Date Published: October 23, 2015
Valentia is a privileged young woman from a wealthy farming family in 19th century Ohio. Her grandmother had been a storyteller, weaving tales of romance and adventure from her native Ireland, and told her granddaughter of a special family heirloom – a brooch that had been left behind with her family. Valentia decides that she must find her grandmother’s long-lost family, as well as the brooch. She has disturbing dreams featuring the brooch and sees strange lights whenever she looks at the drawing.
As she travels with her brother (Conor), his valet (Brendan) and her ladies’ maid (Maggie) through Pittsburgh and New York, Valentia’s eyes take in the wide world.
In Ireland, crippled by chronic illness, she learns about the Irish famine from some local activists. She becomes intrigued with the movement, and vows to help in what ways she can. She befriends Siobhan and Aiden, siblings. Siobhan shows her a stone circle, and she has a mystical experience.
When she has recovered, she travels north to Donegal. When she finally does find the town her grandmother came from, she is confronted with an imperious great-aunt (Eithne) and a rather bumbling cousin who falls in love with her.
The cousin (Donal) starts to court her, and after some time, Donal proposes to her, but she turns him down, determined to finish her quest first. The parting upsets them both.
Chasing rumors of her other great-aunt (Esme), she travels south. Valentia finally finds Esme in Kenmare, and the brooch, which has hidden powers
After finding Valentia’s power, Esme begins to succumb to her own illness. Valentia tries to heal it, but at a great cost.
Valentia had hoped to settle in Kenmare, at Esme’s house, but she is driven out and travels back to Donegal, stopping to the asylum where Donal is held, but is unable to heal him. Eithne has died, so Valentia takes over the estate, healing local people where she can, discreetly.
This was such a joy to read. Christy Nicholas has painted such a vivid setting in her Historical Fantasy story that the reader feels completely pulled in and connected from the very beginning.
The characters and plot were both well developed. I enjoyed everything from the pacing to the ending.
Why book covers are so important
When you are willing to devote a huge chunk of your time to someone else’s creation, you want to make sure you’re spending your time wisely. How do you ensure you’ve made a good choice in the novel?
Most people like particular genres, so they start there. You might like thrillers, urban fantasy, historical fiction, or vampire romances. This usually at least ensures you are familiar with the terrain, the landscape of the novel itself. Let’s go with historical fiction as an example.
Perusing the books within the historical fiction section, there are still so many choices. The title might interest you – perhaps “Princes of Ireland” jumps out at you because you’ve got some Irish heritage, or you are struck by the poignancy of “The Wind at Hastings.” However, once a title has caught your eye, what do you do? You pick the book off the shelf (or click on the icon). You look at the cover.
Most book covers are created by people who haven’t read the book itself. They are given a sheet of information with details about the main characters, perhaps the general themes in the book, or the setting. They have to take, from that bare bit of information, and eye-catching, relevant, and interesting cover to capture the readers’ interest. It’s not an easy task, but there are many artists out there who do an excellent job.
Covers go through styles and fashion, as much as any catwalk in Paris. Right now, a huge fad in historical fiction and historical romance is to show people on the cover with cut-off heads, just showing the body, highlighting the costume of the time, and perhaps a bit of setting in the background. I do like that the reader has to imagine what the main characters look like, rather than have their own view defined by the cover artist (who, as I said, probably never got to read the book). However, the ‘headless heroine’ fad is also a bit disconcerting on a primal level, at least to me.
Sometimes a more general approach is taken, such as a distant castle on a hill, or a horse in a field next to a thatched cottage. If the setting is particularly important in the novel, this could be a great way to draw someone in. When reading the novel, they’ll search for this intriguing place on the cover, and when they find it, there’s a moment of familiarity, a sense of coming home, however briefly.
A good cover can do all of this – and a poor cover can completely turn a reader off. Each reader’s taste is different, so there is no one way of creating a cover, but if you can ask a question with the art, and draw the reader into an interest to find out the answers, your job is well done.
My name is Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon. I do many things, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing and photography. In real life I'm a CPA, but having grown up with art and around me (my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected me, as it were. I love to draw and to create things. It's more of an obsession than a hobby. I like looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or a fragrant blossom, a dramatic seaside. I then wish to take a picture or create a piece of jewelry to share this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus I write. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. I do local art and craft shows, as well as sending my art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.
I live in Warfordsburg, PA with my husband, Jason, my cat, Spot, my dog, Dax, and two sugar gliders named Arya and Sansa.