March 10, 2014

The Grip of God by Rebecca Hazell: Review by Me, and Guest Post by the Author



Today I am not only reviewing Rebecca Hazell's historical fiction novel, The Grip of God, but Hazell has also written a guest post that I get to share with you, as well.  Sorry I am late getting it up, we have been without power for four days and I had to wait for a place with power and outlets and Wi-fi!  Be sure to check out the other reviews from this tour, which are linked up at the bottom of this post!


About the book
Duncan, BC Canada: Award Winning Writer Rebecca Hazell Releases First Book in Trilogy of Historical Fiction Novels

Rebecca Hazell's The Grip of God, the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, is available on amazon.com and its affiliates and by special order through your local bookstore. The saga’s heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. Clear eyed and intelligent, she recounts her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol hordes that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is haunted by a prophecy that catalyzes bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family. She must learn to survive in a world of total war, always seeking the love she once took for granted.

Sofia's story is based on actual historical events that determine her destiny. Readers will delight in this very personal and engaging tale from a time that set the stage for many of the conflicts of today's world.


First, the Guest Post:


MAGIC, MIRACLES, AND SOMETHING IN BETWEEN

So many people have had experiences that seem to defy logic, like when I lived in the woods at the end of a long downhill driveway and my car wouldn't start. I literally prayed for help, and apparently out of nowhere, a tow truck appeared at the top of the driveway and the driver called down, “Do you need help?”

In the same way, a book comes to hand in a timely fashion, or you need to get hold of someone and you run into them in the grocery store or the movies. We think of these things as uncommon and maybe a bit magical or miraculous, but we tend to drop them into the back of our mind and go on. 

But 700 years ago, people looked on such events differently: they either feared them as frightening, possibly Satanic, or they regarded them as personal miracles and proof that God had you firmly in His grip. Miracles, curses, blessings, and unexplained events were woven into the fabric of life in those days. Some people claimed to see devils out of the corners of their eyes, while others saw angels.

Sofia, the heroine of my novel, The Grip of God, was typical of her time: she felt that seeking to foresee the future in a mirror was a harmless and useful tradition, but she regarded the customs of other religions as demonic. Things got very confusing for her when she was enslaved by a Mongol warrior and kept in fear of his envious brother because of a prophecy by their shaman. The fact that he was Sofia’s ally in many ways confused her even more, and when a Buddhist monk and a Christian heretic befriended her, she had to either shut down or enlarge her outlook.


The Grip of God not only tells a coming of age story, full of action, adventure, danger, and romance, it also takes you back into a completely different time where some people feared and hated each other for their beliefs, were even willing to kill each other over them, while others sought to understand different ways of seeing the world, and as a result brought clashing worlds together in harmony. Through the many trials and dangers she faced, Sofia became such a person.


Now, my review:

When Michelle Miller asked me if I wanted to read and review The Grip of God, I was hesitant at first.  One, because I was trying not to take on too many review books this year.  Two, because the time period of the 13th century is not my favorite.  

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself immediately drawn into Sofia's world and quite taken with Sofia herself.  Not to say that she didn't annoy me, because she often did, but she was still interesting, brave, and head strong, even in the direst of circumstances.  This made for a character I could like even if I did not agree with her narrow-mindedness.  Sofia often reminded me of present-day religious extremists and nationalists.  It turned me off so much I am not sure I would've finished the book if it had not been for review, but I am glad that I did.

The Grip of God is definitely an epic tale.  It is very detailed about the culture of the nomadic Mongols and about Sofia's own culture in Kiev.  I learned a lot about the culture, which I found pretty fascinating.  You forget during the course of the book, especially the first third of the book up until her birthday, how very, very young Sofia is still.  It's almost alarming when you are reminded.  It definitely created more empathy from me towards Sofia.  I think my favorite character, however, was her master's mother, Q'ing-ling, who became a great role model for and sympathizer toward Sofia, having been brought into the Mongols fold herself at one time.  

The only complaint I had with the book was that it was very slow moving.  This is definitely a character-driven book.  Not a lot of action takes place, mostly in spurts, though toward the end it did speed up thankfully.  I am definitely someone who likes the plot to be constantly moving forward and there were a lot of lulls in this book.  It made it feel much, much longer than 400 pages.  

That is not to say you should not give it a try.  It is a great story and if it is sped up, would also make a great movie.  It is about a time in history that not many have touched on and I appreciated that.  



Praise for the trilogy
“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

"I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn't put it down." -- from a review on Amazon.com.

"I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful." --author Dede Crane Gaston

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The subsequent two novels in the trilogy are scheduled for publication later this year.

About the author
Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.
She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca Hazell:

Tour Schedule:
Monday, February 17

Tuesday, February 18
Guest post/giveaway at Must Read Faster

Friday, February 21

Monday, February 24
Review/giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, February 26

Thursday, February 27
Review/Giveaway at Book Drunkard

Friday, February 28
Guest Post at Book Drunkard

Monday, March 3

Thursday, March 6
Spotlight/Giveaway at Celticlady's Reviews

Friday, March 7

Monday, March 10
Guest post/review/Giveaway at Lost in Books

Tuesday, March 11

Wednesday, March 12
Review/Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Thursday, March 13
Review/giveaway at Create with Joy

Friday, March 14
Guest post/giveaway at HF Book Muse- News
Guest post/giveaway/review at Le Vanity Victorienne

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