Cover Image: Jilliand


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Member Reviews

This story pulled no punches on how violent this time period was.  The Vikings came, conquered, took what they wanted and left villages decimated.  This story also featured a strong heroine, fierce with a sword, her faith and kindness even though she ran from an abused past.  This Engish girl and a mighty Viking made an odd pair. But coming to respect one another they fell in love.  Many trials come and Jilliand is thought dead.  She is Rurick's one true love.  He tries to move on for many years until he hears rumors of a woman like his wife.  It will be a very long journey before he finds his wife very much alive.  Will it be too late? Very well written.
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I wasn't sure what to expect when reading Jilliand  as this is a new author for me and I have not read many Viking stories. I am glad I took a chance on it. It was a good read with characters I wanted to know more about. There were several side characters mentioned so hopefully another story is waiting in the wings.....
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I am a sucker for a book with both a strong hero and heroine.  This book gave me a Viking sea king and a young woman who was raised later discover that she is really a princess.  The story contained some historical facts, but the story itself was totally built in the imagination of the author, which I appreciated.  When Jilliand is taken captive by the Vikings at the hands of Rurik, she is just finding a place for herself after escaping from a cruel father who had rather beaten her than accepted her as a daughter.   The story brings together the two in a strong bond forged in the way of the times, when everyone needed to rely on each other to survive.  I would have liked to see the ending of the story carried out a little further, but overall I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in return for my honest opinion.
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I have read a great many novels about Vikings and the time period in this book. It is one of my favorite eras! The author has done a super job depicting day to day life as well as the more romanticized battles and pillaging activities. This is a super read, I would recommend it to anyone!  The romance part is deftly handled and necessary to the story. The heroine’s journey is full of surprises and keeps the story moving along. I thank #netgalley for allowing me access to this great story. #jilliand
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I loved this book!  I'm a sucker for historical romance in general , but I have special kind of love for the Viking era.  This book definitely fed my obsession.  Jilliand is a character you cannot help but love.  In some ways, she is mature and wise beyond her years, in others she is a child still learning by mistake.  The love story that unfolds goes from cute, to fiery passion, to tragedy and devastation and then ultimately to a happy ending.  

There are a couple of things I hated while I read the book, but upon reflection have come to appreciate.  The way Jilliand is treated is true to history and a woman's place in it.  Despite being strong and earning respect among men, Jilliand is still a woman in 9th century England and the reader is reminded of that when she is captured, left behind, captured again, almost forced to marry, captured again, etc.  I ended up appreciated this even though reading the events as they unfolded was excruciating at times.  (And I only say excruciating because you're rooting for Jilliand so much that it hurts).  

Overall this was a great read and I will be looking for more titles by this author!

I was given a free copy of his book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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“Vikings, it seems, make their own way.” –Helen Russell, The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country

I will admit that I let a review spook me into not starting this book as soon as I requested it. I almost passed on reading it. I’m glad I gathered up my courage and turned that first page. This was a fascinating story… dark, but fascinating. 

We open with a prologue shrouded in mystery. We are not given names or places. We only have a woman biding farewell to her dying husband. As he took his last breath, the woman turned and asked a servant to tell the King that his son the Prince was dead. She then left the castle and the area never to return.

At the beginning of the next chapter, it took a while for me to figure out that it was several years after the prologue. We were presented with a horrible situation for a character that was not immediately identified. This shrouded secrecy was driving me crazy. Slowly the story unfolded that this badly beaten creature was the child of the ruling lord and was in disfavor with him… and had been since the mother died giving them life. We have this character’s POV and are privy to their thoughts and plans of escape. We also have two elderly servants that have cared for this child since they had promised the dying mother that they would take care of her child. It was becoming a harder task as it became apparent that the lord was determined to kill his child. 

Vikings: Our story is in the early centuries of the history of England and costal Europe during what was known as the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages. At that time, England was made up of ruling kings, lords, and chieftains. Entering into that time period were the marauding Vikings that plagued the coastal villages and hamlets as they utilized the rivers to raid and trade their way up and down the coast. These Norse seafarers took anything of value, food, any articles that was useful to them and often left the village burned to the ground and the inhabitants left dead, dying or captured as slaves/servants. The mere mention of the word ‘Viking’ sent fear into the strongest of hearts. They were known for their expertise on the sea, their fighting strategies, sheer strength, size, their fierce fighting prowess and loyalty. 

There have been documentaries on the Vikings and [according to Wikipedia] there is even a historical TV drama created by Michael Hirst for the History channel. I find their history fascinating and was soon pulled into the story as our heroine Jilliand met Rurik the Viking Sea King. I was especially moved by the military precision that these Viking warriors and sailors operated under. Their purpose was set… trade when they could, take when they couldn’t, kill if necessary… everything was shared, everyone worked because their very survival was dependent on their securing enough supplies for the winter… smoked fish, game and meats, grains, and goods for their families. It was amazing how they utilized every moment toward completing those goals. 

Religious element: Surprisingly, there was a religious element woven throughout this story. Jilliand was Christian and Rurik observed the Norse beliefs. So… who was the pagan? Each was comfortable in their own ideologies and tried to respect the other in their beliefs. Each believed in a higher power, prayed and relied on help from on high and each walked that delicate balance between the two belief systems. I was amazed as I watched how the author handled this situation. Jilliand’s Christianity was not preachy as she prayed during those times of trouble, pain, loss, loneliness or despair. 

“Love can give you such happiness, then can break the very heart it filled, leaving a hole that can never be fixed or protected by any armour.” –Kevin McLeod, The Viking’s Apprentice

This was an exciting, horrifying, shockingly vivid story that at times still hid information behind a vail and didn’t explain everything. Other times… I didn’t want that detail. OMG!! This was a brutal time period in the history of the world and I wonder at how anyone survived. This was simply fascinating. I enjoyed it. The love story between our main characters was an enduring love. Wow!! What she suffered was amazing. 

Rating: PG-17: due to battle violence, some graphic in the description of what was seen by others, and mild sex scenes, nothing graphic.

I volunteered to read an advance reader copy via the publisher and NetGalley. The views expressed are my own. I absolutely loved the cover. [4.5-stars]
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3.5 / 5 stars. 
When requesting this book from netgalley I knew next to nothing about it, I only knew that it was about Vikings and that was enough to draw me in. 
That Viking part of it, was what I liked most about the book. I love history, and after reading a nonfiction history book about that time period that also had some parts in it about Vikings, I got very interested in this particular time period and setting. 
It took a bit of time for me to get into the book, but once I was really into it, I couldn’t stop reading. What troubled me most  with getting into the book was that there was a lot of jumping back and forth between perspectives which often made it difficult to tell who was speaking and what was happening. I also did not really like the romance at first, but it grew on me, and I did like it near the ending. 
To wrap this review up, I did have a few issues with the book but I ended up really enjoying it after all.
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Jilliand—captive of the man she calls father, escapes years of abuse only to be captured by Viking raiders, but is lucky enough to find favor with the Viking Sea King Rurik. This story contains a love story (of sorts) but I wouldn’t classify this as a romance story. This is more a myth or legend about the heroine Jilliand, that tells of all her trials, tribulations and exploits. The story is told in the style of a person telling you a myth or legend, and I really enjoyed that. According to the author’s note at the end, many of the characters are at least, in part, based on real historical characters, which I felt lent to the overall realism of the tale. Rurik (Jilliand’s Viking love interest) is less a hero of the tale and more one of the things Jilliand must overcome. Jilliand comes through so much heartache and adversity in this tale, that it is probably not a read for everyone, but I loved her strength, her humility, and her helpful, caring nature. This story includes depictions of violence that are not for the faint of heart. A fascinating tale of a woman’s will to survive in a harsh world!
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This book was okay, but I can't recommend it as it reads more like a draft.  It needs some direction and a bit more paid to the history of the era.  I will give it three stars for effort.
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Exciting story of a pregnant Princess who escaped the castle after the death of her husband.  She had intended to go to her brother, but never completed the journey.  She was married to the Lord of a poor, small estate.  He thought the child was his, and hoped for a son.  This is the story of this girl whose birth resulted in the death of her mother.  
     Her childhood was spent learning to fight like a boy/man, housed in the dungeons.  With the support of a loving peasant couple and caring captain of the guard, she developed a strong sense of self worth, and determination to live.   These attitudes allowed her to face capture by the Vikings, wars between the Vikings and the loss of her first child.   In the course of the story, she falls in love, marries, then is separated from her husband due to wars.  Years pass (8 - 9) and finally he finds her.  
    I found the book riveting, as her life circumstances pulled at my heart.  The life of an ordinary woman during this age was accurately portrayed as hard, brutal and often short due to death from childbirth.  The  author had done her research to portray a typical Viking life.  I will look for the other books this author has written.
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This particular book had ebbs and valleys on the characters.  As much as I wanted to like it - it deals with Vikings and I adore these books, I just could not get around some glaring issues.  One, the writing is stilted.  It is like reading a Wikipedia passage.  Please, please show us, don't tell us.  The ships are often called vessels.  Nothing describing them.   A first kiss, but no passion talked about.   Lots of raids, but nothing in real detail to bring us there and let us see it in our minds.  

When it comes to history, there's quite a bit in the book.  Not in a good way.  It's great that you did the research, but you don't have to bludgeon the reader over the head with "Vikings were not as bad as the English thought and were nice and kind, too."  Got it on one.  Bringing up the various history over and over made me believe there was a quiz at the end of the book.
The lead character acts stupid as if she didn't know what was going on or that no one would talk to her after months.  Because the author points out in the bibliography that she was writing about real life people, some pieces felt contrived to make them work.  The time line was out of wack and at times I didn't know what period of their lives we were in.  

The number of times this woman is captured, wants to die, over and over again.  It was just too much.  She's also told to us to be very smart, yet she does so many silly things that I guess we have to be told.  

There were some good points.  Jilliand's love for people and her goodness for the people around her.  Even that point got a bit old.  Almost like Snow White calling all the people around her to shower good blessings on all.  The best and most evenly thought out sections were in Rurik's village.  It seemed to flow better there than in the rest o the book. 
I wanted to really like this book but in the end I could not.  This is almost a first draft that will need quite a bit of editing to polish it.
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An enjoyable read that was tough to put down. Jilliand was a likable character and felt connected to her story, her defeats, triumphs and love. The descriptions of Viking living were where Gutierrez shone. I felt transported to the villages and rooted for Jilliand to survive. Thank you NetGally for the opportunity to read and review.
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This book is a love story but not of the conventional kind. Jilliand's existence goes from despair to the instinct of survival and she suffered many losses along the way, consequently is the kind of book that you can’t put down because you want to find out if it has a happy ending. 

The author gives only the necessary clues through the book about the mystery that surrounds Jilliand's identity in order to keep the reader interested and curious. The book is enjoyable and a fast-paced read. 

Jilliand is a strong female character, somehow too modern for my taste. I don’t understand why many historical fiction heroines are written according to our modern standards of what a strong woman must be. I believe IX Century strong women weren’t quite like her, it’s impossible to know for sure, but doesn’t feel plausible in relation to the story. 

The depiction of the Norse and the way of living of the Vikings it's a great plus for the book. I found fascinating many of the facts of everyday life, the cleaningness, the clans and how family oriented they were.
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Jilliand: A story of Love and Freedom is a good, rich Viking novel. What sets it apart is not just the adventures, the kidnappings, the battle scenes, the raids, or the slow and sweet developing romance. Truly, what author Clare Gutierrez excels at is in the description of how the Vikings lived. These scenes are where she really shows the reader what it is like living as part of a Viking community rather than telling the reader. Her villages will captivate your heart as you come to like the Vikings and cheer Jilliand on. Before the village scenes, I felt like this was a normal romance novel of dozens I have read over the year (More like hundreds). Instead, my eyes were opened by the creativity and imagination that Gutierrez displays in this historical romance. There were times where I felt like I was there and part of life in this Viking world that the author had created. 

Jilliand is an adventure into a time where Vikings raided settlements and the English fought back. The heroine (Jilliand) is resilient (goodness is she related to Wonder Woman?) She does seem to attract more than her fair share of disasters and misadventures. Abused and neglected by her father, Jilliand is encouraged to run away on the night before her arranged wedding to an elderly neighbor.  On the run from her father and his men, Jilliand learns what it is like to be a vulnerable woman outside of her father's village. Possessing sword skills that are unusual for woman in her time, her grace and athletic ability save her more than once and come in handy along her adventures. These remarkable skills fail to save her from being captured by the Viking Sea King Rurik. Taken far from her home, Jilliand embarks on a voyage that will open her eyes to what freedom means and open her heart to love. 

There are several topics that really stand out in this book. The way religion is interwoven throughout this novel is very interesting as the two lovers come from different belief system but manage to coexist within their love. Politics and religion have a nice clash, revealing the hierarchy later in the novel with the King and The Bishop of the church. Showing the reader the power of the church but also the power of the throne at the same time. works so well in this novel.  Issues like religion and politics play an important role in history, and Gutierrez handles these seamlessly by intertwining them in everyday life. Death, violence, and the treatment of women across cultures are portrayed realistically to show what society was like in that time. There were a few times where I thought the violence was a bit much- but that just balanced out the softer times. 

I really enjoyed reading this book- it was realistic at times and fanciful at times. The writing is good, but the editing needs to be cleaner. More defined transitions from different scenes and different times would be beneficial or better headings.  Fine tuning the point of view from first to third person and the shifts between them would also really help with character development and smoothing out the writing.
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** spoiler alert ** Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read & review.

I was intrigued about this book from the minute I saw the cover. It's absolutely gorgeous ~ the Longship, the typeset, the colors, the sea mist ~ everything! That the book was written about a period during the peak of the Viking Age ~ clinched the deal ~ I definitely wanted to read it. I'm so glad I got the chance. 

It's a beautiful story & romance that kept me captivated until the end. The heroine 'Jilliand' seemed almost unrealistically strong at times. Again and again, striking out on her own & putting herself in perilous situations. She was described as "beautiful" with emerald eyes & fiery sunset hair. How such a woman wasn't raped and/or taken advantage of but rather helped in each predicament, was quite astonishing (and again, perhaps a bit unrealistic??) The reader can't help but admire and "root for her" tho, the way her character and life history was developed, created an extraordinary woman ~ every bit equal to a Viking Sea Lord! Speaking of which, the love story between herself & her Viking captor, Rurik, was agonizingly slow-building but heart breakingly exquisite. The romantic in me just "sighed." They spent more time getting to know each other & subsequently being torn apart than they ever did being together but that just made it all the more beguiling.

The historical aspect of Viking culture was equally interesting to read about. How they assimilated their captives and often settled an area after conquering it (as in Rus where Rurik goes in the story) demonstrated why they were successful. Combined with their legendary fighting & boat building skills, it's amazing they were ever defeated. I wish I would have read the authors notes first, to know that Rurik was based on an actual person in history. It adds another element of authenticity to the book. I don't mind at all that the author took creative license by making up an equally powerful love story to accompany his prowess as a leader. It seems only fitting he should have one and made me hope he did in actuality as well.

If 'Jilliand' has weaknesses as a book (or character,) I'm willing to overlook them ~ it was such an enjoyable read that I have no desire to pick them apart. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this period in history and looking for something quick and easy to read.
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#Jilliand #Netgalley

I would like to thank NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I had to give a lot of thought to upgrading my original star rating from a 2.5 to a 3.  The author chose to write this book as an introspective narrative, which for me, takes away from the immediacy of a scene that has more impact when unfolding as opposed to being thought about.  A lot of the action was sacrificed or glossed over in the ‘then this happened, then that happened’ narrative.  The main character was put through so many harrowing emotional dramas with hardly any mental scars other than the horror of her childhood.  While what could have been a meaty investigation into the ramifications of such a life on an early century woman turned into a cliched fairy tale that lacked believability.  This was more of a ‘Harliquen” romance, which if this was the read you were after, this book will fulfill.

The saving grace for me, thus the half star upgrade, was the depiction of Norse/Viking life.  These rich, descriptive fill ins (how I wished for more) was the enjoyment that I got from this read.  I  liked how the author did try to balance out the viewpoints of both sides instead of just handing us a one-sided ideaology of good vs. bad.
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I couldn't put the book down.  I just had to see how it ended.  I had no trouble following the book and even though Rurik disappointed me only once, I loved to see the love that was between Jilliand and Rurik.  Julliand, because of her caring nature, was thought highly by all that got to know her.
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This is like a saga.  You have to be prepared for that thought or you will hate this book.  It does drag, but the story is very good.  It did take me some time to get into it, but once I did I wanted to keep reading.  I would have given five stars, but I was dissatisfied with the ending.

Jillian goes through so much.  Her story at one time just made me cry and it seemed like everyone who claimed to love her just ended up abandoning her.  Just so sad and I just wanted so much more for her.

A good read, but lots of history and fighting.

Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Lots of heartbreak, lots of passive voice

I would like to thank Clare Gutierrez, River Grove Books, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Major Spoilers

I kind of had a minor breakdown while reading this. This is what I wrote at the time:

This was a different kind of romance, and not the kind I like. I’m sorry, I didn’t finish it. My heart couldn’t take it. I managed to crawl past the devastating day Jilliand lost nearly everything, hanging onto hope that Rurik would find her soon. But he didn’t, and when several years passed and he married again and started a new family—while Jilliand was alive, just waiting for him to come to her—I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stopped, literally shaking my head and mumbling, “No. No. No.” I closed the program on my computer in an effort to get the heartbreaking story away from me. Maybe—probably—Jilliand and Rurik will find each other again in the future and still have their HEA, but in my personal opinion of romantic narratives, I consider that too little too late. I’m sure there are people who don’t mind these stories that ask the reader to endure hardship after hardship, but I am not one of them. I stopped reading the Outlander series for the same reason. I don’t mind stakes, I don’t mind dark, but at the end of the day, I still want it to be fiction. I’m looking to escape reality; I want it to be too good to be true.

So those are my thoughts on the romance aspect. I stand by them, though I did walk away, calm down, and come back to skim the rest of the story; I was curious to see how it ended. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be—Rurik’s “new” life wasn’t a very happy or fulfilling one for him, which he deserved—but I’m afraid I’m still not a fan of this book for many reasons.

First, inconsequential nitpicks:

If the lord was determined to make Jilliand look like a boy, he would have cut her hair. Even when he couldn’t deny she was female, he would’ve enjoyed shaming her by keeping her hair hacked off.

“…continued [Jilliand’s] education beyond what most girls not of noble birth would receive.” That’s not saying much; noblewomen weren’t any more educated than lower class women. A select few might have received a small bit of education, the basics, perhaps, but not nearly to the extent boys did.

The king used a fork, but forks weren’t commonly used in England for several hundred years yet. They were popular in Italy and France long before the English stopped being snobby about it.

There are other nitpicks, like lines that didn’t make sense, but we’ll move this along. Second, my problems with the narrative:

This book seemed to go on and on and on, felt as if it were several stories smashed together, and in large part it’s because many of the events and plot threads in this book were random and unconnected. In storytelling, setup and payoff are very, very important, and there’s the rule of three. Everything introduced needs to come back around and have an important role in the end. Quite literally, everything needs to happen for a reason. So like the guy at the beginning who sees Jilliand in the tree and helps her out? Cut it. The friend of the lord who mysteriously appears at the Viking village and gives her a hard time? Pointless. I don’t think he was ever even named. Helgi and the other survivors? Touching, but also a waste of time. Jilliand’s beautiful singing? Disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. Rurik seemed so intent on England, then he just suddenly decides to go the opposite direction, and an entire slew of characters were introduced that didn’t ultimately matter a lick.

In the same vein, there was no central antagonist; it switched to whoever happened to be around–the lord, those dudes chasing after her, the Vikings, Gouldon, Greida, Phillippe, and several others. The narrative followed Jillaind’s journey and the obstacles she came up against, and that’s fine, but if you just glance at antagonists and discard them, the reader isn’t going to care. The protagonist is only as strong as his or her foil. For example, Jamie and Claire in Outlander meet challenge after challenge, but it all comes back to the initial conflicts—she’s a woman out of time, and he’s an outlaw, both haunted—and hunted—by sadist Jack Randall.

But not every thread was left dangling; Jilliand’s secret royal heritage came back around, as did her relationship with Rurik. Gouldon’s backstory came to play, though I have my issues with that. There were recurring themes, such as faith, violence, and survival, as well as love and freedom. I think a much more accurate subtitle would have been: A Story of Faith, Violence, and Survival; those elements were featured more prominently. Jilliand found herself in a state of captivity time and again, and she was also blamed for others’ misfortune when she was the true victim, but she never committed suicide like she often thought she should; so there was some strength to her, though she often seemed annoyingly helpless and ignorant. Whether her ignorance was in character or not is an argument of book smarts versus street smarts.

Yet so much was blatantly contrived for the plot. What made me angriest was Rurik going to fricken Russia. It was so out of left field, and the way it unfolded was so nonsensical. Again, there was no setup, no mention of conflict there, no mention of his interest in the area, nothing to prelude that decision. Why did he take half the village? He told Jilliand—and therefore the audience—nothing about anything. Why, I don’t know. I can only figure he considered himself above being accountable to this woman he declared was his life. We were told he led raids to provide for his people, and I think that was about the only explanation for his actions we were privy to. I’m not even entirely sure why he was partial to Jilliand. And a lot of things he didn’t bother to tell her were things she should have asked about or naturally been told, such as the fact that Olga was his mother, or that he meant to marry Jilliand. Like not mentioning Jilliand’s name in the first chapter, I think Gutierrez was trying to manufacture intrigue, and I didn’t appreciate it. It made Rurik seem self-centered and Jilliand seem pathetically ignorant. And another thing—what the hell was he waiting for? I have no idea why Rurik waited so long to get with Jilliand. There was no reason not to!

Furthermore, it chafes me that Rurik didn’t bother confirming her death and moved on to beget an all-precious son while Jilliand waited and waited and waited for him. She had more far faith in him than he deserved. I’d like to think that if he loved her so completely, he wouldn’t have given up hope that she lived until he had proof of her death, or until he’d looked everywhere, asked everyone, and not found her. Maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation, considering he was responsible for a people and couldn’t afford to do something selfish and time-consuming like that, but at the end he himself said he’d give up a kingdom for her. If that were true, he’d have helped conquer Rus, handed over the reins to someone he trusted, and gone to find her. Also, the two of them had something of a sixth sense in regards to each other’s presence—except, of course, when Rurik was told Jilliand was dead and desperately wanted to believe she wasn’t. When the sense would actually have been useful, it abandoned him.

I don’t understand how Jilliand handled that situation, either. I have no idea what made her think that it would be easier for Rurik to find her in England when she was supposed to be in Denmark, burned village or no. When he killed her father, he himself said she had nothing tying her to England anymore, so why would he think she’d go there? There was nothing for her there—that she knew of. But then, once she was established as the king’s sister and had a bit of weight to throw around, why did she not send messengers to find Rurik? The king wanted the alliance and her happiness, so I can’t imagine he’d have said no. Why was notifying Rurik no one’s priority? Year after year, how could Jilliand have been content to hope he would come for her when she knew he no doubt thought she was dead? See what I mean? Blatantly contrived.

When you find an interesting piece of information while researching, such as that the name you chose for your hero may or may not have been the name of the man who founded Russia, think about whether or not it would serve the plot and the characters, if it would make sense, before you get too excited and decide to manipulate your story to fit in the new information. Tell one story at a time.

Lastly, style:

This read rather like a fairytale, not like modern fiction.

I wasn’t shown this story, it was told to me. An overwhelming portion of it was written in passive voice—linking verbs abounded—and it kept me at arm’s length. That’s a problem. Passive voice is instructional, and indeed there were parts that read like a personable history book. Example: “The community was much like most of those scattered around England in the 800s.” There’s a difference between a narrator and an instructor.

Gutierrez also had an odd way of constructing paragraphs. They tended to be quite long, sometimes the length of an entire page, and in one paragraph she would mash viewpoints together and give dialogue from more than one character. Her sentences were also a bit choppy at times. It came across as messy and could be confusing. Example: “Jilliand was led to the great hall reserved for men. Jilland had never been inside the hall before and hesitated now. The slave opened the door and stood expectantly. Jilliand stepped through the doorway. A quick survey proved Jilliand was the only woman inside, and there were visitors. She stood still, not sure what was expected of her. Greida watched Jilliand walk into the men’s building with jealousy near the erupting point.”

The author also doesn’t seem very skilled in dialogue. It was often stiff and unnatural, and some lines would have been better expressed as thought. Example: “‘What do I do now? I’ve lost my horse and haven’t found people or water. What will happen to me?’ she asked desperately of the growing darkness.” It makes me imagine a self-aware melodrama in which the damsel collapses weakly against something, lays the back of her hand against her forehead, and cries, “Oh, whatever shall I do?”

On top of all that, and building on my comments regarding setup and antagonists, much of the story felt superficial. The only character of consequence was Jilliand—everyone else was a plot device, ranging from useless to shallow; planets revolving around her sun. We didn’t know anything about Rurik except that he was a Viking sea king. How could he speak English so well? What happened to his father? Two or three times we were told that he and Jilliand talked about a range of subjects, but the reader never learned any of it. Gouldon’s purpose was to provide unnecessary conflict. Greida could have been an amazing character who hated Jilliand at first and then became her friend, but no, she was just a jealous hag with no rhyme or reason. Why was she so greedy for power? What was her backstory? We were teased a noble and fascinating backstory for Avila, then watched him accomplish nothing and die. You can’t use and discard characters like tissues. Something needs to matter.

Finally, time. I couldn’t draw up a timeline if I tried. At times it would sound as if weeks had passed, but really it was only a few days. Other times weeks would pass but it seemed like only a few days. Gutierrez would stick with one POV for a length of time, then back up and switch to the other POV and catch up. The timeline should have been straightforward linear—there were no flashbacks or time traveling—but with all the stopping and reversing, it became very disorienting.

Overall, this read like a rough draft of amateur work—but with great potential. I do believe Gutierrez has talent, but she’s not going to find wide acclaim like this. Also, the editor should be fired.
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This was a really enjoyable book, set in a different time to what I normally read. I did find the heartache and trials that Jilliand and then Rurik had to go through very sad, I really empathised with the characters. Whilst the destruction the Vikings caused to many many villages, I wonder as the author points out, how different they really were to the way the English was back then. I recommend as something different, a true love story. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Greenleaf Book Group
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