Review: Bohemian Gospel
Dana Chamblee Carpenter has crafted a rich and layered world, taking readers back to medieval Bohemia at a time when things are unsettled and unlike the typical historical fantasy settings. This is a time of fractured loyalties and constant infighting. The King of Bohemia and his son, Ottakar, are at odds and at war. Mouse was a foundling, raised in the abbey of Tepla near Prague.
A strange child, Mouse sees and hears things others can't. Some know fear her powers while others fear for her. As she is reaching adulthood, Mouse finds herself pulled from the only home she's ever known because of an act of kindness to a boy king.
The imagery in the story is superb. Carpenter breathes life into the mundane and the fantastic alike. The fear and horror Mouse faces as she learns more about the gifts and curses laid on her, are stark and evocative. Equally so, the gentle and sweet romance between Mouse and Ottakar is poignant and engaging. As Mouse struggles to understand her place in the world, she must war with what she sees her purpose in life and what she truly desires. She was born with fantastic gifts but does a fluke a birth mean she can't pursue her own dreams?
My only complaints are superficial at best. I thought the story moved a bit fast at times, jumping quickly from scene to scene without giving me enough time to catch a breath. But the story covers a good span of time and since the setting is medieval Bohemia, it's reasonable for the author to skip traveling scenes and simply move characters from place to place.
I also found the scene where Mouse drives the old king mad a bit contrived. It was well done. But I thought it unlikely anyone at this time would have the knowledge or understanding of mental illness to drive a man insane.
However, neither of these issues detract from what is a really lovely and beautifully written story.