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Book Review - Spirit of the Highway by Deborah Swift

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG

BOOK REVIEW - SPIRIT OF THE HIGHWAY BY DEBORAH SWIFTBook Blurb1651 - England has been engaged in a bitter Civil War for nearly ten years. Ralph Chaplin, a farmer’s son, has fallen for beautiful copper-haired Kate. There is only one problem – he is a Roundhead soldier and she is a Royalist lady. 

Tired of bloodshed, Ralph volunteers to fight, sensing that the Battle at Worcester will be a chance to finish the fighting for good. He longs for peace, so he can forge a secure future and find a different, more equal way of life for himself and Kate. 
But War is not what he imagined, and soon he has made a deadly enemy; one who will pursue Ralph and those he loves, and wreak vengeance. What’s more, Ralph finds he has as many enemies at home, as on the battlefield. 
Told by Ralph’s ghost, Spirit of the Highway is the stand-alone second part of the Highway Trilogy based on the real life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, Highwaywoman. 
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I really liked reading Spirit of the Highway and I am grateful to the author, Deborah Swift, for granting me a review copy and letting  me make the acquaintance of her  intriguing characters. They classify this novel as YA historical fiction, but  nothing sounds teenish in it. I'd rather say it can be read both by YA and adults who love an engaging story set in the past. I'd recommend to any histfic fan because it is well written and historically accurate. I especially appreciated the thourough notes  the author added at the end of the book. Those are very precious materials for any reader who is not familiar with British history. 

"The living fear to die , but the dead fear to be forgotten"

BOOK REVIEW - SPIRIT OF THE HIGHWAY BY DEBORAH SWIFT
First of all, I was really surprised to discover that the heroine of the story, Lady Katherine Fanshawe, is a historical figure.  I hadn’t heard about her before starting reading, but she really did exist. She became the legendary  “Wicked Lady”, a highwaywoman, but she was born into a wealthy family, the Ferrers, in 1634.  She was a very  rich girl, married by her mother’s second husband to  his own nephew, in order to be able to dispose of her wealth and properties.  Fascinating, isn’t it? Spirit of the Highway is the stand-alone second book of a trilogy which started with Shadow on the Highway.  I didn’t happen to read book 1 but, trust me,  I had no problem while following the plot of book 2.  I could easily relate to the characters and enjoy their gripping adventures. Book 1 was the story of Abigail, Katherine Fanshawe’s  deaf lady's maid, while book 2 is the story narrated by Ralph Chaplin, or better by his ghost! He is Lady Katherine’s lover and Abigail’s brother. Ralph's story is tragic, heroic and romantic at the same time. It is set at the very end of the English Civil War. Ralph fights for Parliament with the Roundheads and Kate is the wife of Sir Thomas Fanshawe, a Cavalier supporting the king.  Ralph and Kate are in love with each other and hope the war and the bloodshed may not have been in vain, that the world could be made better , that all men and women could live as equal after all that suffering. Those were not easy times. A king was beheaded - Charles I Stuart -  and two hundred thousand people were killed in the war  - almost four percent of the population - and disease as well as  famine accompanied and followed the fights. 

Despite the painful losses and the cruelty of the opponents, the reader hopes that  Kate’s and Ralph’s dream may come true. As utopian as it sounds their plan is to found a Digger in the Fanshawes' property,  overthrowing the rigid class system. 
If you haven't heard about the Diggers, let me just hint at the fact that they were the first groups of people to try to live in what we would nowadays call a “commune”.  They did not believe in enclosing the land or in separating one part of the earth from another. There is war and violence, politics and history, love and romance, adventure and drama in this novel. The characters are so lively and their characterization so neat  that they almost leap off the page, as the praise on the book cover states. Ralph as a narrator is reliable, though he may sound partial being one of the protagonists. He is especially a great hero,  one who pays the highest prize for his beliefs and who is true to them till the very end. He is impulsive and passionate, honest to extremity, uncompromising and loyal. His love for Kate and his continuing influence can be felt also in the third book of the trilogy,  promised the author.
So I'm eagerly waiting for more about Ralph and Kate in the third book, "Lady of the Highway",  coming up soon in 2016.    
BOOK REVIEW - SPIRIT OF THE HIGHWAY BY DEBORAH SWIFT
Visit Deborah Swift 's official website 

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