Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 544pp
(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Landmark)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Sarah Bower on the WEB: website
Excerpt from Needle in the Blood (Amazon Look Inside Feature)
His lust for power gave him everything. But it might cost him the love of his life.
The Bishop hired her for a simple job: embroider a tapestry. It is an enormous work, a cloth trophy of the conquest of England. But her skill with a needle and thread is legendary. It would be uncomplicated.
She plans to kill him as soon as she gets the chance. He and his brother, William the Conqueror, murdered her King and destroyed her world. Revenge, pure and clean. It would be simple.
But neither planned to fall desperately in love. As the two become hopelessly entangled, friends become enemies, enemies become lovers, and nothing in life—or the tapestry—is what it seems. An unlikely love story born of passion and intensity, crafted by critically acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Bower,The Needle in the Blood is a "story of love, war, and the tangled truth of England's birth."
The Needle in the Blood by British author Sarah Bower takes readers back in time to the mid-eleventh century. William the Conqueror has just won control of England and his half brother Bishop Odo is looking for a way to commemorate the victory. Bower uses rich historical detail, vivid imagery and skillful research to turn out a love story with political and emotional overtones. Bower's novel is both educational and entertaining.
Historical fiction is often considered boring by some readers, because of the complicated historical references and the less than adventurous plots. Being a former history major, there is just something about this genre that hits the spot for me. I enjoy books that portray historical characters and give some insight into how these real life people may have lived and felt. Bower did a fantastic job of bringing the historical characters to life, just as easily as those from her own imagination.
Bower undoubtedly has a very strong work ethic. The sheer amount of research that most likely went into a novel of this magnitude is amazing. Bower showers the reader with rich period detail and descriptions of everything from the straw pallets and mud floors to sumptuous feasts and some very steamy romantic moments. Her history accuracy is unbelievable and her imagery is impressive in and of itself. But having both in one novel is hard to come by.
Bower's plot was quite ingenious. The Bayeux Tapestry really existed and in one particular scene, Bishop Odo, who really lived is seen stroking the face of a beautiful woman. This is perhaps the story behind the story that Sarah Bower used to create this novel. I liked the fact that both Odo and Gytha had totally different plans for each other. Odo only wanted her to embroider a masterpiece, while Gytha had revenge on her mind. I liked the way the author was able to weave the love story into the fabric of history. The political events of the day, the tension and turmoil are evident in the writing, but there is also that underlying thread of passion.
I was somewhat surprised that the author got a little vulgar with this one. The wording and descriptions of the sex scenes were totally unexpected. I think of historical fiction as being straight laced and confined to some extent. Not Sarah Bower's version. I am still undecided as to how I feel about this aspect of the book. I was taken aback to say the least. The scenes get a bit long and drawn out as compared to other scenes of this kind on historical fiction. It just made me a little uncomfortable. So keep that in mind as you read. It' s not a light read, nor is it for the young reader.
The Needle in the Blood is very intriguing and delves into some serious situations, but first and foremost it really is a love story, even though is set in history. I liked this one quite well.
Needle in the Blood is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Sarah Bower is a literature development officer for Creative Arts East. She teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was UK editor of the Historical Novels Review for two years until the beginning of 2006, when she stepped down to make more time for her own writing. She is the author of the forthcoming novel The Needle in the Blood.