Pages: 448 pages
Published: April 25, 2023 (UK Publication Date: February 24, 2022)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic
It will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are . . .
October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in the English countryside as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders.
In London, rumors of a “fallen angel” cause a frenzy across the city, and a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .
Do you believe in angels? After reading this engaging adult debut novel from award-winning novelist Liz Hyder, you will ask yourself that question.
It’s October 1840, and a young woman stager alone in the English countryside. Suddenly, immense pain overcomes her, and she realizes a huge pair of angel wings rip themselves from her shoulders. As the rumor of a “fallen angel” makes its way to London, a surgeon’s desperate attempt for fame and fortune will cause the women he seeks in terrible danger and change four central women’s lives for better or worse.
I took a break from reading historical fiction, but after reading The Gifts, it’s a genre I must start reading again if they will be anything like this. Hyder has created a riveting and compelling story with a haunting ambience and magical storytelling. You wouldn’t think adding a magical realism taste would make a historical story more realistic and alive. However, that added element still made historical London come to life through your eyes. Victorian London comes to life through her skilled research and critical eye for detail. She achieves what some historical writers fail to do: transport readers into a different time and learn something new with every turned page.
But Hyder truly shines with the fascinating discussion and collision of religion and science being conversed together. How far are you willing to go in God’s name? The character Edward sees his ambition and thirst for religious reverence causes him to go down a dark path where there is no turning back. The way that Hyder approaches this subject is well done and leaves more for open discussion. I love books that make you do that, make you think outside the box and more about the world around you, and The Gifts does just that.
Another part where Hyder shines is the four main female protagonists: biracial and the strong Etta, scorned but relentless Natalya, obedient but determined Annie and diligent Mary. Four of these feisty women don’t match the typical Victorian ideals placed on by a patriarchal society. However, that doesn’t stop them from making a mark for themselves. They might be Victorian women, but readers will not struggle to identify with these strong women. It was like Hyder gave a voice to those many Victoria women who didn’t have a voice then.
Captivating and mesmerizing, The Gifts is a thrilling story that perfectly blends fantasy, literature and mystery genres. It is a breathtaking story that I won’t forget; if you pick it up, you will feel the same way.