Book Review: Columbine’s Tale by Rachel Nightingale

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Harlequin’s Riddle, the first in the Tales of Tayra series by debut author, Rachel Nightingale, it was with much anticipation that I opened the second, Columbine’s Tale.

“For three hundred years the travelling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

In the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers  attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, beset by divided loyalties between the travellers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.”

My thoughts:

As with all series, the reader should have read the first Harlequin’s Riddle. In Columbine’s Tale a short prologue provides a concise and engaging summary for the purposes of catch up, with many useful reminders of the story so far. Columbine’s Tale opens with Mina on the run, determined to find her brother, Paolo, and this time, she believes she knows where he is. She’s being pursued, too. Thinking she knows who by, she’s in terror for her life as she tries to escape the clutches of the Gazini players who are determined to keep her. Then Mina encounters Sofia, a master story teller, and together with their team, the two travel the countryside and, through the power of telling stories, hand back dreams stolen by the players. Mina is determined as ever to undo the wrongs of others, and her quest leads her into increasing danger. Mina’s quest is thwarted by menace and betrayals and as the story unfolds, petal by petal, old betrayals are healed and new secrets revealed.

Through Mina and Sofia’s eyes, Nightingale portrays story telling as a gift, one that gives something to the listener, which she juxtaposes with the approach of the players who steal peoples’ dreams and hand them back to audiences as entertainment. But that is only the tip of this complex, intriguing and beautifully told novel.

Columbine’s Tale is told from multiple points of view and the main plot lines are carefully interwoven. The use of jump cuts works well as does the building of suspense, culminating in a dramatic edge-of-seat flourish and a denouement that leaves the reader wanting the third and last in the series.

Nightingale’s characterisation is impeccable, and with the fewest words she conjures a convincing three-dimensional cast. Descriptions are detailed and evocative, providing the reader with a powerful sense of place. Nightingale makes not only her imaginary Italy alive in the mind of the reader, but also her etheric realm, Tarya, in all of its layers and complexity. The prose is gentle, soft and acts on the psyche like balm. Tales of Tarya is a series to sink into and savour.

Nightingale plays with the fourth wall as Mina learns to tell stories from master story teller, Sofia, and here the reader is introduced to the craft of story telling and finding the heart of a tale from a special and mythic perspective. The metafictional element works and invites the reader to consider the true value of the narrative form.

Ultimately, Columbine’s Tale is about creativity and healing, of good versus evil, of the use and misuse of magical powers – the power to create and to destroy – and the all-important moral message underpinning the series, that creativity should be life-giving, not life-taking. In all a delightful and insightful read.

Here’s my review of Harlequin’s Riddle

Find the author, Rachel Nightingale here

Purchase your copy here

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Book review: It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost in by Mawson

I could not resist reviewing this charming picture book for adults by the irresistibly cute Mawson bear!

“Are you feeling a little lost? Got that ‘left in the spare room’ emptiness about you? Mawson does too.
He sits atop his cushion and ponders about baffling things.
The world is a baffling place for a curious teddy bear to live in. Friends approach him about their own dilemmas. They seek instant answers that will make everything all right. Mawson does his best. But after he ponders deeply, most things remain for him just as baffling as they were before.
Take a moment out of your day to pawse with him and explore the world. For the many frazzled readers who feel, secretly, much the same, he offers the comfort that the world is a bright place to be.”

My thoughts:

Mawson has penned a simple and moving tale of love and devotion, of belonging and losing the one you were born to protect. Brief text explains charming and evocative photographs of Mawson and his friends. Mawson is the most ponderous and baffled of bears. He tries to make sense of the world around him, but is challenged at every turn. Each page contains a message to dwell on and there is a satisfying twist at the end.

The shift in perspective as a loveable teddy bear reflects on how he needs to be loved stimulates a different way of viewing the world, encouraging us to put ourselves in the bear’s shoes. When we do, we are suddenly faced with our own selfishness and lack of empathy. Sure, Mawson is just a bear, a fluffy toy, and not a real animate being, or is he? Isn’t he a metaphor for all those living creatures we neglect? And what about those times when we feel neglected? Where do we turn?

It’s a Bright World is a meditation on the nature of love, missing, grieving, solace and healing. The story contains a powerful message: those who provide comfort are too often taken for granted.

It is possible to read this little book in about ten minutes, but then, you might find yourself dipping back in, again and again, leaving your copy on the coffee table to return to at whim. It’s a Bright World is that sort of book.

You can purchase a copy here.

Visit Mawson’s blog