Book Review: Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Release date: August 2016 from Thomas Dunne Books

This power-packed historical novel is the first in a series…and it’s going to have readers beating on the publisher’s door for more.

Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that historical fiction can be a real slough. In the wrong author’s hands, novels set in any time period earlier than maybe 20 years ago can bog down in details…what folks wore, how they acted, the mores of their society, what their culture told them was right, how they rebelled…endless, really.

But in a strong author’s hands, historical fiction is a true delight. And that’s what Noce has delivered with Between Two Fires: a work that moves along briskly while providing everything they need to know to dive into the period. Never once will readers be left wondering, “What. What? Who? How did that happen?”

Part of the strength of this work comes from the depth Noce gives to the protagonist. Lady Branwen of Wales is the country’s last and final hope for unification…through marriage, of course. But the fellow she weds lives up to his nickname of Hammer King.

Meanwhile, Brandwen has been watching the rogue hedge knight Artagan, rumored to be as dark as his name, Blacksword. But he is more complex than that, and might be the only person she can rely on. Her mind is set against him but her heart has other plans.

As the lady becomes a queen and then flees from her realm, Saxons invade. The romance and intrigue take on a depth that comes entirely from the well-drawn characters painted atop the historic backdrop.

There are some elements about the descriptions that are repetitive. These are fairly minor but several did throw me out of the fictional world for just a few beats. Readers of this type of work can be trusted to follow along, and hopefully the rest of the books in this series will eliminate those types of blips. Generally, this was a strong showing. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

5 stars!

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