I am a big historical mystery fan, and I’m especially happy when the period and place in question are new to me. And, I’m even more happy when there are some historical notes at the beginning or end to tell me who/what was “real” and who/what was fiction in the book. That way I get to do a little learning along with my fun. The Lightning Horse meets all of these criteria, so I was happy to receive an advance review copy to read in exchange for my honest review.
First, The Lightning Horse is set in the Hittite empire of around 1250 BCe, which is a totally new area/period for me. Previously, I’ve mostly known of the Hittites due to their tangles with the Egyptians, so it’s fun to see some of this history from the other point of view. For some reason there are a lot more historical mysteries set in Egypt than in the Hittite empire, but the Hittites and all their complicated relationships (kings with multiple wives and lots of children, cadet branches of the royal family, alliances sealed by marriages, a few different gods to be worshipped, etc. etc.) make a great setting for conniving and intrigue.
And the reason I know it’s the Hittite empire of around 1250 BCe is because of the nice historical notes and glossary at the end. Having read through both the historical notes and the glossary, I think if you don’t like spoilers, you might forego the historical notes until you’ve read the book. There is some info in there that would presage what happens to some of the characters – although the notes won’t give away the solution to the mystery. But they are well worth reading at the end. On the other hand, I really wish I had known the glossary was there while reading the book. One of my minor complaints about the book is that I found it hard to keep track of a lot of the characters and places, some of whose names were kind of long and confusing. The glossary could have really helped, I think, with that. I’m sure that given the author’s status as a professional archeologist with a PhD from Bryn Mawr, the names are correct, but still, they are mostly long and kind of hard to keep track of.
As far as the mystery, it kept me interested and engaged, although the person I suspected it was from fairly early in the book did turn out to be the culprit. But I was so busy enjoying the background and the plot lines and other elements, that this didn’t really bother me. All-in-all, I really liked this book, and will look for other books by NL Holmes to read in the future.
Please note that I tend to be pretty conservative in awarding stars – I try to fight “star-flation” a little bit. I only give five stars to maybe one in thirty or forty books, the ones I think I’ll read and re-read and re-read again. So four stars is a really good rating from me and means I really do recommend a book. And my thanks again to WayBack Press/IBPA and NetGalley for the ARC!
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The Lightning Horse is on sale right now in the US, Canada, and the UK, for prices around $1.00/£0.77.