Sunday 4 March 2018

Book Review: Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo

Title: Mad Blood Stirring
Simon Mayo
Transworld Digital
Publication Date:
19 April 2018
eBook - PDF
ARC via NetGalley

On the eve of the year 1815, the American sailors of the Eagle finally arrive at Dartmoor prison; bedraggled, exhausted but burning with hope. They’ve only had one thing to sustain them – a snatched whisper overheard along the way. The war is over.

Joe Hill thought he’d left the war outside these walls but it’s quickly clear that there’s a different type of fight to be had within. The seven prison blocks surrounding him have been segregated; six white and one black. As his voice rings out across the courtyard, announcing the peace, the redcoat guards bristle and the inmates stir. The powder keg was already fixed to blow and Joe has just lit the fuse. 

Elizabeth Shortland, wife of the Governor looks down at the swirling crowd from the window of her own personal prison. The peace means the end is near, that she needn’t be here for ever. But suddenly, she cannot bear the thought of leaving.

Inspired by a true story, Mad Blood Stirring tells of a few frantic months in the suffocating atmosphere of a prison awaiting liberation. It is a story of hope and freedom, of loss and suffering. It is a story about how sometimes, in our darkest hour, it can be the most unlikely of things that see us through. (Goodreads Synopsis)

It took me a few chapters to get into Mad Blood Stirring, but when I did, I found it compelling reading. I knew of the war in 1812, but I'd never heard of the incident in the prison, upon which this book is based. I particularly enjoyed the distinctive voices the author gave each of the characters, and the way those characters interacted. Joe and Habs were my primary focus, as I thought the developing relationship between them was beautifully handled. I certainly finished the book keen to find out more about Dartmoor prison, and, overall, this was a wonderful read that I would recommend to historical fiction readers who are looking for a story with less bodice ripping and more dark emotion. 4.5 stars from me.

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