exploration, fiction, Gender, Military

Review: Elizabeth of Starland

So in one of life’s gentle ironies, Alma Boykin reviewed one of my books this week, when I was planning to review hers. We hadn’t talked about it beforehand, nor did I realize that today is the launch day for her new book in the Colplatschki series. You can’t write coincidences like this in fiction, you will leave your readers shaking their heads and muttering about deus ex machina.

I’d been planning on reading and reviewing this book, or one from her other series, Cat among Dragons, for quite some time. I enjoy Alma’s pithy commentary on our mutual favorite blogs as TXRed, and figured that it would carry over into her fiction. I was not disappointed. Actually, when I had finished reading Elizabeth of Starland, I paid it that rarest of compliments for me. You see, when I am reading, I’m using either my phone or tablet, and my Kindle reading app. I don’t, as a rule of thumb, shop on either of them. It would be apallingly easy to blow through my whole month’s book budget with one-click and not counting up the dollars, even buying indie. However, it was late, I didn’t feel like getting up and breaking my concentration, so I clicked the button and bought the second book, because I wanted to read it right now. 

Elizabeth of Starland reminds me in many ways of George Phillies’ excellent Mistress of the Waves, or Friedman’s Harald. It is a science fiction book, yes, set on a planet that has lost all technology. But there is no magic, this is a pragmatic tale of a woman in a medieval fuedal society, on a planet where lots remnants of technology are either worshiped or feared.

Elizabeth herself begins as a postulant, an almost-nun (I’m not catholic, so I’m not fully clear, but I think that’s it). She has been condemned to be sent to an order housed in the malaria swamps, where she will surely die. The gently-bred but well read young woman flees with very little but a precious copy of von Clauswitz’s history of war, and her white mule. She still might die before attaining freedom, but it will be on her own terms.

This is a fun book to read. The practical eyes of the author see all the flaws it’s so easy to gloss over in a historical book, and takes them on. Elizabeth must deal with menses, horse hair, feminine weakness of arms compared to the men she fights alongside.. but she wins respect for her strength of mind and stubbornness. I liked her a lot. I am looking forward to the third book, and beyond. I believe Alma has four planned right now.

I’m going to pick up Elizabeth of Vindobona today, as I did with Elizabeth of Donotello Bend. That sequel followed Elizabeth’s adventures as a colonel and landowner, and it’s an interesting take on Earth history, and the trials of running a manor house while leaving it all behind periodically when riding off to war in service to your king. It felt shorter than the first book, but I’m not sure if that’s becuase I read it all in one sitting, or not.


I’d love to see more about the Landers, and possibly a reconnection with the colonists and Earth, but that may not happen, I will have to wait and see! If you enjoy historical novels, with a side of future mystery (the origins of this planet’s civilization), you will likely enjoy this. It’s a bit like Dave Freer’s Forlorn (now re-named Morningstar, see below), as well. Well-written and an easy world to sink into.