Friday 27 November 2020

#BookReview — A Sword Among Ravens: Book #3 of The Long-Hair Saga by Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalFiction #AncientRome @CRipleyMiller


A Heroine . . . A Mystery . . . A Mission

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen.   

AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory.

As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

“A curse on the one who wields David’s Sword and not be chosen…”

It was too late now for Lucius Valerius Marcian to heed the warning inscribed upon the blade of the ancient weapon, for he was dead.

With sword and fire, King David had besieged and conquered the Canaanite City of Jerusalem, so it seems only right that David’s Sword should be returned to the Holy City. But who could Emperor Flavius Valerius Marcian trust with such a sacred and dangerous mission? For he knew that many would pay good money to own such a holy relic.

Emperor Flavius Valerius Marcian can think of only one person whom he could entrust with such a sacred artefact and that was the wife of his late son, Arria Felix, and her new husband, Garic the Frank. 

However, Emperor Flavius Valerius Marcian may have just unwittingly given them a death sentence. For although Arria and Garic may seem inconspicuous, there are those who can see through their pretence, and they will stop at nothing to see that the sword comes into their possession.

Still, the curse on the sword is no fable. It is not a story to frighten children. It is very real, and it does not discriminate between those who have good intentions and those who have not…

Jerusalem – the meeting-place where it is said that God speaks to man is the evocative setting for Cynthia Ripley Miller’s fabulous new book, A Sword Among Ravens (Book Three of the Long-Hair Saga).

Oh, this book! It stirs the imagination of the reader and takes them back in time to an era where the Jews were barred from their Holy City, and even the most sacred of artefacts came with a price tag. Although fictional in the telling, the idea of a sacred Sword of David intrigued me. The secrets that the Sword of David concealed, and the power of the curse, made this book a gripping read from start to finish.

Arria and Garic’s journey to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is thwarted with difficulties and setbacks. Death also stalks them in the shadows and nobody is safe, not while the Sword of David is in their possession. The curse of this sword is seemingly two-fold – the original curse is that of legitimacy, approval, but the second is the value of the weapon — there are those who will willingly kill to possess it. The greed of man, the lengths that some are prepared to go to get their hands upon such a relic is explored in great depth, which made this book not only a wondrous adventure but it also made it a tale of morality. Was such a weapon worth a man’s life? Would it have been better if the weapon had remained in unconsecrated ground, lost and forgotten? Miller asks her readers these questions at the same time as she sweeps them away in a narrative that can only be described as enthralling. Miller has given her readers a book that is an exploration of human integrity on the one hand and dishonesty on the other. 

The incomparable grace of the terrestrial may be nothing when compared to the glory of the celestial, but Miller has given her readers a Jerusalem that is rich, vibrant, and very real in the telling. The historical detailing of this book has to be admired, for Miller demonstrates an understanding of the Holy City, and the religious tensions, of this period. Miller writes with not only a great deal of elegance but also authority, which brought this era back to life in all of its splendour, but also its darkness. Miller explores the cruel exclusion of the Jews from the Holy City and the dominance of the Christian religion during this time. Jerusalem is a city which has meant so much to so many for thousands of years, and this snap-shot in time gives the reader a small sense of what it must have been like all those years ago. The hours of research that have so obviously gone into this book have definitely been worth it. I thought Jerusalem’s depiction was exquisite. When history is written with such careful attention to the detail, then there is no such thing as too much, but saying that however, this is a book that feels right in its delivery. Miller has balanced the history and the story with a novelist’s intuition for what keeps a reader turning those pages.

There is a vast cast of characters in this book which is always a gamble, but in this case, it has certainly paid off. Miller has given a very balanced account of all of her characters – so be prepared to meet, and get to know, the protagonists and the antagonists as well. I loved this approach because Miller has given her readers an understanding of why her characters are compelled to do what they do. I thought this made the story all the more realistic in the telling, and it certainly made this book very hard to put down.

The protagonist in this story is Arria, who is a wonderfully brave and honest woman who serves her Emperor with unfailing loyalty. At times, this loyalty does put her at odds with one of her friends, who argues most elegantly about where the Sword of David really belongs. However, saying that, Arria does appreciate her friend’s argument, and she can understand where he is coming from, which endeared her to me. Likewise, Arria is a very forgiving woman — she is an advocate for second chances — and she feels compelled to help even those who are perhaps beyond help. This loving, gentle nature made her a protagonist that a reader can really appreciate and get behind. I thought that Arria’s portrayal was marvellous, and I enjoyed reading about her.

There are several antagonists in this tale, all of whom have their own reasons for wanting the Sword of David for themselves. But it was the portrayal of Kalev Ben Jonah, who goes by several aliases in this novel, that I found the most intriguing. He is determined to get his hands upon the sword no matter what, but like in the story of David and Goliath, he has no comprehension of what he is truly up against. I thought Kalev Ben Jonah’s depiction was compellingly complicated and absolutely fabulous.

Although this is Book 3 in the series, A Sword Among Ravens stands very firmly on its own two feet, so one can very confidently read it as a standalone. However, having read the previous books, I would have to say that you would be doing yourself a grave disservice if you did not start with Book 1 - On the Edge of Sunrise.

A Sword Among Ravens (Book Three of the Long-Hair Saga) by Cynthia Ripley Miller is tense, it is powerful, and I could not put it down. This book is a reward for any reader who enjoys quality Historical Fiction.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Released December 2020...!

Cynthia Ripley Miller 
is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled extensively. She holds two degrees and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press and The Scriptor. A Ring of Honor-Circle of Books Award winner and Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website.  

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat. Also connect with Cynthia on: Twitter and Facebook.







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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx