In 1803, Nadezhda Durova seeks to escape the tedium of a woman’s life. She disguises herself as a boy and escapes home on horseback to join the Russian army. Meanwhile, Alexander I, grandson to Catherine the Great, is crowned Tsar after the assassination of his father, but the assassination haunts Alexander throughout his lifetime. Can these two stop Napoleon’s march against Russia?
Linda Lafferty alternates narration between Nadezhda/Nadya and the Russian court, but each story moves at a different speed, with Nadya’s a couple years after Alexander’s, even though Nadya’s chapters appear first. This slows the plot considerably. It would have worked better to establish the Russian court dramas first and then focus on our main character, so that both plots move forward together instead of rocking back and forth in time. Once the Russian court storyline catches up with Nadya’s, the progression of the war with Napoleon makes much more sense.
The author eloquently questions the imprint heroes leave on the pages of history. Will they become a “smudge on the page until it is erased forever,” or can the sacrifices men make during wartime be an everlasting and honored memory? Lafferty delivers another meticulously researched story with The Girl Who Fought Napoleon. I noted many similarities in this novel to Lafferty’s 2015 novel, The Shepherdess of Siena. In both books, our main characters are horsewomen who defy expectations in a male-dominated society, possess an unwavering spirit, and are spitfires by nature.
Overall, I found Lafferty’s book to be very engaging. With a character-driven plot that is both historically intriguing and emotionally weighted, this book is a very satisfying read once you get through the initial time-shifting sections.
Review originally posted via the Historical Novel Society at:
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse