Fortune's Wheel

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

I requested this book because I had seen some great advance reviews and the premise looked interesting. This story is of a village that is learning to live after the 'mortality' swept through their land and caused more deaths than can be comprehended. They have to rebuild, with lesser people and resources. The story focus on the women, who hold pivotal positions. The positions may be in terms of respect the town holds for them or just within their family. Each woman is carrying a burden and they end up helping each other claw their way to the other side.
The hierarchies and relationships are described in intricate detail and this book could start many discussions about what actions a certain situation might entail.The thing I liked about the book was the way the women banded together and helped each other (as much as they could). This is a refreshing thing to read about even if they only had limited freedom themselves. I found it hard to read at my usual pace and the story seemed to take a while to get moving. I did not enjoy the tale as much as I should have considering the technical details I admired. That being said, the second book of the series is also out now. If historical political and the struggles of  rural women in 1350s is your thing, you should definitely give it a shot.
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“It was hard to understand where God’s love was in all this desolation...”

So many tenets had died in Meonbridge with the Plague, that the entire town is different. There are those who want to keep the status quo, and those who want more. Was the mortality- as the people call it, G-d’s wrath? If so, why didn’t “the sinners” die and the good people, especially the children, succumb?

Every family was affected in the Village, either by illness or it’s aftermath. What happens now? 

The problem with this book is that it is really slow and verbose, and I found myself so looking forward to it. When the chapters simply begin to sound the same even through another chracter’s Eyes, I began to avoid reading it, or fell asleep reading it. It dragged. I so wanted it not too, but it did. I do not recommend this book. 2/5 

[disclaimer: I received this book from NetGalley and it has not affected my opinions]
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I grew to really enjoy this story set in medieval England although at first the large cast of characters kept me confused and unsure of who was who. Gradually the story centered on Alice and her family and friends and I was able to stop worrying about who was who enjoy the tale. It is told quite truthfully to the time period and involves both the gentry as well as the ordinary people.  Thanks to #netgalley for the chance to read #fortuneswheel
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I was pretty intimidated upon opening this book to find a cast of characters spanning a couple of pages preceding the opening chapter. With several of these characters having very similar sounding names, I was beginning to get serious Game of Thrones vibes (this is not a criticism – I love the Game of Thrones books, but they’re just such an investment to read!).

Once I got into the story, though, I found I could have probably got through the novel without the cast of characters, although it was handy to have. Yes, there are several characters, as this novel is really a study of an entire village piecing itself back together in the aftermath of the plague, but I never found that I lost track of who was who.

The blurb focuses on Alice atte Wode’s missing daughter Agnes, so I thought this book would be a mystery centred around the search for Agnes and the reason for her disappearance. Those elements did feature in the plot – but as previously mentioned, this was a novel about the village as a whole, following several main characters, so I thought it a bit odd that the blurb makes it seem as if there’s only one.

I normally prefer 19th or 20th century historical fiction – but I actually really enjoyed Carolyn Hughes’ portrayal of 14th century Britain. It definitely feels very authentic, and has clearly been well-researched, but it also feels very accessible in a similar way to Philippa Gregory’s writing.

Although it was different to what I expected, I enjoyed the opportunity to see how the plague would have affected all tiers of society within a typical English village. Not even the Lord and his family escaped unscathed, and I was really interested to see how the plague knocked down some of those class divides, giving the lower classes the power to make demands of their master.

There was a strong element of religious belief to this novel, which again is true to the time period. I’d never really considered this implication of the plague before, but it would have been quite a tumultuous event in shaping people’s faith and belief, having come at random, killing not only sinners but also the most pious in society, including men of the cloth. Though I found it interesting, I did think the author laboured it a bit too much for me, with each narrator (and there were a fair few) mentioning it at least once.

Overall this was a mixed bag for me. I loved learning more about the time period, but in terms of plot and characterisation it fell short of what I’d expected.
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Fortune's Wheel is set in the village of Meonbridge during the time of the Black Death, known in the village as 'the mortality'. There have been so many deaths in the village and this has had a devastating effect on everyone - men and women widowed, families destroyed with the death of children and a shortage of people left to work for the manor and for their livelihood. The life for those who have survived is so well described you can picture this village and its inhabitants and feel invested in their attempts to continue and succeed.
The beginning of this book begins with tragedy and then the stories of the villagers draws you in very quickly. It is fascinating to read that the Church believed the Black Death was a punishment from God for their sins and that folk should put the success and wealth of the Lord of the Manor before themselves and their families. Nothing changes!
A great read and I am delighted to see there are to be more 'chronicles' of the folk of this village.
Many thanks to Netgalley/Carolyn Hughes and Silverwood Books for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Excellent historical fiction.  Brings to life that horrific time in history.  Well written, with engaging characters.
My only concern is that is it part of a saga.  Although this is quite popular with authors today, sometimes we readers just want a "stand alone" novel.
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Fortune’s Wheel is an English historical fiction novel set in the middle of the 14th century, during the reign of Edward III, a period I know little about since most of the HF I’ve read centres on the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor period. Unusually, this is not about the royals, battles and court politics, but instead describes six months in the lives of the inhabitants of a small village in Hampshire, Meonbridge.

Bubonic plague, known as The Mortality, has halved the village population, taking young and old, rich and poor, good and bad, then moved on, leaving the survivors reeling, unsure how to carry on with their lives. The strict hierarchy of medieval life must continue, however, with villeins (tenants), forced to pay both rent and service to the Lord, Richard, while poor cottars, who own nothing, work where they can, and the Freemen (and a few women) can farm their own land, but still need to make ends meet. With so many working men dead, the balance of power has shifted, and the poor villagers are demanding an increase in pay, but wage rises have been forbidden by the king, an excuse willingly seized upon by those in power.

The story is told mostly from the point of view of several different women, Alice, older widow whose daughter went missing just before the sickness began, her friend Margaret the Lord’s wife, and Eleonore, a free woman who has inherited her father’s sheep farm. There is a large cast of characters and the list at the beginning is helpful to keep track, so worth bookmarking. Clearly well researched, this had a lot of interesting detail about their day to day lives, relationships and occupations, which meant the plot took a while to get going. There are two main mysteries - what happened to Agnes, and who killed one of the protesters, and the reveal is no surprise in either case. 

I enjoyed this as a change from all my thrillers, and a way to learn about ordinary life in the Middle Ages. I liked the main characters and the writing.
This book is labelled the First of the Meonbridge Chronicles, and the sequel has been published recently, but this works well as a stand-alone with no annoying cliff-hangers, and a satisfying if slightly cheesy ending. I would be keen to continue the series and find out what happens next.

Thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Historical fiction can be hit or miss. Sometimes the author, intent on detailing the historical period loses their way with the narrative. Other times the narrative loses all sense of its time period. This book struck the perfect balance. A gripping, female driven plot, with enough historical accuracy to have me thinking ‘well I never knew that’. Well written, gripping and satisfying. I loved this book.
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I received an advanced reading copy from BooksGoSocial and Carolyn Hughes via NetGalley. Thanks!

Last month I read an historical mystery novel called [book:The Thieftaker's Trek|40094521]. I enjoyed the story, but the historic elements were not as successful.  The characters did not feel as if they had been born in a world with different beliefs and mores, but instead as if my neighbor or coworker was transported to the past. 

Reading Fortune’s Wheel felt like the mirror image of the previous book. Set in fourteenth century England, this story takes place in a small village that has lost a large part of its population to the Black Death.  Beyond the grief of losing loved ones, this book explores the political and societal ramifications of these losses to the entire population. I loved that insight. 

The plotting was less successful for me. The story did not have a single protagonist, but instead follows a large number of characters.  This left me less invested in the individual stories of each of the people, and hampered the forward momentum of the plot for me. Even the underlying mystery at the center of this book was not as satisfying because it did not resolve all of the challenges faced by the other characters. Much more accurate to the way life functions, but not what I anticipate from a literary mystery. 

All in all, however, I did enjoy this book. I really liked the unexpected insights it provided into the way very personal losses could have a much larger scope of influence for the entire town. If I could give it a 3.75 star rating, I would jump at that.
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Ever read a book and sit there & try to decide where the story actually starts and where the story actually is? For me this was that type of book. I wanted to enjoy this book, it is set in the right time frame, the author knew what she was writing about, but I could not get into the story. It was bad enough I dropped it mid way through the book and read another two books before remembering that I forgot to finish this one. In all honesty, the story line was quite boring to me and hard to get into. The characters were well developed and the plot lines were there. I just could not get into the story or get it to hold my interest. I finally did read it but it still left me with a disappointed feel. 

Don't get me wrong, the book was good, just very slow paced and you figured everything out well before the author told you what happened. I am pleased with the ending though to be honest with the time era I feel it was more of a fairy-tale ending then one that actually would have taken place.
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Historical fiction at it's best!  This was a very enjoyable read and very well written. The author certainly knew her subject and had obviously spent a great deal of time in researching.   It's just a shame when i came to the the last page.  This is a book that i would quite happily read again one day, but meanwhile i intend to read Carolyn Hughes next book is this excellent saga, 'A Woman's Lot (The Meonbridge Chronicles 2)'.

I do highly recommend 'Fortune's Wheel'.  

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy.  This is my honest review.
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Carolyn Hughes first book is a historical fiction focusing on the small village of Meonbridge in aftermath of the plague in England. There are too few people to do all of the work and those who are left feel that they should get higher wages for their labor. Of course the ruling class sees no reason to bow to the wishes of the working class.

Hughes focuses particularly on the women and how strong they are during difficult circumstances. A primary character, Alice, has lost her husband Philip and has two sons to deal with. One of Alice’s previous love interests develops a mean streak making life in the village difficult. Everyone agrees that his behavior is difficult to understand.

I am attracted to books with action. I find Hughes does an excellent job of describing people but her descriptions of events are lacking. Murders occur, but they are only mentioned. People disappear but little is done. Murderers are identified but their motives are vague and, in my mind, poorly described. I found I was bored at times.

This book is about change. People are forced to approach life through a new lens. Citizens need to cooperate if villages are going so survive. Of course this leads to murder and mayhem at first, but people must adjust if they are going to survive. It’s a good story and I recommend this book to those looking for in depth character development. NetGalley kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review.
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The worst plague in England’s history has decimated the population, its wrath knowing no difference between the wealthy, the poor, the powerful or the weak. Like so many of her neighbors, Alice atte Wode has lost her husband and eldest son to the “mortality.” Unlike her neighbors, just days before the plague her daughter mysteriously disappeared and Alice is determined to find her or at least find the answers to where she went. 

As the villagers struggle to rebuild their lives after the plague has gone strife has come as tenants are pushed beyond their limits in their work for the manor. And they realize their value as labor has just gone up. Will the manor deny them the right to better lives in order to keep them under the manor’s thumb?

Carolyn Hughes’s depiction of fourteenth century England in FORTUNE’S WHEEL is rich with detail, yet does not get mired in concentrating on the nuances of the old language. Contemporary dialogue does not take away from the story, but actually makes it a more pleasurable experience as we are allowed to concentrate on the mental images of the world these people lived in.

Certainly a well-written historical novel, the pace is not rapid-fire but steady and strong. An easy to read historical novel with strong characters that many times seem contemporary.

I received a complimentary Review copy from Silverwood Books!

Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles - Book 1
Publisher: SilverWood Books (November 7, 2016)
Publication Date: November 7, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction
Print Length: 273 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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The Black Death has just swept through Meonbridge, England leaving devastation in its wake; despair of losing loved ones, labor disputes and shortages, feuds between families, murders, missing people and an oppressive church telling them it's their fault. There is not one aspect of life that wasn't affected by this devastating event. Fortune’s Wheel by Carolyn Hughes explores the aftermath of the Black Death in Meonbridge and how the survivors try to get back to normal life. 

It was refreshing to read this tale from the perspective of three of the surviving women.  I feel women are under-represented in historical events. I noticed three themes run through this story; a labor movement, the plight of women, and religious oppression.  For me, it started slowly, but about halfway, I got a feel for the characters, cared about them and wanted to know what would happen next. 

Fortune’s Wheel is an enjoyable novel that highlights the strength and resilience of women to persevere in the worst of times.
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This was a really interesting book - it's meant to be a historical crime novel, set in a village a few months after the devastation of the plague, but actually it works much better as a novel showing how the village recovers slowly from the disaster.  It has a fairly gentle pace and good characters - I found the actual crime a bit forgettable, but the small stories of widows remarrying, harvest recovery and angry workers wanting more pay were the really striking bits of the book.  Would be a great book for a book group!
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This is probably in my TOP 5 favorite books this year. I requested this book from NetGalley for review as I was already fascinated by its description. There is a lot of good I want to comment on about this book so lets start with the front of it.

To start with I was intrigued by the cover as you can see it is several people making up a wheel to a ship. The characters on the front all see vastly different and you can already tell that there is going to be many different types of characters to this book all leading very different lives, from what appears to be families to hard laborers, even to children trying to live out their youths. After flipping over and reading the synopsis one can’t help but wonder who among the people are the front will live and who all will perish?

Next up I want to touch how upon opening the book you are given a cast of characters. I really wish more series of books or books that focus around multiple POV’s or even ones with a very diverse line of characters would have these as it sometimes makes the lengthier stories a little easier to follow and gives you a tease of whats to come.

The writing in this novel blew me away! Carolyn has definitely done her research for this book and gives a wonderful spin on history. I actually learned a lot from this book. I found myself rushing to my computer to do my own research just to learn more after I reached this books end. It was interesting to see all the hierarchy’s between the classes and even how some lower classes had such social standings as well.

The characters in this novel were very complex and each one brought their own powerful punch to the book. They were well paced and their own background and family style was intriguing to read, even if not heartbreaking at times.

Overall I give this book 10 out of 5 stars. (yes i know 10 from 5 isn’t possible but that is how high I rate this book)
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The well-researched historical novel is set in the fictional village of Meonbridge (Hampshire) in the 14th century, in the aftermath of the plague, referred to as „the mortality“ by the villagers, half of whom have perished.
Sir Richard de Bohun, Lord of the manor, faces a serious problem, as there arent´t enough villagers left to work on his lands. The surviving villagers see the chance to make use of the lack in peasants by asking für higher wages. Sir Richard isn´t very sympathetic, but especially his son Philip and the bailiff Robert Tyler treat the villagers harshly. After two persons have been murdered, the situation turns critical.
The story is told through the eyes of three female protagonists. Lady Margaret is Sir Richard´s wife, she feels for the harshly treated and exploited villagers and tries to plead with her husband to ease their lot. The widow Alice atte Wode is a friend to Lady Margaret and keeps her informed about the life and the mood of the villagers. She also faces a grave problem of her own, not long before the outbreak of  the Black Death her daughter Agnes vanished and hasn´t been searched for so far. Alice is also friend to the freewoman Eleanor Titherige, whom she would like to have for a daughter-in-law.
Although Eleanor likes Alice´s son John, she isn´t ready to submit to a husband´s rule, she wants to make an independent living for herself as a sheep farmer.
The novel is focussed on the life of the simple people and the hardships they have to face. It shows how the loss of numerous lives due to the plague opens up unheard-of opportunities for the survivors who are now in a position to ask for higher wages and better living conditions.
The characters are mostly very well-developed and well-balanced, only two of them are shown in a very negative light, perhaps too negative to be realistic(?).
„Fortune´s Wheel“  is a very absorbing read, I recommend it strongly to every reader who is interested in the life of ordinary people in the Middle Ages and I would very much like to follow the stories of Margaret, Alice and Eleanor in the second volume.
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