Saturday, February 27, 2010

Puzzle Ring Review and Guest Post

The Puzzle Ring
by Kate Forsyth

When Hannah's grandmother breaks her femur, Hannah gets to travel with her mother back to Scotland - the place of her birth. Since her father went missing not long after she was born, her mother has avoided contact with his family and especially visiting Scotland. When Hannah arrives, she finds that there is more to Scotland that meets the normal human eye. The fairy realm exists and so does a curse upon her family - placed in the days of Mary Queen of Scots. Hannah will have to find the 4 separate parts of the puzzle ring and combine them in order to break the curse. But in order to do so, she must travel back into the past. Will she be able to do that though?

The Puzzle Ring is a marvelous adventure that mixes Scottish lore and fairy tales with the modern day. The world of Scotland and the historical world equivalent are so well described that you really feel apart of what is taking place. The characters have their strengths and weaknesses and this is probably one of those rare books where you really see how much the characters do not simply meld into the new setting, but remain modern day teenagers in attitude even throughout their adventures. They complain and whine about eating regular old porridge and get quite sore when riding a water horse. Kate does a fantastic job of mixing reality as we know it with her mystical world of lore and history.

Probably the only problem I had with this novel was I felt like their time in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, was a bit short. There were weeks of travel that could have been more elaborate and I guess I really just wanted more to the end of the story before everything was wrapped up. What a complaint right? Wanting more. I loved this world and the whole idea of solving a family curse and I wanted it to last longer. I will definitely be reading more of Kate's novels in the future.

4/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Researching with Kate Forsyth

‘The Puzzle Ring’ is a time travel adventure that tells the story of 13 year old Hannah who, in order to break an ancient curse upon her family, must travel back in time to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens could be betrayed, and wild magic still stalked the land ...

I had to do so much research to write this book! It took me almost 18 months to research and write, including a trip to Scotland with my husband and three children. That was 17,000 kilometres from our home city of Sydney, Australia, so not an easy undertaking. It was so worth it, though! We stayed in castles, grand old Scottish houses, and an old monastery on the shores of Loch Ness, and went to all the places that Hannah must travel to in the book – fascinating villages like Fortingall where the oldest tree in the world grows, and the Corryvreckan whirlpool, one of the largest natural whirlpools in the world, and Loch Lomond, so beautiful it makes your heart ache.

Much of my research was done at home, in my study in sunshiny Sydney. I read every book I could find about life in 16th century Scotland and the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. I read up about modern theories of the time-space continuum, and how time travel could actually happen. I pored over Scottish witch trials and books on Scottish fairy lore. I had maps of Scotland all over my desk, and photos of Scottish lochs, mountains, forests and castles stuck to me wall (and on my computer screen saver!). I read up about Tudor feasts and pastimes, and read a book about Scottish ghillies and how they survive sleeping out in the open in a freezing Scottish winter wearing only a kilt. I copied out recipes from cookbooks I found in the castle where we stayed in Scotland, and actually cooked them for my family (marmalade cupcakes become a favourite!) And of course the internet was a constant resource for me, from rhyming dictionaries to websites specialising in 16th century Scottish law (the penalty for being found in one of the queen’s forest with your longbow strung was to lose an ear).

A lot of the early research I do while I’m plotting and planning (I do like to plot!) Then, I’m constantly checking things while I’m actually writing the book – or discovering I don’t know enough, and having to stop writing while I go back to my research books. I had one major problem with my plot that slowed me down for weeks. I didn’t find the solution until our last night in Scotland, when my husband and I took the kids along to the Beltane celebrations in Edinburgh, which are held on Calton Hill. There were stilt-walkers, and fire-eaters, and people dressed as fairies dancing around bonfires, and a wonderful Scottish storyteller who told us a tale about a fairy boy who was found on the very hill on which we were sitting. There is meant to be a gateway to fairyland on Calton Hill, he told us – and all my hairs stood on end, and I thought, Yes! I knew exactly what to do to solve my plot problem ...

Luckily I love doing research. It’s simply reading with a purpose. And after writing, reading is my favourite thing to do in the world.


  1. Sounds like a good book. I'll have to check it out and I like the cover. I'm having a the other feeling of research. I'm just starting it for a story I want to do and so far not really enjoying it, probably cause so far I'm not finding what I'm really looking for. Great review and guest post.

  2. Love the combination of a good story, fairy, curse, lore, and historical background. It sounds like a book worth reading.

  3. Kristen, thanks for the review. At first, I was drawn to the cover of this book. After reading the summary it sounds great. This definitely sounds like something I would enjoy!

  4. I really want to read this book. Thanks for a great post Kristen and thanks Kate for sharing with us! I love doing research and the work you did sounds wonderful.

  5. Excellent review and guest post! I like the way she refers to research as "reading with a purpose."

  6. I have a copy in my Must Read pile--and now I must find the time to actually read it--it sounds great.

  7. I just got this book in this week! So excited to read it! Great post!!!


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