taking revenge and for me, that’s exactly
what I wanted.
This is a really interesting story. It has a haunting
atmosphere right from the off when a young man
slaughters a pig and takes away a vial of its blood
before leaving. It has the feel of a really strong, dark
fairytale where the cruelty and chill have the power to
enclose and suffocate. This creates a real drive to find
what is about to happen and a real need to reach some
kind of escape. I was at the author’s mercy from an
early point; whether she was generous or barbaric, I’ll
Back to Women’s Day. A read like this is a strong
reminder of how much things have changed over the
years and had me reflecting over how much more
change is needed. As I sat in my own bubble in a world
full of bubbles, I had to remind myself that the shifts
that have come through processes of evolution or
revolution have not been uniform across the globe. The
reminder is not enough unless it causes a shift in
thinking in some way; reading a book like this is one
way to get the cogs moving. One small cog can
sometimes make a big difference. Here’s hoping.
on 14 March 2014
This is a confident first novel from Kath Middleton. Set in medieval Britain, it concerns the tragic tale of Romelda Bolt and her disastrous marriage to Oswald de Sutton.
I found myself gripped by the human side of the story, and I thought some of the central characters were beautifully drawn, particularly Romelda herself and her parents, whose motivations for consigning their daughter to a life of misery were believable.
What I thought the story maybe lacked was a sense of context and setting - the medieval setting was rather vague, lacked period detail, and in places both dialogue and the attitudes of various characters seemed rather too modern. This is a very difficult line to walk in historical fiction so it was no means badly done, I just think more attention could have paid to important period details.
Overall this is a really good first novel and if I have any criticisms it's because the standard set by the author is very high in all other areas! I hope a sequel is in the works...
on 9 April 2014
This is an engaging and confident first book from a natural storyteller. Kath Middleton was already well-known as a reviewer of fiction and a champion of indie authors everywhere, but now it seems she's going to successfully carve a new career as an author herself!
Ravenfold is a tale of families, power and revenge, set in medieval England. This is portrayed with just enough detail to feel authentic, although the focus is less on history and more on the characters. When young Romelda is forcibly married to the monstrous Lord Oswald, her life and those of her parents and friends are twisted out of shape forever. The story takes some surprising dramatic turns along the way, incorporating what may even be shades of the supernatural.
The structure resembles a children's fable, with a framing story of a man relating Romelda's tale as a bedtime story to his grandchildren. But this is actually a very adult book, including some strong scenes that do not shy away from depicting the brutality of medieval life. Kath handles these with a light touch but paints some gruesome pictures in the imagination. There is also plenty of gallows humour that had me chuckling aloud, but is most definitely not for young readers!
Ravenfold is a darkly entertaining tale that promises even greater stories from this author in the future.
on 16 March 2014
Kath Middleton’s is an accomplished and distinctive voice in literature. I find it hard to believe this is her first fuller length book, as it read like someone who has been writing this form of fiction for years.
We follow a young Lady Romelda, given in marriage by her parents—who are briefly but tragically blinded by greed—to a despicable Lord, who makes their lives hell. But as with the best of baddies, he will get his just deserts in an innovative way.
With its medieval setting, the book has just the right amount of historical detailing to give it great authenticity without getting in the way. Sad in places, but by the end I found myself grinning at the outcome, and having had a thoroughly satisfying experience. I highly recommend this book.
on 22 January 2014
I'll confess from the start that this isn't ny usual type of read, however I'm a fan of the author's drabbles so I was curious to read her debut novel to see if her longer work matched her ability for the shorter form. I'm pleased to say that it did and while it might not have been my usual genre I enjoyed reading it a lot.
The story tells of a young girl whose parents arrnage a marriage for with the local lord, a tyrant and generally not a pleasant person. The tale unfolds at a reasonable pace in the form of a grandfather telling his granchildren about her life. It's a historical drama, but the focus is very much on the characters involved, rather than being a strictly period piece.
It's a testament to the author's skill that I was drawn into the story and cared for Romelda and her family. In places it is brutal, but there's also some light amidst the darkness and the balance made for a fun read.
The author has a talent for writing and the book is very impressive for a debut novel, I'm already looking forward to her next work.
on 23 November 2014
At first I was not sure that I liked the author's simple style of telling a tale to children, then I settled in and enjoyed being told a story. I was surprised at the grandfather being so explicit but then maybe things were different then. I had planned to rate this four stars.
It wasn't too long though before I was carrying my Kindle around with me trying to snatch moments to continue this captivating tale. The professional standard of writing makes it a pleasure to read and gave me confidence that this story would be worth the telling. It certainly was. And so it edged up to 4.5 stars. Then I dwelt on the message in this story and up it went to 5 stars - yes, I loved it.
on 10 February 2014
I'm not typically a fan of historical tales, however, this novella had me glued from foreboding start to deliciously satisfying end.
The story, of a decent young girl forced to marry a sadistically evil tyrant during medieval times, drags you in until you are hooked. Even though you know that things must get far worse before they get better, you find yourself longing for justice to be done and so when it finally comes it is not a moment too soon. I love my villains rotten to the core and Oswald de Sutton is a disgusting, low-life antagonist.
The situation described has echoes of Angela Carter's Bloody Chamber, and the writing, while not convoluted - as I feel Ms Carter's had a tendency to be - is rich and vibrant. Kath Middleton's use of language, especially her selection of now lesser used words, adds a wonderful ageing to the tale, taking you back in time and plonking you firmly in Middle Age England.
The book is descriptively intoxicating, superbly written, and will hold your attention to the very end.
I highly recommend this book.
on 8 April 2014
I finished this book last night - or early hours this morning - I was totally caught up in the story of Romelda, Guy and Meggie. I resumed reading last night and ended up continuing til the end - I so wanted to know what happened to every one of the characters. I don't do spoilers in a review but I was very sad at some points, glad at others and downright happy at still others! A really good read and I will be looking for some more from Ms Middleton - great work and thoroughly enjoyed!