A Prince to be Feared by Mary Lancaster

Title: A Prince to be Feared
Author: Mary Lancaster

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 15th Century / Eastern Europe / Romania / Ottoman Empire / Court Intrigue / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Self published (4/2013)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The lifelong friendship and love affair between Vlad the Impaler and a Hungarian noblewoman in 15th century Transylvania.
Reading Challenges: E-book, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's ambigu-royal but I think it conveys the more serious (non-paranormal) heft to the story.

I'm reminded of...: Jeanne Kalogridis, Matt Rees

First line: He made a perfect villain.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy -- the ebook is $2.99!

Why did I get this book?: I love hist fic in unusual settings, and having traveled through Transylvania over the winter, I'm eager to return -- in person or via book!

Review: A novel about Dracula that doesn't involve vampires?! Be still my heart!

Needless to say, when I was offered to be on the tour for this one, I leapt at the chance, and my leap was rewarded: this is a great novel of court intrigue, war, and love -- and I'm happy to say, this isn't a Tudor-esque fic simply plunked into Transylvania.

Alternating between 1474 and 1454, the novel follows Ilona Szilágyi, a Hungarian noblewoman, and her friendship, courtship and love affair with Vlad Dracula.

My historical knowledge of Vlad Dracula is fuzzy (or, really, nonexistent), and Lancaster's novel quickly and neatly delves into his violent and heartbreaking life -- hostage to the Ottomans, a pawn during war, an ambitious military leader regarded with awe and horror for his unapologetically brutal ways -- who becomes a Prince and eventual political prisoner.  Vlad's ambitions are boundless as is his determination to remain a ruler, and he allows himself to be used by the Wallachians and Hungarians to remain in power. Lancaster opens with Machiavelli's quote (better a prince be feared than loved), which is coined some forty years after Vlad's reign and yet exemplifies his leadership style.

And still, knowing all that, I was kind of into Vlad. Even with a mustache and his cruel military prowess, I was digging him! It helped that our heroine, Ilona, was fun, a realistic mix of innocence and boldness, a bit fiery and a bit shy; I could relate to her, and when she was smitten, I was a tiny bit smitten.

Lancaster's writing is effortless, geeky with detail without feeling like infodumping or oversharing. She plunges us into the story, opening with the end of Vlad's imprisonment before taking us back to his youth, when he first met the impetuous Ilona. The political tangle of that region is lightly explained but really offered through context, and I appreciated that. (For those who are curious, you can read Chapter One on Lancaster's website.)

There's a long cast of characters at the beginning of the book as well as a map of the region. There's no Author's Note or Afterward, which I would have liked -- I'm intensely curious about this era and the players now!

I'm unsure how to describe this one: it's beach-y fun to read, but it isn't a bodice ripper or a sexed up historical ala Philippa Gregory. It isn't the weighty military historical necessarily but it's obviously a novel of war and conflict. It's a tiny bit coming-of-age for our young noblewoman; it's a bit middle-age-looking-back-at-youth as well. Whatever it is, it's fun, and effortless to read, and worth picking up if you like court intrigue but want a little variation, or if you're curious about Eastern Europe in the 15th century, or even if you just want to know a bit about the historical Dracula. (And, at the moment, it's $2.99 as an ebook.)

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer an e-book copy of A Prince to be Feared to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 5/31.

Comments

  1. Audra, thank you for the lovely, thoughtful review! I'm thrilled you enjoyed the book! Thanks too for hosting the tour stop at Unabridged Chick :).

    Mary

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the note! I had such a good time with this book -- am eager to get your other two books now!

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    2. Music to my ears, Audra :). Thanks again!
      Mary

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  2. Audra, I spent the better part of my academic life researching the real and the fictional Vlad and writing about the myth of the vampire in literature -- this book sounds fantastic! I love that it's historical minus the vampire schtick (a rarity) and even before you mentioned it I thought it sounded like a great beach read or book to take on a trip. I'll definitely be looking in to this one for my summer reads list! Thanks! :)

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    Replies
    1. Angela -- that's so interesting! I want to pick your brain now! How fun! I'd love to know what you think of this one -- it's really that perfect summery hist fic I love. I've been super brain dead and this was THE perfect diversion.

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    2. Persephone, I'd love to know what you think of my theories too :)
      Mary

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    3. Hope to get my hands on a copy soon and would love to chat more with you both! :)

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  3. I think I'm going to have to check this one out. Thanks for the great review, Audra.

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    Replies
    1. Do -- it's super fun. The premise of her other two books are great, too -- I suspect I've got a new author to follow!

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  4. Awww, sounds like you had tons o' fun! I love when I feel smitten because the heroine does. That is winning. Also, I like that this isn't all sexed up like Gregory. I don't like when historicals feel too sensational.

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    1. I love me a good smexy book now and then, but I hate that sort of court intrigue = scandalous love affairs because, I don't know, it feels boring. This, however, was not boring!

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  5. Took me a couple of minutes to work out how Dracula could be vampire-less. Love the idea in itself, even if it is based on fact.

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    Replies
    1. HA, I know! V fun, and so unusual. Would love more hist fic set in this time/era.

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  6. Thank you for the chance to win this book - I would love to read it, I am a big historical fiction fan.

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