I’m excited to take part in the blog tour for Betrothal and Betrayal today in conjunction with TheWriteReads! It’s my first time taking part in one of their tours, and we have a great book to feature today!
Betrothal and Betrayal is a historical fantasy set around Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire. Set in the backdrop of a world run by men, we follow Thekla, a fiery female protagonist. She ventures out of her small town after being stood up by her betrothed for the third time. Her mission is to either find him and hold him accountable to his oath, or have him release her. It’s a foray into a richly set world as independently as any woman of her time can!
Let’s take a look at the details of the book before diving into my review:-
Betrothal and Betrayal – Janet McGiffin
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Scotland Street Press
Publication Date: 01 Aug 2023
Seventeen-year-old Thekla needs her quick wits and knife to track down her betrothed, a soldier who has left her at the altar for the third time. Elias the monk travels with her to Constantinople where she meets Irini of Athens, an extraordinarily beautiful orphan her same age who has been brought by powerful Emperor Constantine to marry his son, Co-Emperor Leon. The two women join forces to survive this vigorous capital of the Roman Empire of the East which is rocked by religious and political strife. But will Thekla help the ambitious and ruthless Irini of Athens find the power that she craves?
Despite the book being only 250 pages along, there is plenty of action throughout. It’s amazing how much content the author has packed into such a short page count! As a result, content-wise the book still feels like a full and detailed narrative, comparable to books that are significantly longer.
The storyline progresses significantly from its humble beginnings. Thekla, after being stood up at the altar and threatened with marriage to another suitor, sets out to find her betrothed. Whilst she sets out with the hope that she can convince him to marry her, ultimately, she wants any resolution. Even if it means her release from her commitment.
This is just the beginning, and from there we start to explore a more detailed and complex narrative. Thekla meets a variety of characters and learns a lot along her journey. She discovers her identity and what matters to her above all. Thekla is a determined individual who treads her own path. She’s not afraid to do it independently. We watch this young woman bloom. From there, she is wrapped up a wider plot.
Thekla is a fiery protagonist and a breath of fresh air to read about. She stands out from the crowd; she’s bold, is willing to learn and earn her way, and will defend herself and her rights. In a world of and run by men, she is a unique force to be reckoned with. For younger readers, I think Thekla makes a great role model.
Thekla sets off to locate her betrothed at the beginning of the book. However, from there she develops and comes into her own. She doesn’t allow herself to be defined by her experiences and she does everything she can to shape her own future. She is far from a superficial character, and she was a joy to read about.
Although bold and willing to look after herself, there is only so far she would be able to go on her own. Her character helps her makes allies along her way, namely in Elias. As a result, he helps her to travel when she wouldn’t be safe on her own and is regularly reintroduced at different stages throughout the narrative. There is an element of mystery to Elias and who he is, which I’m hoping this will be explored more in future books!
Firstly, I love the historical background in this narrative. I have very limited knowledge of the Byzantine Empire, and so I enjoyed learning about and experiencing this setting. The historical elements and events leading up to the present day have contextual links to plot. There is enough information to add depth to the storyline, but without overwhelming readers either.
Betrothal and Betrayal had religious elements to narrative, but not to the extent that it would make anyone feel uncomfortable. I enjoyed experiencing this perspective, and the narrative goes a long way to help us readers understand the history of the setting and conflicts in the plot.
Together with this, there are a lot of cultural references and terminology throughout. The terms are explained in the back of the book so this can be used as a reference. I read the book without really referring to these and I was able to pick up a decent amount from context alone. As this is a setting that I haven’t got much experience of, I enjoyed getting familiar with the cultural differences that are explored in this book. Betrothal and Betrayal would be a great way of introducing your readers to new cultures and social attitudes.
Betrothal and Betrayal is a great for young readers and adults alike. It makes a great introduction to fantasy as a genre. Its historical setting is under-represented in fiction too. I confess that even though I am not strictly the target audience of this book, I took a lot away from it as well!
The chapters within are relatively short – very suitable with the intended audience in mind. Combine this with an easy to read narrative style, and we’re on to a winner!
If you are looking for a short historical fantasy, explore a new setting, or invest in a relatable and interesting protagonist, then Betrothal and Betrayal has something for you! I read the book in just a handful of days and I enjoyed the short foray into a new series!
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. This book is the first in the Empress Irini series. Betrothal and Betrayal feels like a set up to bringing these two characters together. Personally, I can’t wait to see how they grow together in future books!
About the Author
Janet McGiffin divides her time between her apartment in Manhattan, her family in Washington State, and her friends in Athens, Greece. She was born in Fairfield, Iowa into a newspaper family and learned to write copy as a teenager by writing obituaries for the Ellensburg Daily Record in Washington state. After university, she worked for the Milwaukee Health Department where she gained first-hand knowledge for her best-selling mystery series published by Fawcett Press, NY, featuring Doctor Maxine St. Clair, an ER doctor in an inner-city hospital.
She worked as a press officer for the Washington state senate, then moved to Athens, Greece where she wrote grant proposals for small non-profit women’s organizations in Mediterranean countries. She also wrote a humor column for the Athens News newspaper with field archaeologist Adrian Vrettos, wrote two English language easy readers for Cambridge University Press, UK, and a series of hiking articles for greecetravel.com. She researched her Byzantine-era Empress Irini Series through extensive travel in Greece, followed by six months of research at the Bodleian libraries in Oxford, England. She enjoys hiking in Greece, England, Wales, and Scotland.