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Book Review by Diane Donovan of Midwest Book Review:Firs Sergeyevich Zhuravlev provides the captivating cover art for the historical novel A Handful of Earth, a powerful saga of ancient Russia. Here spinster princess Yaroslava faces strife and dangerMoreBook Review by Diane Donovan of Midwest Book Review:Firs Sergeyevich Zhuravlev provides the captivating cover art for the historical novel A Handful of Earth, a powerful saga of ancient Russia. Here spinster princess Yaroslava faces strife and danger as a Mongol hoard draws near her village, threatening her people and complicating a dire situation in which her father is too old and ill to deal with them- yet her people refuse to follow a woman.When her kingdom falls Yaroslava becomes a slave, destined to be a concubine to a Mongol lord, and even then faces enemies from within those ranks. To gain her freedom and any remnants of her kingdom she must use tools foreign to her: magic, deception, and even treason.This saga is wonderful, packed with historical details and lively action- but best of all is the powerful and captivating language of a writer who begins the story with a bang: I needed to be Princess Olga. Her people had followed her into battle when she ruled Rus three hundred summers ago. I, on the other hand, couldn’t even talk my townswomen intoevacuating before the Tartar siege.A Handful of Earth is a first-person story of nobility, courage, and survival told in a spirited, involving voice that is packed with drama and psychological reflection: I kept my silence, for I had learned from my father that when a man aches inside, he doesn’t necessarily want you to draw him out of his dark thoughts. Trying to talk to him at a time like this only makes the thoughts grow darker and that darkness can turn on you if you aren’t careful.Romance, changing allegiances and issues of courage and survival of oppressors makes this a powerful and fast-paced novel packed with supernatural elements that spice the protagonists conflicts with man with her ultimate conflict with forces on the dark side.Ultimately Princess Yaroslava must face these dark forces both within and outside of her kingdom, and must find a way to overcome them to realize her true destiny and that of her world.A Handful of Earth charts bravery, leadership, and a womans struggles to become a winner. You could say its an epic historical novel of ancient Russia, but that would be simplifying the novels force and strengths.More than a singular piece of historical fiction, its a saga of what it means to be female, a leader, and how deals with the devil are contemplated in the course of a struggle for freedom.Its a saga replete with psychological tension and struggle, and is a top recommendation.