It’s been a while since I wrote a proper book review, and I am thrilled to break that drought today with Once I Knew!
About the Book
Title: Once I Knew
Author: Victoria Lynn
Genre: Non-magical Fantasy
Synopsis: Violet lives her quiet little life in her sleepy village. Trying to remain as dead to the politics that are threatening their world as possible. She follows the rules, stays out of trouble and does her best to remain out of sight of the dreaded and overbearing Kingsmen.
With the new regent on the throne, the country has been thrown into a turmoil. Unlike the kindly king before him, the new ruler is overbearing, frightening and tyrannical in his rule. Taxes are bleeding the people dry and without the money or goods to pay, they have been forced into penal servitude and imprisonment by the Kingsmen, who know no mercy. The despair and fear that has taken over their lives has ruled out any level of hope.
When Violet stumbles upon an unconscious and injured Kingsman in the woods, despite the consequences, she cannot help but take care of the injured man. When he wakes and has no memory of who he is, she takes the only precaution that will keep her and her grandmother safe; she destroys the evidence of his past life.
If Violet’s lowly Kingsman regains his memory, will she be able to live with the consequences? And will the Kingsman be able to live with his past life?
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I went into reading this book with high expectations despite knowing how dangerous that could be. This time, however, it worked out. Once I Knew is a beautiful story filled with complex characters, set in an interesting and understandable new world, and which draws out themes of identity, relationship, and purpose. From the beginning and all the way through, I wanted to know the characters and world better and more deeply; not because it wasn’t well developed (it was!) but because the details were compelling and I wanted to get to know them the way I want to get to know a new friend. Violet especially, as the protagonist, is a wonderfully developed character. She’s written incredibly realistically. The reader quickly gets to know both her strength and her pain; she acknowledges when things are difficult, and she knows where to turn for strength. I enjoyed seeing (most of) the story through her eyes.
The religious content it surprisingly strong for a fantasy book, too. Although some suspension of belief is required in order to have the Bible in a fantasy story seem identical to what we have in the real world, it was encouraging to see characters quote passages of scripture. I’m not entirely sure how this would read to someone who doesn’t bring pre-existing Bible knowledge to their reading of this story, but for me it was a boost. Since this is such a personal aspect, I think it’s fair to mention that I would have preferred to see more development in certain characters’ faith over time, rather than a sudden acceptance based only on what they overheard. It’s one thing to build an idea in your own mind of who God is and what He wants based on minimal evidence, and another entirely to comprehend the full truth of the Gospel and respond in the way He requires.
One last element of this book which deserves a fair amount of attention is the romance. This is so beautifully done, slipping in as the story progresses without disrupting the main plot. It’s easy to see from the beginning, but the feelings that develop are rich and honest. When commitments are made they are based on more than simple attraction and they are not taken lightly. Violet is committed to purity to an extent that is rare in contemporary protagonists, and her conviction is based on a higher standard than anything the world (hers or ours) offers. She isn’t holding onto an archaic idea for the sake of tradition or for some prideful superiority from following the rules, but from a justifiable sense of morality that I find refreshing and am happy to cheer for.
Reading Once I Knew is taking an adventure that tugs at your heartstrings in more ways than one. It is beautiful yet realistic, encouraging and grounded; I highly recommend it to readers of light fantasy or historical fiction.
About the Author
Victoria Lynn has an insatiable desire for truth, light and beauty.
Traveling to destinations of beauty created by our Heavenly Father, reveling in creative pursuits that fill her with joy, or pouring her heart into words of life are some of her favorite things to do.
She seeks to bring the life giving words of the Savior to a dark and broken world that desperately needs to know of His sacrifice.
A writing and publishing coach, author, journalist, seamstress and creator, she loves spending time with any of her 8 siblings, exploring her native state of Michigan, and sewing gowns fit for a princess.
Until the next chapter,