Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

What could be better than an historical fiction novel set in India during a time when the country was fighting for its independence? I had high hopes for Under the Jeweled Sky. I thought it was the perfect way to learn about the culture and history of India while reading an enchanting love story that features star-crossed lovers. Doesn't that seem like the ideal combination?

Sophie Schofield returns to England to visit her mother. It's obvious from the moment Victoria opens the door that there is something from Sophie's past that has caused a rift that can't be repaired. It doesn't take long for readers to see that 10 years could never be enough time away from Victoria. 

Under the Jeweled Sky shifts focus between the present and the past when Sophie, as a teenager, lived in India. Her father was employed as a doctor for the maharaj. It is during these reflections that we learn a little more about India and the culture. This is also where the romance is brought to the surface. Sophie falls in love for the first time with an Indian boy, Jag. Because of his station in life (and very strong prejudices), she is told to stay away.

The novel seems to come full circle when Sophie and her present-day husband move back to Delhi. What better way to end a story than where it begins? Actually it may not be better at all. 

What I enjoyed most about this novel was Sophie. It wasn't that she was a well developed character so much as when someone is in love, it's natural to want things to go well for them. She faces many obstacles but she never caved. Even when her less than ideal situations would have caused a weaker person to break down. She never played the victim nor did she give up hope.

What was most challenging about this novel is that the story doesn't unfold. It's never a moment I felt immersed into the world Alison McQueen created. It was almost like we were being told a story instead of living in the story with the characters.

My other gripe with this novel is that it's historical fiction yet I never got the facts or information usually coupled with period fiction. Yes there are social inferences that can be learned from this text but the single most important fact was left out. The novel takes place in war-torn India yet much of the war was off screen. There were no characters presented who had a stake in India's future besides only in passing. 

Overall, Under the Jeweled Sky could have been so much more than it was. Although it wasn't a hit with me, I do recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction women's literature. There is a little bit of romance and a little history, but mainly a story that suggests to never give up hope. **

Copy provided by Sourcebooks via Netgalley

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