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Against a Darkening Sky Wilona is a survivor She survived the loss of her whole village while a child and made a place as a healer midwife and devotee of the old gods in Northumbria during the reign of King Edwin Then enters Egan an otherworldly monk who has a hard time coping with the world the two manage to keep each other sane when their world falls apart with the defeat of King Edwin at the hands of Cadwallon and Penda After listening to Jamie Jeffers on the British History Podcast for the past several years I knew what was coming but was pleased and surprised at the detail that Lauren Davis worked into the story to provide the details that make a tale live Will keep my eyes peeled for by her The dramatic sweep of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY takes your breath away in its story of the coming of Christianity the White Christ to the pagan world of seventh century Northumbria The novel is narrated in alternating chapters by the pagan mysticwise womanmidwife Wilona and her intense and gorgeous communication with nature animals and the old gods that seem to ride in the air she breathes and the idealistic utterly gentle Christian monk Egan who truly lives by love and who will encounter Christians who live by brutalityThe novel sweeps you into another time It is so real you feel you are truly there with every cry of an owl or a woman in childbirth or breaking of a twig under the sandal of an approaching stranger The story encompasses dozens of characters whom you come to care about deeply The writer totally enters the minds of people who lived fourteen hundred years ago The thoughts of one character about the meaning of life and the hope of faith are so simple and deep and makes you realize that we are still seeking answers to uestions first raised a long time ago in a different world where the way we live now would not even be a vague dreamTruly the book is a world apart and a very rich and fascinating one For me this was about a 35 star reading experience but I’ve rounded up to 4 stars because it has so many things that I really enjoy First its setting—at the point where country religions are being replaced by Christianity in Britain Second I loved that Wilona was a healer as I enjoy that kind of character And thirdly Lauren B Davis is an excellent writerBack in 2013 I read Nicola Griffith’s fabulous book Hild set in the same time frame It was a mention that Hild appears in Davis’ book that encouraged me to pick it up Unfortunately Hild makes only one cameo in this book as a child and we don’t see her againThe ending is inevitable but I still found it disappointing I guess I am a pagan at heart and I’m always disappointed when Christianity triumphs If you like this book I would definitely recommend Hild as well as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and Mary Stewart’s Arthurian Saga beginning with The Crystal Cave Okay so I saw this book at a thrift store read Lauren B Davis and my heart stuttered The 'Stubborn Season' had a big impact on me since reading it over a decade ago and I have mad respect for her ability in writing characters I uite liked this book I first thought it was a fantasy novel simply because she did such a good job conveying mysticism and spiritual creatures of the 'pagan' faith I actually thought it wonderfully insane for such a respected author of Canadian fiction to be tackling this genre So for all the things I like in a good fantasy novel she hit all the buttons Strong female character female centric themes well rounded characters interesting interpretations of magic a subtle and satisfying but not overwhelming romance with a certain fella reminiscent of David in a Stubborn Season strong but not macho steadfast uiet type I thought it was strange that she combined her usual strong character examinations with such a trope ic fantasy narrative so it was a bit jarring not to see the usual plot line curves you systematically find in fantasy books When I realized it wasn't a fantasy but a pseudo historical re telling the story just felt sadder There was this air of disappointment especially concerning somebody's last minute spoilerview spoilerconversion hide spoiler I loved the strength of the writing in this book and the characters experiencing diverse and satisfying story and development in primitive Northumbria and the inevitable clash between traditional forms of god and goddess worship and healing through the seithkona Wilona and the advent of Christianity represented by Brother Egan This story is a gripping adventure propelled by the characters without obvious plot points at least as I recognize them It is also a wonderfully wonderfully written study personal principles and beliefs where the spiritual and community conflict weaves a powerful tale It captured my attention from the first chapter because it is so fully satisfying in all aspects primitive history emotion characters spirituality functional belief systems and fundamental conflict when those belief systems are challenged authorLauren B Davis|843167 's writing ability is astounding This book was vivid enchanting and captivating I highly recommend it I enjoyed it for the fanciful mind of the writer The time period was interesting and having lived in England I love reading about it's past I particularly enjoyed the different beliefs with Christianity on the rise it made me think of all the old religions and means of worship how one belief can obliterate others I have always enjoyed stories with a shaman in this one a medicine woman be it modern day natural healers with a mystical touch characters with their feet firmly grounded in the old ways or paganism of the past something about it tickles my fancy Egan is a devout monk and Wilona is seeped into healing her beliefs at odds with the changing times This is an exploration in differences how we perceive each other when our beliefs conflict Beautiful writing and it is a fictional account of the past It's strange that while the times were so foreign to our 'modern culture' religion is still a struggle I liked it Only just scraped to three stars because the writing kept me going And the conflict of cultures was an interesting device which allowed for a few unexpected twistsBut it isn't until the acknowledgements that the author mentions the book wasn't a search for historical accuracy but instead her fancies and perception of the period Fine Would have been nice to know that up front before the history rage kicked inAnd beyond the history rage it's the generally stock characters Christianity is moving into Britain So we have venal hypocritical Christians Except for the humble Irish outsider who understands animals and is disliked by his brethren We have the cold yet honourable chieftan We have the local pagans in touch with the old ways Some of these are partially developed but still not in the round While the rest are there to fill the story I discovered Lauren B Davis at the Harbourfront reading festival and have read everything by her since An extraordinary writer who is able to inhabit the voices and experiences of peoples from incredibly diverse backgrounds not only of place and circumstance but also of time This book looks at the introduction of Christianity into 7th century England by focusing on a young Christian priest and a female pagan spell woman It is truly riveting nuanced and compelling Aside from introducing us to the politics of religion in this era and any other by extension the characters feel completely authentic and sympathetic; the story is engrossing and while exploring important themes this never loses sight of the entertainment value of the novel She is a writer of first rank Historical fantasy set against the background of 7th century Northumbria with the coming of Christianity replacing the old pagan religion Egan a devout monk maybe even TOO devout comes to that area ostensibly as a translator and his path and that of Wilona a young priestess prophetess healer entwine He's an example of a Christian really living Christ's message and she is the last in the village of Ad Gefrin clinging to her beliefs in spite of hostile opposition from her lord other villagers and most of the Christian clergy As the author states beyond the research this is a work of imagination She feels this is what life may have been like at that time The writing was gorgeous especially almost poetic descriptions of nature and deep character studies I felt immersed in that era Most highly recommended A new novel from one of Canada's most acclaimed and celebrated writers 'Against a Darkening Sky' is set in 7th century Northumbria and follows Wilona a seeress and healer whose life and way of being in the world are threatened by the coming of Christianity; and Egan a young monk from Eire whose visions may have brought him to Christ but whose experience of the sacred puts him at odds with the Roman church Full of magic and mystery Lauren B Davis's new work explores what happens when one's experience and beliefs clash with those of the people in power

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