Book Review : The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

When I was offered a review copy of The Arrival of Missives from independent publishers Unsung Stories I was intrigued.

 

The Arrival of Missives is a unique work, deftly marrying literary and genre influences. It heralds the arrival of a major new voice in speculative fiction.

It IS a genre defying story.  Set in an historical period (just after WW1) but also sci-fi/fantasy with pagan influences from a key event (the May Day celebrations), The Arrival of Missives is different to anything I’ve read before.

The Arrival of Missives publishes today.

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 669 KB

Print Length: 91 pages

Publisher: Unsung Stories (9 May 2016)

ASIN: B01CX1UH1K

 

In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.

The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?

As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

 

 

17 year old Shirley is the daughter of a landowner and her plans differ to that of her father.  Life was changing after WW1 but it was still a patriarchal society and Shirley is a strong character who has no fear in challenging the old ways.  She’s partly estranged from her mother due to their divergent paths but there is one emotive moment which reminded me not to take everything at face value!

24 year old Mr Tiller has survived the war but his experiences have changed him and not in the way you would expect!  He has no ties in the village being a relatively new arrival but he has authority as the school teacher (12 children in the village school!).

The May Day celebrations are a key point in the story where Shirley must ensure the right thing happens – the effects of which will reverberate through the future.  However, with Shirley’s inquisitive and headstrong manner, will she take up the challenge … and will it be done how it ‘should’ or will she put her own stamp on proceedings.  There’s a moment during the preparations where the young men involved question themselves about why they’re doing something a particular way. The breaking of tradition is a theme throughout the story.

I loved the figurative language throughout the story.  The ‘they’ in the following are the fields belonging to Shirley’s father – nature is a character:

“In summer they can be headstrong, and fight my progress along their hedges with thistles, nettles and squat, tangling weeds.  When winter comes they turn into a playful mess of mud, determined to swallow my boots.”

There is no reason why sci-fi/fantasy can’t fit well with historical fiction.  I thought the olde world feeling and pace of rural life blended well with Shirley and Mr Tiller’s experience.  The Arrival of Missives may be a shorter read but there is plenty of action and more than one character experiences resolution (and not always in the way you might be expecting).   This is just as much about a coming of age and challenging societal expectations as it is about the prophecy.

 

For me, endings of novels don’t have to be cut and dried and I enjoyed the thoughts prompted by the ending in this story.  I would love to read more of Shirley’s quest to see her character development and how she would be received.  I have no doubt she would be successful.

 

Read The Arrival of Missives to be taken out of your comfort reading zone and enjoy this beautifully written and unique story.

 

Recommended Read

 

I would like to thank the publishers for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Unsung Stories is an independent publisher of intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between genres. They focus on commissioning a select number of quality novels per year, which has resulted in their books receiving nominations for awards including the Shirley Jackson, James Tiptree and the Guardian’s Not The Booker.

 

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Connect with Aliya

Website

Twitter @AliyaWhiteley

Married with two sons in their early 20's, by day I'm an Inclusion Lead in a local school. I recharge my batteries by reading and being out in nature. I've been blogging for six years, four of those years exclusively about the literary world and during that time awarded Romance Blogger of the Year at the inaugural Festival of Romance. I'm enjoying the freedom of lifestyle blogging and sharing my love of anything that makes life easier! As well as a lover of words, I'm a stationery addict and lifelong learner. I believe strongly in early help for special educational needs, disability and families who are struggling. I'm a member of my local Early Help Board and it's an honour to be working alongside others to instigate change and growth.