The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester

The Amber Shadows

by Lucy Ribchester

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 7th April 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Bletchley Park typist Honey Deschamps spends her days at a type-x machine in Hut 6, transcribing the decrypted signals from the German Army, doing her bit to help the British war effort.
Halfway across the world Hitler’s armies are marching into Leningrad, leaving a trail of destruction and pillaging the country’s most treasured artworks, including the famous Amber Room – the eighth wonder of the world.
As reports begin filtering through about the stolen amber loot, Honey receives a package, addressed to her, carried by a man she has never seen before. He claims his name is Felix Plaidstow and that he works in Hut 3. The package is postmarked from Russia, branded with two censors’ stamps. Inside is a small flat piece of amber, and it is just the first of several parcels.
Caught between fearing the packages are a trap set by the authorities to test her loyalty or a desperate cry for help, Honey turns to the handsome enigmatic Felix Plaidstow. But then her brother is found beaten to death in nearby woods and suddenly danger is all around…

Rating: 4/5

 

Last year, next to Anna McPartlin’s „The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes”, Lucy Ribchester’s debut novel „The Hourglass Factory” was one of my absolute Top Ten reads. I couldn’t stop thinking and talking about the book, and between this thinking and talking I was impatiently waiting for Lucy’s next book, and as soon as I’ve heard news that „The Amber Shadows” is going to be published, I started to count the days to its publication day.

And with „The Amber Shadows” Lucy Ribchester only went and proved that she’s already found her fantastic, distinctive voice in historical fiction and I’d really advice you to just go and buy her books – they’re brilliant! And both are really very different, which is a great thing. By different I mean that even though both novels are historical fiction, they are both set in different times, they have totally different characters and plots and I love this, because it only shows that the author can write whatever she wants and it’s going to be a hooking, interesting, brilliantly researched story.

The story centres around coding, codes, ciphers and secrets. I will be honest with you, I’m really bad at such things, so seeing how this all is working made the book only better for me. It is fascinating and it is amazing how many codes there exist in the world, and how the minds of people who break them are working, and the author has described it precisely, but also in not too technical way, and even I was able to understand everything – which says something about the author’s talent to write about such complicated things.

Honey was a very strong, expressive character with a very distinctive voice and I didn’t have problems to warm to her from the very beginning. She works at Bletchley Park, transcribing the broken codes into messages, and I find her job fascinating. OK, maybe not as fascinating as breaking the codes itself, but nevertheless important and significant, though the author didn’t emphasize the meaning of the job so much. The atmosphere in Park is weird, people can’t trust other people, there are a lot of bans and orders and sometimes it made me feel really paranoid, when it was told you can’t speak with other people, you can’t go to other Hut and you must principally be very careful. And then Honey is handed a parcel by a strange man, a parcel that was delivered to the wrong Hut by mistake. It seems to be posted from Leningrad, even though Leningrad is currently under siege and it’s impossible to send packages from there, but still, the parcel has a right stamp and Cyrillic. Honey finds a small piece of amber in there – why did she receive this parcel? How? Is it about her father? Who is sending these packages – because there are more to come. Is it connected with Honey’s background that’s a little complicated, what with the confusing information she gets from her mother and brother about her father? But even more confusion is going to come.
Lucy Ribchester has portrayed Honey in a very believable way and she really well described all the feelings she felt, the confusion and distrust. Sure, Honey seemed a little confused and she seemed to believe in anything that was told to her, and it was only later that she started to doubt and asked questions, but she was young and she didn’t have a reason not to believe in the things her family told her. She was forced to undergo a crash course in maturity, she was brave and spirited and even though I didn’t feel a great connection with her, I still fell for her and kept my fingers crossed for her.
Also the other characters are incredibly well written. They are all very complex personalities, not at all straightforward and I really liked it. Their presence added tons to the story and they were all very convincing and realistic in the way they acted, though I missed a little what really happened with Moira.

However, I couldn’t help thinking that the story drag a little and that there is much too much about things that are not so significant for the plot. It was a very complex novel, not too straightforward, and it was really hard to find what IS the main point of it: is it Honey herself? Her discovering that her family history is one big lie? Her life and work at Bletchley Park? The mysterious parcels that she keeps getting? Sure, all the things are really brilliantly connected and they intertwine in the most comfortable, easy to follow way, but the main thing was – for me at least – too hidden, buried under the many sub – plots. But please, don’t get me wrong, it was a hell of a great story, and even with the end that seemed much to rushed in comparison to the whole book, I was hooked and wanted to know what is the secret, who’s sending the mysterious parcels, what do they mean and what’s Honey’s story. And I really appreciate the way the book was written and how well all the secrets were weaved into the story, how gently and in the right moments the author gave us a hint, how not obvious the story is and how gripping and full of suspense Lucy Ribchester made the book. I truly didn’t know who can I trust and who not, and Ms Ribchester kept me in dark till the end of the story, in fact, when really all the pieces of the puzzle fit together

The other aspect of me loving historical fiction so much is the fact that I can always learn something new. The idea of Bletchley Park is not new to me however I’ve never heard more about it. And even though this novel is completely fictional, and the author admits that the buildings, the jobs, the codes are a part of her imagination, it still sounded so very realistic and true, and Ms Ribchester has really brought this place to life, with all the description and creating this really exceptional, full of tension and secrets atmosphere. She truly brings the details of everyday life in Bletchley, and she does it in a very convincing, realistic way, but the most fantastic thing that she did with the book is the fact that the atmosphere of secrecy, distrust, confusion is palpable through the pages and I had a feeling it’s enveloping me as well.

The other thing that hit me so hard when reading the book was the fact that, even in war, you couldn’t trust your own people. I also couldn’t comprehend why so many secrets and why did the people make their lives even more complicated with them – it was so extreme that people working in Bletchley Park were not allowed to visit other Huts, and really, the secretive atmosphere is really well captured, and there came a moment that I really didn’t know who is the bad and who is the good one, and what is happening. It’s no wonder that Honey wasn’t sure what’s happening as well, and she didn’t know with whom she can talk, as often talking to the „wrong” people and doing the „wrong” things led to very serious consequences.

I enjoyed „The Amber Shadows” very much, though not as much as „The Hourglass Factory”. I’m sorry, but even though the books are very different, I can’t stop comparing them – I usually don’t compare books by the same author but this time it’s just that „The Hourglass Factory” was one of the best books I have ever read. This debut novel was for me much more vivid and colourful and „The Amber Shadows” felt in comparison a little flatter and not as full of action and events. But altogether, Lucy Ribchester has again written a masterpiece of historical fiction and she can really incredibly well capture atmosphere of the times she sets her novels in. An exceptionally well researched and you can feel how much feeling and heart the author put in every word, „The Amber Shadows” is for sure not a book to miss – I highly recommend it to you all!

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Top Ten Books in 2015

So guys, here we are, at the end of the year – can’t believe it, to be honest. The older I am, the quicker the time passes by. Nevertheless, what a year it was, with its ups and downs, but let’s concentrate on the books. I read 211 books in 2015, most of them I rated with 5 stars, because… well, because they were absolutely brilliant novels! I discovered new authors to me, fell more in love with „old” authors, was part of many wonderful Blog Tours, interviewed many great people, was honoured to post many fantastic Guest Posts… And today I am going to tell you about my top reads in 2015 – and believe me, it was a very tough choice! The books haven’t been put into order – it would be impossible!

 

I Hope You Dance by Beth Moran – a book that took my breath away. A bitter – sweet, true to life story exploring family life – fantastic!

 

My Everything by Katie Marsh – one of the best debut novels I have EVER read – so very maturely written cracker of a book about journey through life, about developing , about getting to know each other again, about following your dreams, compromises and backing down in the name of love.

 

The Silent Hours by Cesca Major – another incredible debut. After reading this book I couldn’t settle for another novel for a long time, as it left me with a major bookish hangover. This rare gem of a book that you are going to lose yourself in and forget about everything that’s surrounding you. It’s going to leave a large impact on you and your feelings.

 

The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts – I love good historical fiction, and this book is for sure a VERY good historical fiction. It’s a perfect mix of history, romance and drama. The writing style is hooking, realistic and so very vivid and the story was, in fact, unputdownable. I’d recommend it to all, no matter if you like historical fiction or not, because it’s one helluva novel!

 

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees – this book was one of the biggest surprises this year, I really haven’t expected it to be SO good! A brilliant, compelling story that takes us on a journey through early Victorian England and gives us a bunch of strong female characters, some male characters that look so weak in comparison to our girls, but also some that are really worth to make acquaintance with, and of course give us a look at the society, with all its stereotypes, as well as intriguing mystery.

 

The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson – a year without Lucy’s book is a lost year. I can’t imagine not having Lucy in my life and all her novels were rated by me with 5 stars. „The Day We Disappeared” is an incredible story of secrets, friends, family and honesty. I can only say, drop everything you do and go and buy this book – and you don’t have to thank me for recommendation this time.

 

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor – it was my first book by Hazel Gaynor and it left me speechless. It was a wonderful, beautifully written novel that is going to stay with you for a very long time, a book that comes upon once in a while and a book that you don’t want to leave, to depart with.

 

Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley – though I think I should put here all books by Cathy Bramley, as they all deserve to be mentioned! There is everything you could wish for in a book, humour, sadness, love, friendship, hope, together with fantastic writing and brilliant characters. And who knows, maybe you’re going to discover that you do have green fingers after reading the book? Highly recommended, this book for sure is going to lift your mood up and it could be a perfect escape for some time! I have read it twice already!

 

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester – another fantastic debut this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for a long time! There was everything that I could wish for in a book: brilliantly created atmosphere, fantastic times, vivid characters, mystery, drama but also a lot of dark and sharp humour. Full of twist and turns, surprises and gasps from me.

 

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin – last but not least, and I think this book has the biggest impact on me, and if I were forced to choose my absolute winner I guess this would be THE ONE.  Be prepared that when you start reading the book, you won’t be able to put it down. I have found myself reading it and reading, thinking only one more page. You know what’s going to happen, you know there is no hope, but nevertheless, you keep reading because you just want to know. After I finished this book I couldn’t move for some time, and it’s good that I was home alone, that nobody’s seen the tears pouring down my face. I knew how it’s going to end, but nevertheless, it didn’t make it easier for me. But it was without a doubt one of the most stunning, moving, beautiful books that I have come across.