A Game of Sorrows by Shona Maclean

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A Game of Sorrows by Shona Maclean

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: A tense historical murder mystery, where the backdrop of tumultuous 17th Century Ireland is played against a family under threat of a deadly curse. A tad slow to get going but overall a great read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
ISBN: 978-184916244

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Two years have passed since Alexander Seaton found his redemption. He is comfortably settled in his life at the University, about to be sent on the academic expedition of a lifetime, and wondering how best to ask the woman he loves to be his wife. Then a case of mistaken identity, which almost costs him his love and the respect of his friends leads Alexander to discover he has a cousin in town – the son of his late mother's brother, come from Ireland to seek his help.

A curse has been placed on Alexander's maternal family, a curse of death for the sons, and barren, loveless marriage for the daughters. But Alexander's grandmother, Maeve O'Neill, told the whole family his mother died before reaching England's shores. They don't know of his existence, and neither does whoever had the curse put upon them. Maeve believes Alexander is the key to lifting the curse and saving the family, but where she sees curses and ancient magic, Alexander sees a murder. Risking everything for a family he's never truly known, Alexander puts his job, his love, his friendships and even his life at stake.

I really, really enjoyed The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, despite it not being to my usual tastes. I tend to avoid historical novels – I usually find them dry, or confusing. The sort of research authors must do to craft a believable historical setting must be phenomenal, and sometimes that dedication can show in the writing in a negative way. At least, it has in my experience, but then maybe I'm reading the wrong books, because the Alexander Seaton novels are not like that at all.

Shona MacLean's gift is for evoking a feeling of her chosen time period without drowning the reader in detail. The tense political situation in Ireland is played against the colourful characters in Alexander's family, showing how a country divided affected its people in a very human, personal way.

The mystery and intrigue that kept me turning pages in the first book is just as gripping in A Game of Sorrows, though I felt it was a little slower to start. The novel begins with a bang, but drifts for a couple of chapters as the complex cast of characters is introduced. Once all the players are on the board, however, the pace kicks up as the web around Alexander tightens and he fights to find a rational explanation for a curse that appears to be coming true.

I loved the contrast between Alexander's very academic outlook and Maeve's traditional beliefs. That Alexander was as much overwhelmed and confused by the traditions of his Irish family that we as readers are likely to be was a nice touch, and made the story that much more accessible.

Overall, a first rate historical murder mystery, though not quite as good as its predecessor – held back by a slightly overlarge cast that meant the opening chapters felt a little more 'who's who' than 'whodunnit'.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

Check out Bookbag's Top Ten Historical Fiction Books for more great historical reads.

Buy A Game of Sorrows by Shona Maclean at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Game of Sorrows by Shona Maclean at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Game of Sorrows by Shona Maclean at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Game of Sorrows by Shona Maclean at Amazon.com.


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