A Ballad Worth Telling

I think it’s safe to say that if I come across a historical fiction, I’m going to like it. Alina: A Song for the Telling is no exception. Author Malve von Hassell is a wonderfully creative and detailed writer, so the book was an absolute joy.

(Psst, while I’ve got you, I also have a link to my vlog!)

Alina and her brother Milos are young nobles of France, but most recently, they’ve become young(ish) orphans. After their mother and sister die of disease, their father mysteriously dies…of grief. Or at least that’s what they and their uncle tell the Church, because suicide is a major no-no in the 1100s (and most of history, let’s be real).

But Alina and Milos are no nobles who can be easily pushed around. Both are smart, independent young adults in their own rights, and after spending time with their overbearing aunt and uncle hatch a plot to go to Jerusalem to “pray for their father’s soul.” Somewhat surprisingly, their grumpy uncle agrees and the siblings are on their way to be strangers in a strange land.

They meet up with a ragtag group of merchants, knights, and other noblemen, and the sojourn is interesting to say the least. For one, Alina stumbles upon a curious monk in a church and at one point Milos ends up in the clink for gambling and causing a ruckus. After this little incident, they’re desperate but anxious about what awaits them in Jerusalem, especially since they’re low on funds, when one of the noblemen strikes up a deal.

Count Raymond (I love when real people show up in books!) ends up manipulating both siblings and it sure gets interesting. I don’t want to spoil it too much but here are some hints:

  • marriage plots
  • sabotage plots
  • murder plots
  • theft
  • songs with secret meanings
  • adorable children
  • finding a family of Jews who become unexpected allies
  • stuck up people
  • and so much more!

Y’all, this book was so good! It kept me entertained, I wanted to know more, I was surprised by the twist at the end, I felt heartwarmed by the sibling support… it’s a solid book.

The plot is interesting; the pacing is a little slow on the journey, but not in a boring way; the characters are well developed; the dialogue-description ratio is on pointe. *chef’s kiss* On the note of characters, I already made mention that there are real people in the book, which I think gives historical fiction so much more dimension and I love it. It makes it so much more obvious that von Hassell put a lot of effort and research into the book. I appreciated the list of historical characters at the beginning and really liked the brief author’s note about Count Stephen was simply a treat.

Now as far as the plot goes–and I hope you enjoyed my brief summary–it was simply enthralling. I always appreciate strong female characters, and as much as I love romance (as I know y’all know), I’m so so glad that Alina stayed independent. Of course, being a woman in the 1170s does limit women into being of a one-track mind (i.e., marriage), but I think it was really interesting and really well done how Alina broke free from that mold. In fact, the juxtaposition of her finding independence through her lute vs. Princess Sibylla being a smarty-pants who acknowledges her position and is trying to make the best of it was explored extremely well.

There’s just so much to like about this book–if you like historical fiction, if you like strong female characters, if you like adventure, Alina has something for you. I suppose the only reason why you wouldn’t like it is if literally all of those things were things you despised (but like, why? What book hurt you?).

So I definitely recommend it and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share my thoughts with you!

That’s all I’ve got for now. Be sure to look out for next week’s posts on Kritifer Ann‘s The House of Marchetti.

Happy Reading!

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