Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Tidelands (Fairmile #1)
Tidelands (Fairmile #1) by Philippa Gregory
Atria Books
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019
Hardcover. 464 pages

About Tidelands:

"Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast. 

Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life. 

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands. 

It is dangerous for a woman to be different."

Tidelands is probably one of the oddest Philippa Gregory books I've read. Not that the content itself is odd, but rather that it took me quite a while to fully immerse myself in the story and gauge whether it would be worth the read--usually falling right into Gregory's stories is no problem for me whatsoever. The setting was entirely different from anything I've read from her and there was hardly any royalty in this book, either. In truth, this ended up feeling like a bit of a breath of fresh air and I'm incredibly glad I had the opportunity to read it. In a note in the front of my ARC, Gregory also comments on the fact that she often writes about people already in royalty or who have already gained power, but this time she wanted to write a series that captures how the generations rose from nothing to become something, and that idea makes me incredibly excited for the rest of this series.

Tidelands predominantly follows Alinor and her children as the eke out a rather meager existence in the marshy Tidelands of the southern coast of England. Life is difficult since her husband has left, though in some ways she doesn't entirely miss her husband's absense. As the synopsis states, Alinor is the descendant of wisewomen, which leads many people in her town to be suspicious of her and suspect that she deals in withcraft and related arts, a crime and accusation which I'm sure we all know has dangerous consequences. Struggles between the King and parliament, which includes a change among the religion of the period and how people are allowed to worship, are center stage and the cause of much strife and fear among people for their behavior. I always love how much research Gregory puts into her novels, and Tidelands is no exception tot that.

This book had a rather slow start for me. It has an interesting premise and setup that overall I liked, but it just didn't grab me and make me excited to read it from the begnning--it took me a little while to get acquainted with these characters. The character of Alinor, however, has a uniquely compelling aspect about her that made me the most curious to find out where the story was going. I was intrigued by this weird marshy landscape that gave a dreary and bleak atmosphere to the entire story. If you're looking for magic, however, then be aware that that's not quite what you'll find in this book--at least, not the sort of magic that includes spellcraft.

There are two main POVs that the story follows, that of Alinor's and that of a priest named James who is working with the rebellious king, which makes him a bit of  dangerous and at-risk man. Alinor is one of those women who you can't help but admire for her veracity, strength, and determination to take care of her children at all costs and never slack on getting things done for them. She is a woman in poverty who takes pride in her abilities and always manages to hold her own up against fellow townsfolk who look down on her or are skeptical of her 'abilities' as a supposed wisewomen (a title she vehementy refuses).

James is sort of a man on the run as he attempts to help the old king and old religion maintain their place in power, though this often puts him in dangerous situations and requires him to lay low and accept the help of others to aide him. This, of course, is how he runs into Alinor, who helps when she can while both develop strong feelings for one another. James is a character that I often vascillated between liking and disliking and I'm honestly still not sure how I feel about him, but I do apprecite his role in this book and how he is able to adapt to a variety of different roles. I also really liked his role in Alinor's son's life and how he assists him in getting a leg up in the world--I'm excited to see where everything goes in future installments.

The conflicts that arise between Alinor and her townspeople create much of the central conflict in this story (other than the overarching political strife), as they cover everything from how Alinor excels at being a midwife to other issues dealing with her daughter and her lack of a husband. I appreciated how much time Gregory spent exploring many of these issues and creating a realistic look at the struggle of being a woman abandoned by her husband with children at this period of time. It's a difficult life that is made no easier be even being a woman and without Alinor's brother being there to aide her and act as the 'man in charge' of her, things might be even more different and difficult.

As mentioned, the first half or so of this book might seem a little slow, but for me it was worth it for the events of the latter portion of the novel. Things really take off, the pace speeds up, and the stakes rise even higher. The ending is far better than I could have imagined and has left me highly anticipating what the next steps in Alinor and her children's lives will be and where this story will take them.

Overall, I truly enjoyed Tidelands and am anxiously awaiting the next installment. I've given it four stars!

*I received an ARC of Tidelands courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*


  1. This really does sound different from her other books, but I'm intrigued!

  2. Couldn't put this book down!