The first thing that grabbed me about this book was the cover – it oozed intrigue to me. Then, I read the blurb and became curious. I wasn’t disappointed: this book was a joy to read.
This is a work of alternative historical fiction set around forty years or so after the 1789 revolution failed. With the royals still in power, the poor and immigrants of the city have formed guilds to survive. In order to protect Nina, her older sister has to make the ultimate sacrifice for her safety. As Nina takes refuge with the Guild Of Thieves, she begins her long journey of revenge against the Tiger, the Lord of the Guild of Flesh.
This book deals with sensitive themes in a very considered way that drives the plot well. The list of secondary characters gives enormous depth to the plot; the lives of each is well worth a separate novel of its own. This book has sacrifice, revenge, friendship, shifting allies and betrayal. The author writes with such imagination that I couldn’t help but believe I was on the murky streets of this alternative Paris each time I picked the book up.
During the recent UK heatwave, my mate and I trekked along the Thames Path with Marlow in Berkshire as our start and end points. The usual advice to take three layers with us – t-shirt, jumper and jacket – was ditched as temperatures soared above thirty degrees.
After treapsing through the park in the centre of the town, we reached the start of the trail. We decided to amble along next to the river rather than go along at our usual speed due the barmy conditions. We had enough water, but even with the short distance we’d covered to that point, I could feel myself getting parched.
The river rolled gently along as boats, paddleboarders and the occasional swimmer passed us by. Groups of families and friends settled along the river bank with deckchairs, tents and picnic rugs. I didn’t realise that my home county of Berkshire had its own beach!
We passed a commanding Norman church that stood calm and timeless in front of the gentle water. It just seemed to add an even more serene quality to the day.
Soon, we took a pit-stop at a cafe. Even though we’d only walked about three miles, it felt like we’d done ten because of the heat. We guzzled back cold drinks in record time; however,I was necking liquid from my water bottle a few minutes after leaving the cafe – the rising temperatures were draining us of vital resources fast.
Further down, we crossed over a steep bridge, and found ourselves mesmerised by the views of the river either way. To one side, a leafy forest offered cool respite; on the other, chalky banks rose up to eventually reveal endless farm fields with the Chiltern Hills sat behind them.
We opted for the shady path in front of the trees, but they soon gave way to open fields, and we were baking in the sun once more. We found a leafy tree next to the water’s edge, and dipped our feet in the river. But even in the shade, we found ourselves frying. Reluctantly, we turned back.
We hit the five mile mark, and our water bottles had run dry. We knew the cafe we’d stopped at was only about a mile and a half away, yet our throats were demanding we dropped to our knees and drink from the river. Before we crossed over the bridge, though, we espied a footpath that led to the village of Hurley. After seeking direction, we were raiding the chilled drinks in a local convenience store.
Then we stopped off at the cafe for another drink.
It’s been a good while since I added anything to my blog. 2022 has been an difficult year on a personal front – much has been going on with family and my own health – and I’ve really missed writing here as much as I did before. In fact, I’ve struggled to get much writing done at all in the last few months. Consequently, it’s been a struggle to get back into the habit. Still, I’m reaching old heights slowly, and I’ve enjoyed being back in the writing seat once more.
Hiking has been one hobby that’s kept me going. Walking in nature is the gateway to understanding our own thoughts and feelings. But, at times, I found even the idea of putting my trainers on and heading outdoors for five minutes difficult to comprehend. But, again, I’m slowly getting back into the swing of it.
I’ve spent plenty of time near the River Thames over the past few months. Staying grounded in the present moment and using my senses to appreciate what nature offers me has been rewarding: whether it’s observing fish flowing underneath the water, hearing the call of birds or smelling the sweet aroma of summer flowers, being by the water’s edge has engulfed me in a sense of calm.
Also, I think the need for walking along the Thames is also born out of a need to remain in the flow of life. When things get too much, we need to find a way to escape and ground ourselves again.
So, as life carries on flowing by, I intend to grab more moments of calm. Even amidst the full-on pace of life and what it throws at us, taking even a brief amount of time out is so important.
And I’m looking forward to catching up with you all on WordPress.