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Citadels of Fire by L.K. Hill is a novel set in Russia during the 1500s. For a bit of context, Ivan the Terrible was in the process of becoming a shining political star, or tsar rather, during this period. The novel focuses on two young people, Inga and Taras, trying to make their way in the world during this turbulent time. Their optimistic views of the brutal world ties them together despite the differences in their social standings.
I am almost complete stranger to Russian history. I know very little and what I do know is mainly about the demise of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. I'm always a bit anxious about jumping into a new time and culture in history. Will I have to do a lot of research on my own to understand what's happening? Will the author provide pages of boring, dry history to bring me up to speed? There is no need to fear with Citadels of Fire. All those worries were put to rest after the short introduction and a bit of reassurance by Dr. LaRue Larkin, Associate Professor of Russian History at Weber State, I felt like I was in good hands.
Ms. Hill is a patient teacher throughout the novel. She does an excellent job explaining the class structure and enough of the political intrigues of the Russian court of the time. The explanations are woven seamlessly into the plot so the reader is learning along with the characters. This allowed for just enough information to move the plot forward without dragging the story or the reader down.
I enjoyed how Ms. Hill introduced the characters and allowed the reader to watch them grow and change with the obstacles they faced. The only downside to this is that for the first several chapters you jump several years. Sometimes I would forget that we had jumped forward in time to a new point in the characters' lives and be a little bit lost. I often wished there was a header at the top of the page listing the year or more of a statement of how old the character was at that point in time.
My favorite part of the story was the subtlety and beauty of the romance. The lack of love between Inga and her father is brutally felt in the first chapter. The true love between Taras's mother and father leaps off the page along with the mystery of their arguments and quick decision to leave Russia. There is an old love that remains a secret, and serves as a lesson. Ms. Hill leads the reader to the reveal of who used to be in love without it being overdone and trite. And the new love between Inga and Taras develops in a such a natural way that at times I could feel myself wanting to scream, "JUST KISS HER ALREADY!" In other words, no insta-love here.
Citadels of Fire grabbed me from the opening lines. It's a historical fiction, romance, military, mystery novel. Most of the loose ends are tied up at the end of book one, but there is just enough of a cliffhanger and setup for the next book to leave you wanting more. I look forward reading more novels in this series and give Citadels of Fire by L.K. Hill a thumbs up.
About the Author
L.K. HILL has a degree from Weber State University, and has won numerous writing awards, including garnering first place in the 2011 League of Utah Writer Writing Contest. When she’s not writing, Hill relaxes with her family in Ogden, Utah, while maintaining constant communication with her many followers.
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I received an Advanced Reader Copy directly from the author in exchange for a honest review.