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I am in a huge historical binge of late, so a change up from the usual romantic-themed stories set in England was a welcome respite. Set in 16th century Russia, the time of Ivan the Terrible, the social divide was near unbreakable: peasants were poor, the rich had everything and there was little to none of the population in the middle.
L.K. Hill uses this class divide to great effect with the heroine of the story, Inga, is born to abject poverty with few benefits above and beyond her great beauty. Taras is recently returned to his homeland, to discover the reason his mother died, as he is convinced they are motivated by a power grab.
The interactions and machinations of the characters are typical for any in court life, with a few more points added for tension, as Ivan is the most horrific person to sit in the Tsar’s chairs in recent memory. When Taras is granted a boon from Ivan, he uses it to save and bring Inga into his protection, and increasing her social consequence in the bargain. While not driven by romance, the story is more character driven, bringing us into the lives of people negotiating for and against the Tsar, and the intrigues and dangers that are inherent in the time.
I enjoyed the characters for the most part, and found them fairly believable as they developed even as I wished that Inga had thought to piece together the information that she KNEW and used that to inform some of her choices. Taras was a bit too transparent in his agenda for my tastes, and there were times when I thought that any of the court followers who paid attention would be able to unmask his real agenda. Other characters were introduced with purpose and intent, and while I often felt that there were some issues with ‘nicknames’ used that didn’t always feel correct, I was able to and wanted to read on to see what would happen.
My real issue with the story was the language. Phrases and euphemisms that were completely out of place for both Russian thought process and the period in history kept the story accessible to a modern, western eye, but gave me fits. I read historical fiction for BOTH entertainment and illumination into a world that is not my own, and perhaps not even remotely familiar. These are personal author choices for the most part, but they give me a sense that research was needed before the story was finished.
What I can say is the book is accessible to those who may not be a huge fan of historical fiction simply because of the archaic phrasing. While not a romance, there is a hint of interest in that direction with a touch of menacing villainous behavior popping out on occasion to increase the tension and lead to the climax.
Title: Citadels of Fire
Author: L.K. Hill
Genre: Literary Fiction, Literary Fiction /Historical Setting
Published by: Jolly Fish Press
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In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth.
As a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers.
Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.