Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words
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Joan Szechtman’s interest in the 15th century monarch Richard III, originally prompted by reading Sharon Kay Penman’s novel The Sunne in Splendour, led her to try her hand at writing, with Richard III as a major character in both her novels. For more, visit Szechman’s website.
Loyalty Binds Me is a sequel to This Time. In the first book, a group of scientists with a time travel device transport Richard III, the former British Monarch, to contemporary times. He eventually adjusts and settles into his new life and family: a wife, two stepdaughters, and his son Edward (also transported into this century in the last book). Loyalty Binds Me picks up a year after the last novel ended, when Richard III and his family travel to England, where he is arrested for a 500 year-old murder.
The first book of this series was mostly about Richard III adapting to life in this century. While the action took place in contemporary times, it integrated historical facts and, in the case of much of what Shakespeare has many believing, corrected historical fiction.
In Loyalty Binds Me, the subtle historical teaching is still taking place, but the plot is closer to a thriller than the science fiction mixed with history tutorial the first time out. The characters had me emotionally invested even more than I might have been, because they were old friends from reading This Time. That helped draw me into the thriller portion of the plot. Szechtman does an excellent job of integrating the historical with the contemporary, including some strange twists, with Richard III’s arrest for lawbreaking alleged to have happened five hundred years previously. I liked the story, the “big picture,” of Loyalty Binds Me, but what I liked even more is in the details.
As I’m reading a book for review I’ll highlight errors of the kind that should have been caught during the copyediting and proofing process. I’ll also highlight and make notes about things that jump out at me as especially good or bad. When I reviewed my notes from Loyalty Binds Me I had exactly one “typo” type error I’d caught, a “you” that I thought should have been a “your.” The rest of the notes were about something Szechtman got right that very few Indie authors seem to pull off. That is getting the language right when there is a mix of characters who would speak different flavors of English. The best example is comparing Sarah (Richard III’s wife) who is American and says, “she probably would be in the hospital there” while an English character asks, “do you know why she’s in hospital.” This is a subtle usage difference between English and American speakers. Szechtman also recognized that Richard would have to cross a lane of traffic to make a right hand turn. It’s possible I might have missed something since my native language, as Szechtman’s, is American English, but I spotted enough instances that could have easily been wrong to be confident there are few, if any. Inattention to these little things can jar a reader out of a story. When done right it makes for a smooth and pleasant read.
Although a sequel to her book This Time, Szechtman reviews what happened in the first book in enough detail near the beginning of Loyalty Binds Me, so that reading the first book is not a requirement to understand the needed back-story for this one. Those who are reading the books back to back might feel it reviews too thoroughly, but anyone new to the series or with a long break between reading the books will be thankful.
No significant issues
Rating: **** Four stars