Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Veiled in Shadows"

I do not offer to do book reviews unless I am almost certain to like the book. I do not know enough about the craft of book writing to critique a book, so any review of mine is bound to be more about how I feel about a book than about where that book ranks in that absolute scale that some people employ with such ease.

But one book I did not hesitate to offer to review was Allan Russell's 'Veiled in Shadows'. My decision had nothing to do with the fact that I have known and liked Al for nearly a year, and with having been with him in the last months leading upto publication. The main reason why I offered to review the book was because of the cover. Yes, you heard it right. I decided that I was going to like the book because of it's cover.

I am one of those people who does judge books by their covers- if nothing else, the cover gives me the genre, and in a country where books are not categorised by genre and synopsises can be misleading, that is a useful thing to know. But in case of 'Veiled in Shadows', it was more than just that. Al designed the cover himself, so I was sure that the cover would be an accurate representation of what the author hoped to achieve from the book.

And I was not disappointed!

'Veiled in Shadows' is the story of a half-English half-German 'Princess' who calls herself "Katharina..... My second name, it seems less pompous and more German than Victoria. My daddy calls me Victoria Chesterfield, but I prefer Katharina von Brunnenstadt." Bold, beautiful and intellegent, we first meet her through the eyes of a young Nazi officer who thinks he is saving her from a wild boar, but ends up having his head chewed off for destroying a breeding boar.

She proceeds to fall in love with the Nazi officer remarkably quickly, but just before the outbreak of World War II abruptly breaks off their engagement and moves to England. In England, she meets a young fighter pilot, and despite loving him, turns down his proposal because she loves another.  She follows her cousin into the English Secret Service, and defects to Nazi Germany under very mysterious circumstances. To say much more would be to give the plot away, but her ambivalent actions keeps you guessing till the very end.
Allan Russel knows a thing or two about creating and maintaining suspense. Who is Katharina/ Victoria? What does she stand for? What is she fighting for? Who is she fighting against? You get conflicting pieces of evidence and despite the prologue seemingly having told you everything, nothing falls into place till the last chapters.

What made the book even more engaging was the fact that the story emerges through multiple points of view, none of them Katharina/ Victoria. She is 'Katharina' to her German lover, and 'Victoria' to her English lover. Her subjects in Baravia call her 'Princess', and her cousin calls her 'Vikki'. She is different things to different people, but all of them love her.

I am not a fan of war fiction, but I am glad I read this book, and I would without hesitation recommend it to anyone.

Disclaimer - Al sent me a copy of the book expecting a review, but the fact that he sent me the book is not the reason for my rating it as high as I do. Had I not liked the book, I would have either declined to review it, or made do with a summary and some general observations.

Veiled in Shadows is available on Amazon.


Margot Kinberg said...

Rayna - A fine review! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And you are absolutely not the only one who judges books by their covers. Lots of people do, and publishers spend quite a lot of time and effort creating appealing covers for just that reason. You've done an excellent review, and this book truly sounds intriguing. Thanks

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I have this one on my Kindle to read and review. Thanks for a great review!

Anonymous said...

That is an eye-catching cover!

Talli Roland said...

Wonderful review, Rayna - thank you!

Holly Ruggiero said...

Great review. I love the fact you judge the book by its cover and freely admit it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

This book sounds like it would make a great movie. I'll look for it if I pull in some gift cards for Christmas. I've been such a good girl.

Tina said...

Thanks. I'm always looking for a new author. I'm one of those who reads everything that author has written, and then am at a loss as to what to read next...I'm captivated by the cover.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

I would've picked that up for the cover too! Sounds intriguing. :)

kmckendry said...

I don't normally read fiction. Believe it or not I really enjoy reading history and biographies of historical figures, but you have made this book sound like an intriguing read. I think I will check it out.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I tend to judge books by their covers, too. If it doesn't grab me, I won't even pick it up to look at the back cover, no matter what the genre or author.

Cinette said...

I have to admit, I love the cover, too! I'll have to check this one out.

Jules said...

Oh yes, that cover is just AWESOME! Funny I just watched a program on how book covers truly make a difference. I so agree. :)

How's the tree standing? :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Vicki Rocho said...

Great review. I love the cover, and the premise is intriguing. I don't think I've ever read war fiction -- I have a natural aversion to it -- but I would give this a shot based on your comments. Thank you.

Priya Shankar said...

wow... interesting. this kind of reminds me of the book unbearable lightness of being... goes deep into the main character's psyche- his ambivalence about committing to one women or spending time with his mistresses...

Okay, they are kind of different haha, but this sounds like a really interesting book. Straying away from your usual drabble!!

Priya Shankar said...

Also, can I just say I love your blog. AND I checked out your organization. Next time I am in India (which should be quite soon), I would love to visit.

slommler said...

Thanks for the recommendation of this book. I have so many books waiting to be read...sigh! Who has the time anymore? I ask you...who? I try to make time but it is hard to get it!
Merry Christmas

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Margot - the book is outside your genre, but I am sure you will like it. And thank you.
The next review will be your's, whenever I get the book, and read it.

@ Michelle - it is a great book- as nice as the cover.

@ Fiona - and you can judge this book by its cover.

@ Talli - thank you.

@ Holly - I do. That is the first thing I see, and if it is not nice, it can be a turn-off.

@ Susan - never thought of it as a movie, but yes, it is a very visual book.

@ Tina - I am pretty sure you will love the book.

@ Oddyoddyo13 - the cover is great, isn't it?

@ kmckendry - and the setting is historical, even if the people are not real.

@ Diane - and your books have BRILLIANT COVERS.

@ Cinette - Let me know how you liked it.

@ Jules - they do, don't they? Wonder why more people don't admit it.

@ Vicki - there is a bit of violence, but you can skip that and not miss too much. I liked it, and it is not a genre I like.

@ Priya - not read the book, though I have heard of it. Must check it out.

@ Priya - if you can think of any orgs we could approach, do let me know. And would love to catch up in person when you are here next.

@ SueAnn- I too have so many books waiting to be read- willget to them all someday.


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