*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A dead king, a queen who is more than she seems, and a witch who uses the dark arts to entrap her.
Queen, widow, beggar – Lady Caitlyn is all three, and now she can add murderer to the list.
When death and treachery propel her south to Normandy, to seek sanctuary with the exiled Prince Alfred, visions of a woman with ancient eyes travel with her.
Herleva is a woman filled with ambition and greed. A woman who intends to be more than a commoner. A woman who gets what she wants by whatever means possible, even if she has to practice the dark arts to achieve her goals.
A woman who is a witch.
Caitlyn finds herself caught up in a magic which changes her very being. A magic which produces a king to change the lives of every man, woman, and child in England.
I confess that as I picked this book up, I had no real idea what to expect. Would it be historical drama or magical fantasy? Game of Thrones style political intrigue and violence, or Arthurian-style chivalry and witchcraft? The answer is, yes. All of the above.
The story opens with Caitlyn’s husband tipped out of a sack in front of her, in the three pieces of the title, and that sets off a fast-paced fight-and-flee fantasy adventure, in which Caitlyn is the catalyst and target.
I cannot tell you how much I love Caitlyn. I found her slightly difficult to get along with at first, as no matter what shock and hardship the author threw at her, the woman just picked up her skirts and her chin and got on with the job in front of her. I was a bit baffled by the lack of screaming and swooning, and that is not a dig at female heroes; personally I would definitely be a bit emotional if someone presented me my husband in chunks, and I would expect anyone to be likewise, male or female. But not Caitlyn. She swallows her feelings and cracks on with it.
And it didn’t take long before I was right on board with her. Here you have a truly strong main character. She fights, she argues, she runs and she fights again, but she never, ever gives in, no matter how bad things get. And she keeps her dignity and her wits about her the whole time. She recognises the value of male and female allies, but relies on nobody but herself, and expects nothing that she hasn’t earned.
Most realistically of all, she recognises the complexity that makes us all human, and finds compassion, and even affection at times, for those who should be her enemies, simply because they are there and so is she, and we all have our own battles to fight even if we end up on different sides. There are no straightforward ‘baddies’ and ‘goodies’ here: just people with very different goals and values. (Not that I’m condoning necromantic witchcraft and consorting with the devil… erm, it makes more sense in the context in the book, trust me!)
The story moves quickly between settings and situations, as Caitlyn desperately searches for safety in her precarious position as widowed royalty on-the-run. How she adapts to her circumstances and tamps down her pride in favour of practicality is genuinely inspiring. That said, I would not recommend this book to teen readers as there is plenty of bad language and gore, and a fair bit of sex as well.
Honestly, I was utterly hooked on this story, mainly (as I have already rhapsodised above) by the character of Caitlyn. I desperately want to know what happens next, which is great because I am booked on the blog tours for books two and three in the coming months, so watch this space…!
A bunch of dropping flowers were thrust into my hand, and I forced a smile at my serving woman. Bluebells were the epitome of new life and spring, but as I placed them on the rough mound of bare soil covering Rhain’s remains, I knew the delicate blooms would forever remind me of those three bloody pieces and the terrible change they had wrought. For me, for all of us, life would never be the same again.
A scream rent the air.
And another. The world around me erupted into running and yelling. I turned to the man at my side and his expression told me all I needed to know.
Seisyll was upon us.
– Elizabeth Davies, Three Bloody Pieces
Three Bloody Pieces is available to buy at Amazon and other good bookshops right now!