Exclusive: KATE FORSYTH reviews THE PRIESTESS AND THE SLAVE

The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford is a small yet intense glimpse of what life must have been like 7,000 years ago in Ancient Greece. It tells the story of two women – the priestess and slave of the title – who never meet each other, yet whose tales reflect and enrich each other.

Thrasulla is a Pythia, one of three priestesses presiding over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. She is a witness to the bribery of one of the other priestesses by the mad king of Sparta, Kleomenes, and its terrible aftermath. As a Pythia, Thrasulla is one of the few women to hold any power or prestige in a male-dominated world.

Her story is contrasted with that of Harmonia, a slave, who must nurse the members of the family who own her through the dreadful plague of Athens, despite her own fears for herself and her twin sister.

Replete with evocative details of food and clothing and manners and morals, The Priestess and the Slave is simply and elegantly told, with the clear ring of truth that comes from absolute control over one’s material. Jenny Blackford won a First Class Honours degree in Classics, so she really knows this world well and, with this novel, reveals it to us.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of numerous books for children and adults. Her latest release is The Puzzle Ring. In it, thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land… Check out our interview with Kate here.

A Sibling’s Review…

Author siblings are pretty rare – and with Kate Forsyth being featured on the blog, and her new novel The Puzzle Ring featuring in our giveaway for the month (click HERE for your chance to win), I knew I just couldn’t pass off the opportunity to approach her sister, author Belinda Murrell for her honest take on her sister’s work. Naturally, a little part of me was hoping for the claws to come out and some brutal sibling competitiveness to really take centre-stage, but really, there’s none in sight. And while she might be quick to admit possible bias, Belinda’s review simply echoes the praise I’ve read for the book in reviews from other sources.

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
(Pan Macmillan)
Age 10+ Fiction

Hannah Rose Brown is an ordinary Australian 12-year-old. Or so she thinks. Until a mysterious letter arrives from her long-lost great-grandmother in Scotland, which shatters Hannah’s life and everything she believed about herself.  Hannah is actually the great-granddaughter of a countess, and heir to a Scottish castle. Worst of all her family is cursed by dark magic. Hannah must travel back in time to Scotland in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, to try to find the Puzzle Ring, break the curse and save the father she has never met.

The Puzzle Ring weaves together the fascinating history of sixteenth century Scotland, with a rich vein of magic including fairies, hag-stones, water horses, witches and ancient spells.

Kate Forsyth is a wonderful story-teller. Her characters are vibrant and engaging, the plot thrilling and the setting evocative. I am, of course, deeply biased as Kate is my sister! This book is based on stories told to us when we were children by my Scottish grandmother and great-aunts, so I can truly taste the marmalade cakes. I loved The Puzzle Ring, and I am sure so too will many, many children around the world.

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Belinda Murrell is author of The Sun Sword Trilogy and The Locket of Dreams, a novel for children aged 8+, which is set in contemporary Australia and Scotland and Australia during the 1850s. Coincidentally The Locket of Dreams is also inspired by stories told by her Scottish grandmother.  That’s what happens when you grow up in a story-telling family! For more information about Belinda and her writing, click here.

Interview With KATE FORSYTH

I remember being in Year Six and standing in my best friend’s room. I’d been left alone for some reason. Naturally, I started snooping, and it wasn’t long until my eyes fell on a book with a silver spine and a dragon on the cover sitting, with a bookmark splitting its side, on his nightstand. My friend was reading a fantasy book? I approached said book, I couldn’t believe my luck. Finally, I had something to return serve with during witty banter. When he mentioned my love for creative writing, I could reply with, ‘Yes, but you read fantasy books.’

Being 11, there was only one way to react to this discovery: to heap a inconceivable amount of insults on him when he returned. Return he did, and heap I did. I heaped for a good five minutes, gesturing periodically at the book on his nightstand.

He waited until I was finished. When I was content with the amount of heaping I’d done, I finished with, ‘I never thought you’d like fantasy books,’ to which he replied, ‘Kate Forsyth doesn’t write fantasy books, she writes great books. There’s a difference.’

A little corny, yes, but that’s my earliest memory of Kate Forsyth and her writing – and the book in question was Dragonclaw, the first book in her wildly successful The Witches of Eileanan series. I have to confess I haven’t read much of her work, and I was half-tempted to have my friend interview her, but then I figured, I wouldn’t be much of a blog helmer / media student if I didn’t conduct the first interview myself.

And so, without further ado, Kate Forsyth, Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy…

Just how has your newest release, The Puzzle Ring, been influenced by your own Scottish heritage?

The Puzzle Ring was directly inspired by the stories by Scottish grandmother and great-aunts used to tell me when I was a little girl. They gave me a deep fascination with all things Scottish, plus a romantic imagination fed with tales of battles and feuds and brave deeds. I actually wrote a novel set in Scotland when I was 11 which was called ‘Far, Far Away’ and always longed to go there.

It has elements of historical fiction crammed in with the fantasy – how did you go about researching the novel?

I love to research. It’s reading for a purpose. I did a lot of research for this book – not just on Scottish history and folklore, but also on time travel theories and how to sleep in the snow without getting frostbite.

Who’s favourite character in The Puzzle Ring?

Apart from Hannah, my heroine, my favourite character is Linnet, the old, mysterious cook at the castle.

What are you working on now, if anything at all?

I’m writing a YA fantasy called The Wildkin’s Curse, the long-awaited sequel to The Starthorn Tree.

My godson is practically obsessed with I Am. Would you ever consider writing another picture book?

Oh yes, I’ve got lots of ideas! I just never get a chance to sit down and play with them.

Do you prefer writing for children or adults?

I like writing for both. Each age group has different problems and challenges, and gives you different rewards. It means you never get bored and your writing stays fresh and vivid (or so I hope).

Time to choose between your children… what’s your favourite book you’ve written?

Of course I love all the books I’ve written but I’m also most deeply connected to the book I’ve just written which is of course The Puzzle Ring.

What’s the most annoying question you’re asked in interviews?

My favourite book … 😛

… And the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

How long it takes to actually write a book! If only I could write as fast as I think …

If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?

Philip Pullman’s.

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
Thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land…

The Puzzle Ring is part of May’s giveaway prize pack. Complete the entry form HERE for your chance to win. Entries close 31 May, 2009.

Upcoming Author Interviews

Just a quick heads-up to say our first two exclusive Boomerang Books author interviews have been scheduled.

Later this week, I’ll be sitting down with Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy, Kate Forsyth, to discuss her latest children’s release, The Puzzle Ring (which is part of our May Giveaway, so don’t forget to enter it HERE).

And this one’s for you, JayTay, a Twittexperiment of sorts. On Tuesday, May 12th, at 5p.m., I’ll be hopping onto Twitter and Twinterviewing (yes, I’m going to do that with all my Twitter-related words, the sooner you come to terms with that, the better) Simmone Howell, who, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill, and her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year. How does a Twinterview work? Well, you log onto Twitter at 5p.m., make sure you’re following both Simmone (postteen) and I (boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself.

Any authors you want me to hunt down for an interview? Leave a comment, or email me: [email protected].

May Book Giveaway

So, Boomerang Books has a monthly book giveaway. This month, we’re giving away a great pack of new release books, including:

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
Thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land… Keep an eye out later this week for our EXCLUSIVE interview with Kate Forsyth.
 
Believe by Raphael Aron
This book provides the reader with a unique insight into the mind and soul of a drug addict. It juxtaposes the lives of two addicts, using recorded personal and intimate experiences and emotions. Their eloquent diaries are published in the book together with the session notes of their counsellor and the author. The book reveals the raw nature of addiction and the hold it has over those who suffer from it.
 
Shimmer by Basia Bonkowski
A powerful story of love, life and loss by one of Australia’s most distinguished women. Step inside one woman’s very private world as Basia and her brothers gather to watch over their mother during the last fourteen days of her life. Heartrendingly poignant, Shimmer is touched with moments of humour and great insight, as author Basia Bonkowski comes to terms both with losing her mother and the heartbreak of her own personal journey. Basia’s lyrical prose and sharp eye for detail create an unforgettable account of her family over three generations. It is a moving tribute to the strength of the human spirit and the ties that bind.

Spirit Whispers by Charmaine Wilson
Spirit Whispers is the deeply moving and inspiring autobiography of Australian psychic medium Charmaine Wilson. This is the story of a truly gifted woman who discovers her extraordinary abilities the hard way. Along her excruciating journey, she is taught Life’s toughest lessons and eventually its deepest meaning. Charmaine’s story delivers an important message of hope and trust in what lies beyond.

Taxing Trails by Bernard Vrancken
Larry B. Max is an unusual specialist from a little-known branch of the Internal Revenue Service, the all-powerful tax-collecting agency of the United States. Reading into tax-evasion and money-laundering rings the way a virtuoso pianist would read a sheet of Mozart, Max has every technological method at his disposal to find links between high finance and high crime. In this first album, he must look into a particularly delicate file belonging to a rich Jewish-American, known for his involvement in recovering items that were confiscated by the Nazis. Dissecting this billionaire’s accounts, Max embarks on a dangerous journey to find the mysterious origins of the man’s immense fortune..

Nora Heysen: Light and Life by Jane Hylton
Nora Heysen grew up at The Cedars near the Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf, and was deeply influenced by her father, Hans Heysen. Nora Heysen: Light and life explores a notable career spanning seven decades, during which the artist painted some of Australia’s most outstanding self-portraits, became the country’s first female war artist, and was the first woman to win the prestigious Archibald Prize.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 31 May, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

A big thanks to our friends at our friends at Wakefield Press, Pan Macmillan, Fontaine Press, Exisle Publishing and Book&Volume for making the giveaway possible.

… A bonus for our Facebook friends

We’ve got extra copies of Shimmer and Taxing Trails to give away exclusively to our Facebook Group members this month.  Join Now!