• Title: Alina: A Song for the Telling
  • Author: Malve von Hassell
  • Publisher: BHC Press on August 27, 2020
  • Genre: YA Historical Fiction
  • Pages: 219
  • Formats Available: Hardback, Audio, & Digital
  • Rating: 5/5

Trigger Warnings: Violence, Suicide, Murder, Religion including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim

Many thanks to Blackberry Book Tours, Malve von Hassell, and BHC Press for providing me with a physical ARC copy of Alina: A Song for the Telling with a request for an honest review.

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Alina: A Song for the Telling Blurb

“You should be grateful, my girl. You have no dowry, and I am doing everything I can to get you settled. You are hardly any man’s dream.” Alina’s brother, Milos, pulled his face into a perfect copy of Aunt Marci’s sour expression, primly pursing his mouth. He had got her querulous tone just right.

I pinched my lips together, trying not to laugh. But it was true; Aunt Marci had already introduced me to several suitors. So far I had managed to decline their suits politely.

Maybe Alina’s aunt was right. How could she possibly hope to become a musician, a trobairitz, as impoverished as she was and without the status of a good marriage?

But fourteen-year-old Alina refuses to accept the oppressing life her strict aunt wants to impose upon her. When the perfect opportunity comes along for her to escape, she and her brother embark on a journey through the Byzantine Empire all the way to Jerusalem.

Alina soon finds herself embroiled in the political intrigue of noble courts as she fights to realize her dream of becoming a female troubadour.

Provided by Blackberry Book Tours for Tour Use

My Review

Alina: A Song for the Telling is a gorgeous book. Malve von Hassell made me feel as if I were reading the most vivid form of poetry with her words. I adore history, and this novel is full of 12th-century history. 

I got to meet real queens, kings, princesses, knights, and all matter of interesting people. Not only did I follow in the footsteps of these historical people, but von Hassell also made me feel as if I knew them. These were not characters in a book for me, but full living, breathing people.

I loved Alina, short-sided though she was. She quickly jumps to conclusions, which makes her judge those around her unfairly. However, even though she is quick to judge, she is also caring and sympathetic. Her friendship with the Jewish family is endearing.

The settings of France and Jerusalem inspire awe. I felt the sand and dust on my skin as the group traveled from the lushness of the French countryside. I tasted the oranges that were in the market. The mint and honey tea that Alina sips in Sarah’s living room had my mouth watering.

I am not sure that I have ever read a book that is so lyrical. The main characters are musicians. But even beyond the music, the words of this book are poetic. I loved every moment I spent reading this novel.

This love is why I must award Alina: A Song for the Telling a full 5 out of 5 stars. If you love history, especially the Crusades, I urge you to read this book. It is a delight, I assure you.

About the Author – Malve von Hassell

Malve von Hassell was born in Italy and spent part of her childhood in Belgium and Germany before moving to the United States. She is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. 

She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell’s memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich – Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. 

She has self-published a children’s picture book, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (2012/2020) and her translation and annotation of a German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsay, Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (Two Harbors Press, 2012). The Falconer’s Apprentice (namelos, 2015) was her first historical fiction novel for young adults. She has published Alina: A Song for the Telling (BHC Press, 2020), set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades, and has a forthcoming book, The Amber Crane (Odyssey Books, 2021), set in Germany in 1645 and 1945. Currently, she is working on a biographical work about a woman coming of age in Nazi Germany.

Author’s Social Media Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website | Blog | LinkedIn | Goodreads

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