by Michelle Diener
Genres: Historical Fiction
The Victorian Empire has declared war on the Zulus if they don't accede to their outrageous demands. The clock is ticking down to the appointed hour. With no idea why the British are marching three massive columns of men and guns towards them, one Zulu general is prepared to take an impossible risk. But the life he's gambling with isn't his own . . . The sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, 15-year-old Elizabeth Jones is taken in by the Zulus, the people of the sky. Six years later, her white skin becomes useful to the Zulu army as they try to work out why the Victorian Empire has pointed their war-machine at the Zulu nation. Elizabeth is suddenly Zululand's most important spy. While infiltrating the British camp, Elizabeth's disguise as a young soldier is uncovered almost immediately by Captain Jack Burdell. However, he believes the tale she spins of searching for a missing brother and shields her from discovery, allowing her to bunk in his tent and giving her a job as his batman. Burdell is war-weary and disillusioned - no longer willing to follow regulations at all costs. But as Elizabeth and Jack explore their growing attraction to each other, the two armies move towards their inevitable clash. Elizabeth is torn between the guilt of betrayal and her fierce loyalty to her Zulu family, and when Zulu and British meet on the battlefield, both she and Jack find their hearts and their lives caught in the crossfire.
This was my first adventure involving the Victorian empire and Zululand, South Africa. Daughter of the Sky is a story about war, spies, and greed laced with romance and fascinating characters. I found myself swept up in the historical events and the beautiful landscape. Three-word review: captivating, adventurous and passionate.
Diener takes us to Zululand in the late 1800’s a time when the British Empire was conquering lands to secure their dominance. Here we meet Elizabeth Jones a redheaded white woman who survived a ship-wreck at fifteen and was taken in by a Zulu family. Her Zulu family and the Zulu way of life have become very important to her, and as the British Empire make their way towards them Elizabeth finds herself a key part of the Zulus strategy to stop the British. Disguised as a young soldier she infiltrates their camp as a spy and the tale that unfolds was captivating, touching and a fascinating look at this time period.
Elizabeth and her story immediately captivated me. She is strong, brave, patient and conflicted. Her back history plays a role in her decisions and she felt genuine. I really would have liked the tale to start sooner, or flashback on her life in Zulu. Captain Jack Burdell is conflicted about his sense of duty and the war itself. He wasn’t really fleshed out enough for me, but I did like that he kept Elizabeth’s secret. The romance was sweet and I loved watching it unfold as the sexual tension slowly built and we waiting for one of them to make the first move. We get to know some of the characters on both sides of the war, giving us a personal perspective on this war and its people. Diener skillfully wraps you up knots and you find yourself rooting for both sides.
This was my first visit to Zululand and I was swept up in the details and panoramic views Diener provided. The tale flowed smoothly as she shared with us British and Zulu movements before the battle of Isandlwana. The novel is woven with historical tidbits and truths which I found fascinating. The daunting task of moving such a large troop across this unforgiving landscape was interesting and I enjoyed learning about the natives and their strategies. As I read I became curious about the actual events and I found myself searching Google for more information. I discovered that indeed a white child was ship-wrecked and adopted by a family and that after the battle survivors were questioned about a woman. *shivers* We are privy to multiple perspectives through journals, letters and thoughts and these provided the most insight into the characters themselves. From a historical perspective, the tale was enthralling and I loved learning about these events. Diener’s love and passion for this period and place are evident in her words. Each chapter begins with correspondence from both governments and it helped give you a sense of the political climate. While the characters were unique and had their own voice, I would have liked them to be fleshed out more. Call me greedy but I wanted to know more about Elizabeth’s time in Zulu and I really would have liked to know Jack more. This is the type of novel that could easily have handled more pages and swept us up from the shipwreck to the battle itself. I enjoyed the novel and would love to revisit Zululand.
Fans of historical fiction will find Daughter of the Sky to be a fascinating look at the Battle of Isandlwana with a side dish of romance.
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