The Golden Lynx has been selling pretty well for an indie book, but it hadn't picked up any reviews (well, not counting the one I wrote at Goodreads insistence—why does Goodreads ask you to rate your own books?!—and there I just pointed out that I was the author and therefore not a reliable reviewer) until last week, when Bryn Hammond posted this four-star review on Goodreads.
Note that Bryn (whom I don't know outside of Goodreads) is a specialist on the Mongols. You may want to check out her Of Battles Past, which is available for free on Smashwords or for 99¢ on the Kindle Store and draws heavily on The Secret History of the Mongols. I'm reading it now. So if Bryn says the book is accurate, you can be sure she knows what she's talking about.
And without more ado, here is what she said.
I had fun. I’m going to make this a very, very personal review. It may or may not be of use to others.
First off: I came because I’m into steppe history. Mind, I know next to nothing about 16thC Russian-steppe outskirts... though I always thought Russia had the most interesting history on earth; I was happy to visit.
Next: I have a thing for fighting women. When they’re from the steppe I’m a guaranteed read. The more so, as to read certain steppe fiction, you’d think these were masculinist, macho societies where women were dragged by the hair. You’d think wrong: consult the steppe epics, that our girl Nasan knows and loves. When I found fighting women from The Book of Dede Korkut, for instance, cited here as aspiration-figures, the kind of girl Nasan wants to be, I was in.
Her people are now Muslim – in the way they are in Dede Korkut, that is, with strong underlines of their earlier religion. I’ve read about the conversion to Islam hereabouts in Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tukles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition (that's a mouthful. So, I'm afraid, is the book) - where I learn, conversion is slow and never perfect. So Nasan has her 'grandmothers', whom she feels to guide her, and a spirit doll (doll to Russian eyes) that she feeds daily, treats as holy, draws inspiration from.
But I don’t mean to get abstruse here, because this novel is an adventure. It kept reminding me of old adventure tales that I loved in my youth – Robert Louis Stevenson’s New Arabian Nights, for one, where people go about the night streets in disguises. It has a strong flavour of such fare – to me – and I can’t help but suspect the author is a fan of these old adventure tales too, since her other book is a take on the Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s very plotty. You know from the blurb, the infant Ivan the Terrible is involved ... and that plot blew a breeze of Alexandre Dumas at me, too.
There's what I liked about it: the setting (with sound historical knowledge); our girl hero whose heart is on the steppe though she’s plunked into Moscow to patch up a feud with a marriage; and the adventure, that conjured up to me the old-style books, you know, in the days when they knew how to write an adventure...
Here is another review, from a friend but unsolicited, sent in via e-mail:
“I have the library copy of The Golden Lynx, I started reading it last night, and I’m immersed in the story. The story line is irresistible, and the details are fascinating. I feel like the kid I was when my mother hid my books so I could get my chores done.”
And in December 2012, this one appeared on Amazon.com (five stars, Amazon verified purchase):
Adventure, Sociology, and Mysticism in a Single Package
C.P. Lesley has once again brought the past to life as she explores the crafts and customs and mysticisms of Russians and Tartars of the 16th century. But this isn't a history lesson. This is an adventure and a detective story set in centuries past.
Yes, elite clans battle for control of the toddler who will one day become Ivan the Terrible. But this is the background story. In the foreground of this story is Nasan, a 16-year-old warrior princess of a Tartar clan. She is sent away from her family and homeland to a far-off Russian stronghold. There she must play wife to a Russian noble--a renown playboy--who is kin to the man who killed her brother right in front of her. The murder triggered a battle. Nasan is the peace offering.
So how does a warrior princess spend her nights while her husband is away? Heroically, of course. With the aid of her spirit grandmothers she sneaks out of the Russian fortress nightly to do good, Batman-style, and return before breakfast. And what is her husband doing all this time? He's trying to find the real killer of Nasan's brother. If he only knew that The Golden Lynx, Nasan's heroic alter ego, is already discovering the answer.
Adventure, sociology and mysticism in a single package. Well done.
Two more December reviews from Goodreads:
1. (Four stars)
This is a novel of adventure set in 16th century Russia that features a young Tatar woman, Nasan, whose family is involved in a blood feud with a Russian noble family. With the death of her brother and the Russian family's heir they the two warring factions decide to make peace by marrying Nasan to the younger son of the Russian family. Nasan reluctantly agrees and travels to Moscow to become a bride of a man whose brother she believes killed her own. A stubborn and head strong young woman she gets caught up in local intrigue while posing as a mysterious hero, The Golden Lynx, while her husband goes on a mission to clear his brother's name.
It is an entertaining read set in an exotic backdrop of the contrasting Tatar and Russian culture, a time and area I know very little about. The author provides a wealth of local colour for both that enriches the story immensely.
2. (Five stars)
I've studied the 16th century for nearly 40 years, so it was quite a surprise to find that an entire world I knew nothing about existed at that time in Russia, just a few hundred miles from Western Europe, where I think most of us were led to believe everything important happened. The co-existance of Christian and Muslim cultures and the fact that both societies were clan-based (with only the beginnings of a sesne of a nation called Russia) was all new to me, and made for fascinating reading.
The best part was the kick-ass heroine, Nasan, made even more interesting by her coming from a Muslim society, which overlayed an older, shamanistic religion. I don't think I've ever seen a female character outside of a fantasy novel dream of being an epic heroine from days of old. These legends, along with the author's vivid descriptions of everything from food to architecture to racing across the snow on horseback makes The Golden Lynx well worth reading.