Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter.
My copy: Pegasus Books, November 2015. Hardcover (review copy), 364 pages.
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Iris and Pegasus!
Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.
Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.
When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor’s arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse’s unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?
A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.
Bohemian Gospel is an historical/paranormal novel set in 13th century Bohemia. It’s about a strange girl called Mouse who knows absolutely nothing about her heritage or her family. But Mouse is different; she can see demons, she can sense bad things that are about to happen. By chance, she saves the life of young King Ottakar — and from there she’s whisked away from her life at the abbey and into the political world of the court, where she tries to understand her mysterious abilities and uncover the plots people have set against Ottakar.
I loved Mouse, she was such a great heroine. She was loyal and strong, but at the same time fragile, wise but at the same time youthful. She stood up for herself but was smart about it, knowing when she could win a battle and when she couldn’t. In the face of grave danger she was always brave, but she was also appropriately frightened. She wanted to belong and she wanted a life she couldn’t have, but she accepted what she could and did have, and used her heightened magical abilities to survive. She was a believable character who I really grew attached to over the course of the book. She was definitely a force to be reckoned with and I was delighted to read about such an interesting young woman who battled evil, saved her loved ones, and didn’t take crap from anybody. Mouse by no means was perfect, but it’s been a while since I read a book about such a riveting heroine.
I enjoyed the romance that formed between Mouse and Ottakar, it felt very real, but was obviously doomed from the beginning, due to their completely different backgrounds. Ottakar was a good character, and I enjoyed seeing how he changed over the course of the story as he battled with his cruel father and worked with Mouse to try to stay alive through all the attempts on his life. They had a great friendship that was based on trust and loyalty, and the two of them made each other stronger and helped each other when they could.
Pacing-wise, the book started off interesting but slow. It took me a while to get invested in the book; I read only a chapter here and there for a while, before finishing most of the book in one sitting a few days ago — and somewhere around a third of the way in, the book became great.
Plot-wise, it definitely felt unique and mysterious, and I was pleasantly surprised at times, though there were a few predictable/unsurprising parts. I am not that knowledgeable on Bohemian history, so if this book took liberties, I do not know. The ending was not something I would have predicted (again, I don’t know much of Bohemian history), though it was definitely bittersweet and satisfactory in a sad way. The plot was far from boring, and the various settings Mouse found herself in were well-described and rich with detail.
To conclude my thoughts on Bohemian Gospel, I will say that it is an excellent historical novel, well-written and fascinating, with strong characters, a solid plot, and a heroine I really loved reading about. I liked the magical elements (fantasy in my historical fiction? Yes, please!) and how dark the story was. I highly recommend Bohemian Gospel if you’re looking for some great, original historical fiction with a lovely romance and touches of magic (heightened senses and demons included). ♦
Have you read Bohemian Gospel?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s an historical/fantasy novel you’ve read and liked?
What’s a period in history you didn’t know much about prior to reading a book set in it?
Comment below letting me know!
And, as always, happy reading!