The Short Knife by Elen Caldecott is an adventure/ historical fiction novel that is set in 454AD, as the Roman Empire has withdrawn from Britain.
This historic novel follows the main female protagonist names Mai and we follow her journey through the dark ages and facing Saxon Warriors. It is full of the mysticism of early Britain and we get to delve into the world of Mai.
We start the book with Mai, Haf (sister) and her Tad at their farm when Saxon warrors arrive and the family must flee. we follow their journey to the british camp on the hills and are given an insight into how Mai is feeluing and how she copes with the change. We see her struggle wwith her new situation and wants to leave. She continues in the British camp until she finds herself in trouble and ends up in a dangerous Saxon Camp. in a world where speaking your mother tongue is deadly she must learn Saxon words in porder to survive. but will this be enough?
I also liked the character of Mai in this book. As the protagonist we follow her journey through her experience with the dark ages and Saxon warriors as she become a strong independent woman. We also get to see her relationships with others including her sister Haf and how this effects her and the outcome of her life which I felt added another dimension to the character. She is only young yet we see her go through so much which adds strength to her character. We see her become strong and resilient in a world that doesn’t appreciate who she is.
This book was also a lot about Identify and language and we see how Mai’s is affected as she is forced to speak a language that isn’t her own. She loses part of herself when she can no longer speak her mother tongue and throughout the book we see how this effects her. How much she misses to be able to speak her own language. At one point she tears up after having heard her mother tongue spoken freely which shows the importance of her language is to her.
Generally, I don’t enjoy books that are set far in the past and I can’t say I would have picked this up if I hadn’t received this in July’s Book Box Club subscription box. Saying that, I enjoyed this book and was fully engaged from the beginning. Throughout the book I noticed saying to my self ‘just one more page’ a lot, which to me is a good sign!
Overall, I would recommend this book (even if you are not usually a fan of historic fiction like myslef). It is full of adventure and with a strong female lead you constantly want to read on. even though it features a complex character it is easy to read and enjoy and is almost poetic in its writing.
Many thanks, Caitlin x
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