Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review | The Arrival of Missives | Aliya Whiteley

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The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley 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.

Book cover The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 669 KB

Print Length: 91 pages

Publisher: Unsung Stories (9 May 2016)


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.

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.

Follow them on Twitter @UnsungTweets and like their Facebook page unsungstories for updates and news.

Connect with Aliya

Twitter @AliyaWhiteley

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I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 9+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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