by Malcolm Cowen
Reeling from a dark past and jilted by the man that took her there, Mary took a stroll into the park and reread the letter ending the relationship. She wished for a new life, somewhere, anywhere, else. When she lifted her head, she was somewhere else. A new world, poised on the brink of war.
Could she find a new life here, amid a struggle for survival against a ruthless, depraved empire?
Mary began the story disillusioned with her life and ready to turn her back on the life she'd lived. She becomes a person of character and exhibits a lot of depth. Her resourcefulness and courage surprise even herself. Joni, the man she rescues in the new world, is a brilliant strategist and has his own darkness buried deep in his past. He has come to grips with his past and helps Mary to deal with the demons haunting her past as well. The characters surrounding these two are all given depth and character, and the descriptions of the mountainous region they live in, and the battles to defend it, are engrossing.
The main antagonist, Moy-ni-Tan, is relatively one-dimensional and completely unlikable and unrepentant. His mind is eternally in the gutter and he considers everyone around him, even his own minions, as little more than cattle, to be used and cast aside. A more selfish beast I haven't discovered in text. There was, however, significant dimension to several of the men on his side, including an admirable general and a lieutenant forced to fight for Moy-ni-Tan.
PG-13 - Like Lord of the Rings, this book is about a war, and people die left and right. There are a few pillage scenes and people are killed. Their deaths are described but not gratuitously.
PG - I don't recall many curse words at all in the book, but i believe there were a few leaked out by the bad guys.
PG-13 - There is no invasion of the bedroom at all, and the marital bliss in the book is squeaky-clean. This book is a romance, but it's very clean from that perspective. What gives the book this rating is the multiple attempted rape scenes in the book. These are not described in any detail, but also involved the repeated sodomy of a young boy. The obvious intent of these occurrences are to underline the 'crossed the line' status of the unrepentant Moy-ni-Tan, who considers himself a Prince but proves himself nothing but a murderer and worse.
In many places in this romance, scripture is quoted obliquely - that is, wisdom from Proverbs, the Book of Ruth, and other places are paraphrased but would not be recognized unless you knew the verses. The only god referred to in the new world is He Who Is, a clear reference to the I AM. The character of this God aligns with the character of YHWH. The people of the mountains clearly worship He Who Is, while those of the plains do not seem to, and the leaders of the empire are obviously atheists. In one poignant scene Moy-ni-Tan, on trial for his crimes, reviles Mary and Joni for their faith, revealing some knowledge of their darkness and asking whether He Who Is would accept them, flawed as they are? Would he make weregeld, or sin payment, for them? While Jesus is not mentioned, Mary's response indicates that they will trust He Who Is to make it right somehow.
I thoroughly enjoyed Lady of Foxdale. It is a story of transformation, a redefining of the main character and those around her in the midst of death and war. The characters are likable, believable, the setting and world-building are immersive, the action gripping and engrossing. Edge of the seat action in a clean romance. What could be better? Five Stars!
About the Author:
Malcolm Cowen is a freelance software designer living in Manchester, UK. He’s spent most of the last 5 decades writing everything from operating systems (GEOrge 3) to games (Colossal Cave for Dragon 32). He currently does database backends for website designers. They make it look pretty, he makes it work, which clearly qualifies him as a 5 anorak nerd.
Over the years he’s picked up German, Welsh, a bit of French and is currently learning Anglo-Saxon.
He started writing about 19 years ago and had some 30 or so stories published, mainly by a now defunct trade magazine, Freelance Informer. You can find more about him at www.ebook.cowensw.co.uk, together with some poetry and translations from Welsh. His translation of the Welsh Song Calon Lan has appeared on the BBC and on a Russell Watson Album.
More recently Malcolm has had 2 novels, "Lady of Foxdale" and "Daughter of the King", published on Kindle, several short stories published both on paper and electronically and a couple of scifi whodunit audio scripts which have been broadcast on local radio, see www.levenshulmeplayers.co.uk.
Malcolm's preference is for hard sf with detailed alternative cultures. It matters to get the scientific details right, or at least to get them credible. Then the story should follow, and if it's a good story, it should grow naturally out of the world and the culture it's set in.
If it's fantasy, then similar rules should apply. Build a consistent world, with a believable culture, and then tell a story of real people living in that world. That's far more fun than space opera or yet another Dracula ripoff.
It's almost more fun than should be legal.