DiscoverHistorical Romance

A Medieval Tale: First Lessons


Worth reading 😎

Flawed but intriguing fish out of water story. The first part of a series, and not a stand alone novel.

The fish out of water beginning has great potential for fantasy or satire, but the story is a relatively conventional, though entertaining action-adventure yarn. Many characters and subplots are introduced, along with sometimes excessive backstory of political intrigues, but this sets characters and events in motion for conflicts that presumably come in later books.

Aliya accepts, with surprising ease, her apparent death, rebirth, and new medieval surroundings as entering a parallel universe, but the new world is a curious mix of things unchanged (animals), things different (the continents), and things that are the same with different names (ethnic and religious groups, in stereotypical portrayals). A dozen footnotes testify to the work that has gone into world building, yet some aspects, such as the locals' lack of ability to work with glass, are hard to accept.

We are told glass is rare, yet servants drink from glasses. In a world where glass is rare, either servants should not be drinking from glasses, or whatever they use should not be called glasses. This may be an error in translation, but there are often consistency errors. For example, Aliya is able to examine and find health issues with four horses, as she loves horses, but just a few pages later we are told she "knew almost nothing about farm animals," including how to care for horses.

Character development is minimal. Aliya wakes in the body of Lilian, who is roughly her age but overweight and out of shape. Aliya's reaction to her new body borders on offensive. We later learn that Lillian was despised by her absent husband and considered dim-witted by her father. Aliya has Lilian's memories, at times, but we learn little about how Lilian came to be the way she was. Aliya works hard to improve the health of her new body, and learn about her surroundings, but her character, at least in this part of the story, is fixed, and not always sympathetic.

As a medical student, Aliya has extensive health care skills, which come in handy. She knows her chemistry, another handy and reasonable skill. Western readers might be skeptical of her extensive knowledge of food production and preservation, and herbal medicines, but it's mentioned that these skills were acquired growing up during the economic hardships of 1990s Russia. She knows sewing thanks to an over-sharing roommate. In short, she's a remarkably capable woman, and when she finds herself a countess on a run-down estate in a pre-industrial society, she's able to take charge and make dramatic changes.

This is where the story delights. Aliya has money, prestige, brains, and brawn. She doesn't need a man, and she's not conventionally attractive. Despite the flaws in the story, it's fun to see this powerful woman in full kick-ass action hero mode, whether it's breaking up brawls, healing wounds, bargaining with local officials, or fighting thugs. I found myself looking forward to the eventual confrontation with the wayward husband, and enjoyed her efforts to build a better world.

Reviewed by

Technical writer by day, and freelance writer and editor by night. Have written short humour, poetry, film reviews, biographies, personal essays, and more. Now working on writing romance novels.

Secrets and Lies

About the author

Lina J. Potter started putting her tales on paper when she was around ten years old. She quickly turned into one of the most published romantic fantasy authors in the country. Her first few bestsellers are now available in English. view profile

Published on May 26, 2018

Published by LitHunters

90000 words

Genre: Historical Romance

Reviewed by