I had a long day at work today, but I must say it was lovely to come home and pick up a wonderful book again.
"A Slender Tether (Part III)," by Jess Wells
The third piece of A Slender Tether - "The Vat-Man's Promise" - once again lets Wells shine at the storytelling I'm realizing she makes seem to effortless: history, living and breathing in the form of captivating characters and richly themed narrative. This is, once again, a time in Europe about which I know nearly nothing, but Wells provides all I needed to immerse myself completely in the story with gentle cues from context and natural conversations.
The third tale is one of desperation and desire to be free and independent - a theme strong through all the three tales - but this time in the form of a woman from a once-wealthy family who knows her brother is setting her up to be married off to ensure a better future for the (now failing) family shipping business. In another fashion, there is a man who runs a paper-making mill, and he finds his own desperation after an accident leaves his vision severely impaired - and a paper-maker is only as good as his eye for detail. A third character - a huntsman - is left with an injured dog, and he too now faces failure. Last, a singer whose looks are failing him and who is quick approaching having no coin at all is present for a terrible accident - or perhaps an opportunity. These vastly different people combine in a unique way, and bluffs, lies, and selfish-acts create new paths for all involved. Against the backdrop of a time where all your choices seem almost made from birth, the women especially in Wells' stories are the ones who fight hardest to find an option that will set their life in their own hands.
If you like historical fiction even a bit, you owe it to yourself to grab this book. If you've never tried historical fiction, I daresay Jess Wells could market herself as the gateway drug for readers. She is accessible without sacrificing the honesty and historical accuracy, and never falls into the trap of rote retelling. History breathes in her words.