Strong Characters But Does The Plot Hold Up? Reviewing "Lying With Lions" by Annabel Fielding

§ I received an ARC of this book from the author to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. §

Agnes enjoys her simply employment as an archivist in the nobel Bryant family. As she discovers a letter in the tunnels, she slowly starts to uncover the family secrets. Dutifully she shares the letter with Lady Bryant. Soon a tight bond forms between them. At first out of loyalty, and self-preservation and later with a romantic element. Through the years they skillfully navigating different scandals and historical events. Over these times their bond changes and so do the characters. 

Lying with Lions by Annabel Fielding

What stands out the most in "Lying with Lions" are the main characters: Agnes and Helen (aka Lady Bryant). They are very strong characters in their own respective ways. Agnes is silent but extremely smart, slowly and almost perfectly working her way up the ladder of power and success. As far as someone from the lower/working class can expect. She is so cunning that even Helen compliments her on many occasions about this. 

While Helen is born into power, and carries the strength that comes with it. She is unyielding with her path and ideas. She won't take criticism from anyone who doesn't agree with her. Her motives are indomitable according to her. Even as a new age dawns she sticks and believe in them. 

This in turn also means that the way various events and scandals are dealt with is not in a very fine "no blood on my hand" way. Instead, they move a lot within morally grey and even shady aspects. Sometimes even downright illegal but it is all for "the best" of the family and the name Bryant. 

After all, during the course of the novel, they see their fair shares of charges against them, potential scandals, as well as political challenges. This goes so far, that I found it hard to pick out what the main focus of the plot was meant to be, and what was the big secret that would come to day which has been mentioned in the blurb I had been provided. 

However, a dark secret [Agnes] uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit - and into the clutch of their ambitions.

- quote from the blurb of Lying With Lions, date of retrieval: 14.08.2021 

This made the overall plot into a slow read which was also quite fast. It would seem these terms should exclude each other but this is not the case. Instead you are thrown along the time-line with each event being hasty fixed and explained. There are about five family dramas - if not more - and all within 233 pages. Which made the book a fast-paced one, but at the same time, it is hard to care for any of the characters and without being able to figure out the main plot that had been alluded to. This confusion made it into a slow plot because I kept looking for the building up to the big reveal when there wasn't any! 

As a native German speaker, I also have to nit-pick on the few German lines in "Lying with Lions." During a holiday someone on the streets sings das Lied von der Loreley (engl. The Song about Loreley) written by Heinrich Heine. It is only quoted once as "Sie kammt sich mit Goldenen Kamme" which is just not correct. Capital letters and cases make all the difference as it should be "Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme". Once again, I am imploring authors who use a language foreign to them to use it correctly. 

Furthermore, there are plenty of careless mistakes left in my ARC. Mostly words that had been left in which shouldn't have been - "[...] it is usually to twist out heart out on the next turn". As well as typos such as a "train crush".

However, the power dynamic between Helen and Agnes is extremely interesting. At first, it is the obvious one because Agnes is an employee and Helen is a Lady and, technically, her employer. So it is quite hard to say no to her. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Helen respects Agnes for her skill and values her input greatly. At the same time, it never quite feels like a romance - and I believe this was intended - even as Helen gives Agnes her jewelry, orders dresses for her, as well as calling Agnes her wife. Instead, it seems like an arrangement both can be comfortably with and gain something that hadn't been possible before. 

At the same time, Agnes is anything but a little lamb who rolls over when being told. There are times where she successfully manages to tip the power balance in her favour. All without Helen even noticing that it had happened. Others do, and mention this, which is brutally ignored by Helen. 

The ending makes this very clear and what an ending it is. Without spoiling it, I loved to read it. Also seeing the view from the outside compared to what really happened. The ending was a real gem. 

Overall, "Lying with Lions" is a historical fiction novel that involves LGBT elements. It strays from pure black and white moral and is led by strong characters. Unfortunately, it is let down by various mistakes as well as a plot that is all over the place. 

P.S.: my nit-pick on the German did not influence this rating. 

Lying With Lions by Annabel Fielding
Genres:historical fictionand LGBT+
Add to your shelf on ... The StoryGraphGoodReads
Content warnings:rape reference, non-explicit sex,war mention

Post a Comment

Copyright © floralcars.