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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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  • Alina

    Alina: A Song for the Telling is my first introduction to the talents of Malve von Hassell. I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially during the Medieval time period. This one does not disappoint. I thought this was a pretty good read. I thought the author did a great job to detail the setting and the historical details. I loved getting to know Alina. She winds up getting caught up in some mystery and suspense, as well as, danger and adventure. This is not one of those stories that I would be able to predict. I liked it. I am giving Alina: A Song for the Telling four stars. I would be interested in reading more by Malve von Hassell in the future. I recommend this one for readers who enjoy Medieval era historical fiction. I received Alina: A Song for the Telling from the publisher. This review is one hundred percent my own honest opinion.

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  • Captivating

    With an unusual setting and period (Jerusalem in the 12th century), the author offers a captivating and excellent evocation of the society of the time. A middle grade historical novel I would recommend to all lovers of history, young and older. From the first chapter on, the author shows her talent for descriptions, evocation of places and characters, especially when it comes to Alina, a very rich personality, with conflictual feelings, and who needs to maneuver as a young girl in the society of her time. The book opens with Guy’s funeral, in Provence. After his death, his brother Garsanc and his wife come to take over Guy’s property and finish raising Alina, 14 and her brother Milos, 15. But the couple is so very different from Guy, who gave an education to all his children, including Alina, and even taught her how to play the lute. Alina finds herself now too much confined. Her dream is to become a trobairitz like Beatriz de Dia, that is, a woman troubadour. So with her brother, she manages to convince her uncle that going on a pilgrimage to pray for their father in Jerusalem would be a good thing for all. She leaves Provence with her brother in the Spring of 1173. The description of their trip (with the traveling conditions and the different kinds of people they meet along the road) and of the different cities they went through were so good, and especially when they arrived in Jerusalem: smells, food, famous sites, I felt back there myself. Through the various people Alina meets, the author managed to draw a wonderful portrait of the city, and also present the intricate political situation and machinations in the Middle East, yes already back then in the 12th century. I also really enjoyed the musical theme, with references to famous poets of the time (for instance Yehuda Halevi) and some of their texts.

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  • A Brilliant Coming of Age Story for all Ages

    By weaving the story of real life historical people and events with her fictional characters, Malve von Hassell has created a brilliant coming of age tale. Alina and her brother Milos, along with their sister Maria, were part of a close knit family living on their estate in medieval Provencal France. The brother and sister lived a relatively carefree life. While Milos was easily distracted during lessons, Alina eagerly participated in learning all she could. Both were accomplished musicians, Alina exceptionally so, following in her father's footsteps. Her dream was to become a trobairitz., a female troubadour. Their life was tragically changed, when their mother and Maria died suddenly from the sweating sickness. Their father, always a dreamer and not so successful in financial affairs, became extremely depressed. One night, he wandered away from their home and was discovered drowned. Neighbours started rumors. The father's reputation was tarnished, because he was thought to be a suicide. Next, whispers claimed, perhaps the mother and Maria practiced witch craft. Since Alina and Milos were minors, their uncle and his wife came from a neighbouring estate to put the farm in order and to take the brother and sister under their wing. However, Uncle Garsanc and his wife were not as lenient as their parents. Uncle Garsanc considered Milos ill-trained to run a farm. After the aunt tried to marry 14 year old Alina to an elderly suitor, Alina, who had no interest in chores of a housewife, was horrified. When the siblings suggested to undertake pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray for their father's honour, the uncle and aunt were actually relieved, that the children would no longer be their problem. Their adventure begins. Through encounters with many characters, both fictional and real, pilgrims, merchants, Templar knights going to Jerusalem, camp followers and even slaves, Alina and Milos learn about injustices in life. People and situations are not always what they seem. Even those, to whom you take a dislike, can turn out to be helpful friends. Those, who you trust, can be unworthy of that trust. Through hard work, your dreams may come true. Though this book is written with younger people in mind, it appeals to all ages. Even adults will find it an enjoyable read.

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  • History is complicated

    "'There are no limits. Don't be afraid to try something new'" Towards the end of the book, there is a conversation between two characters about impermanence and how it changes people and outcomes. Alina de Florac, aged 14, after having lost her parents and her sister are taken by illness. She and her brother Milos become wards of her father's brother:a rather caustic outcome as Uncle Garsanc and Aunt Marci see them as poor relations: mad at Milos ,15, for not having a marketable skill and unable to present Alina as a suitable bride. It didn't matter to them who these two young people had skills they chose not to see, for dreamers weren't in their understanding. To challenge their future sets them on the adventure of a lifetime. Would you send a 14 and 15 year old halfway across the known world to a culture so foreign it makes adults' heads spin? Talk about growing up fast! I liked this book as someone who knows theological history, and how this time frame ran. It's got to be a challenge to write for your audience; for your time line in history. Taking fictional characters and interweaving them into the real history around the Crusades, as Malve von Hassell herself says, is complicated. There are a few scenes where today's challenges over-road history that made me cringe. However all in all the book was a page turner that I read in one sitting and recommend for the age range it's aimed at. Recommended 4/5 [disclaimer: I received this book from the author and voluntarily read and reviewed it]

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  • A wonderfully-told story set during the Crusades

    Alina: A Song for the Telling is a wonderfully told story set in the Christian court of Jerusalem during the Crusades. During his lifetime, Alina and Milos de Florac’s father, Guy, had been far more interested in his family and music than estate management, and the holdings, as well as the retainers that depended on its success, had all suffered due to its neglect. And when his beloved wife, Beatriou, and eldest daughter, Maria, tragically succumbed to the sweating sickness, he sank into immovable despair, and things only got worse. Not long after, he was found drowned, a suspected suicide, and his brother, Garsanc, and his wife, Marci, arrived, determined to set things right and repair the damage to the family name. The brother and sister felt increasingly stifled, trapped under their new guardianship. Milos was constantly in trouble for one scrape or another. He was young and undisciplined; their father had been lax with the boy’s education in estate management much as he had been. Nor were there the funds to send Milos as a page to the household of a knight where he could learn and trained as a squire before returning home to take up his duties when the time came. Although bright and musically-talented like her father, Alina was not considered a great beauty, and lacking an attractive dowry, her prospects for an advantageous marriage were dim. She dreamed of becoming a trobairitz, a female troubadour, traveling the country, perhaps the world, playing her lute, and singing songs of her own devising. She became alarmed by the parade of unsuitable men her aunt keeps thrusting in her path, and the threat of the convent starts to look more desirable. As the tension at home mounted, the siblings formed an escape plan: they would join one of the parties of knights, merchants, and pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land on the pretense of praying for their father’s endangered soul. Aunt Marci and Uncle Garsanc agree, glad to have the pair out of sight for a while as they continue to mend the damage to the estate all the years of neglect had wrought. Uncle Garsanc knows of a group preparing to depart soon and led by a reputable knight from right there in Provence, Baltazar de Aurignac. With money from Uncle Garsanc in their pockets and Alina’s lute carefully wrapped for the journey, the young brother and sister set off for Lyon to join their new companions and head off on the trip of a lifetime. Author Malve von Hassell has written a wonderfully immersive tale set in 12th century France and Jerusalem. Set during the time of the Crusades, the long journey by horseback is interesting and exciting and so descriptive that I felt I was right there with Alina and Milos. The arrival in Jerusalem was full of sights and smells, dust and heat, color and antiquity. There are mystery and political intrigue galore that kept me turning the pages as I soaked up the atmosphere the author so skillfully and effortlessly crafted. ALINA is historical fiction, so real people and events are included in the story, and fact and fiction fit together flawlessly. It is amazing to me thinking about the massive amount of research this author did in completing this wonderful story. This realization only came to me later after putting the book down because I never felt like I was reading history; the story was so lively and entertaining. I enjoyed that the book was told from Alina’s point of view, and the thoughts and feelings of the young teenager felt true and natural. I also liked that she’d learned how to behave properly from her mother and had enough self-discipline to control her emotions and reactions to how she was treated at the court in Jerusalem. I felt this enabled her in her role as an onlooker of the various political schemes and drama. Well-behaved and a proper lady, she was useful yet overlooked and dismissed at times, allowing her the freedom to move about without being missed. I recommend ALINA: A SONG FOR THE TELLING for readers of historical fiction, especially those that would enjoy the 12th century setting of the Crusades, France, and the history of the Christian court in Jerusalem. The book is suitable for YA and adult readers, and I could see this as a read-aloud book for middle grades and younger and something the entire family would enjoy. I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through France Book Tours.

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