2017 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction · saga

Book Review: Jewel in the North by Tricia Stringer

Title: Jewel in the Northjewel.jpg

Author:  Tricia Stringer

Published: April 24th 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 576

Genres:  Fiction, Historical, Australian, Saga

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Jewel in the North: A longstanding feud of land and love, a family torn apart and a quest for the ultimate prize…

A breathtaking historical family saga of love, death and forgiveness and a quest for the Jewel in the North

1895. The Flinders Ranges are a beautiful but harsh landscape as Joseph Baker, a pastoralist in that unforgiving environment, knows all too well. For three generations his family have farmed the land, married and had children at their property at Wildu Creek, but now, struggling with hostility from the local community for his choice of wife, Joseph finds himself fighting to save not just his friends and family but his very existence.

His son William has his own battles to fight: not only the drought that takes over the land but his own despair, as he faces rejection from the woman he loves. Meanwhile, a ruthless enemy will stop at nothing to take from William what he considers to be his. Could the vicious and cunning Charles Wiltshire be his nemesis? Or does another man, in a quest for the Jewel of the North, hold the key to his destruction?

As the First World War looms on the horizon, two men struggle to survive both the elements and each other on a quest to find that they hold dear — but only one will have the courage to stand strong.

My review:

Jewel in the North features the Flinders Ranges, located in the heart of country South Australia, as the stunning backdrop to Tricia Stringer’s historical saga trilogy. This Australian saga principally focuses on the lives of two families, the Bakers and the Wiltshires, as they negotiate the harsh landscape of South Australia in the days of early settlement. It is a compelling story that exposes the lives, loves, deaths of those who are on a quest to claim the beauty of the region.

In this continuation of the Flinders Rangers series, brought to us by Tricia Stringer,  Jewel in the North pays specific attention to the tumultuous times between the years 1895 through to 1914. This is a story that follows the rivalries that continue to exist between the Bakers and Wiltshires. The Flinders Ranges series to date has covered the trials and tribulations of three generations of these families that have forged a life for themselves off this unforgiving land, named Wildu Creek. After many decades characterised by love, marriages, deaths and struggles over land, the current day Bakers and Wiltshires face their toughest battle yet. With so much at stake, both families are tested to their very core, especially when a determined outsider makes their presence known. The threat of war also floats in the background, as these men and women dig deep to find all the courage they can to defend what they believe is rightfully belongs to them. The final chapter in Tricia Stringer’s historical series with leave you breathless with wonder, as the final events of the novel culminate in a dramatic conclusion.

I have read this series in completely the wrong order, as Dust on the Horizon – the second book in this series was the first book I read. After a gap of a few months, I followed Dust on the Horizon with The Jewel in the North. As soon as I concluded reading Jewel in the North, I selected Heart of the Country, the opener to this series to read. I will say that reading these novels completely out of sequence has not put a dampener on my enjoyment of the novels one bit. In fact, Stringer’s ability to ensure that each book can be read as a stand alone novel was appreciated. Series order issues aside, I completely enjoyed Jewel in the North, even though it was a very weighty read at over 550 pages!

Tricia Stringer is a South Australian based author and this strong affinity with the land in which she lives is reflected in her writing. The level of research Stringer has undertaken to bring Wildu Creek, the central location for this novel and surrounds to life, is palpable. In addition, Stringer’s commitment to getting the historical aspects of her novel correct is admirable. The opportunity to gain an authentic insight into South Australia’s history, during the late 1800’s through to the early 1900’s, was welcomed.  It is this strong historical grounding and attention to the sense of place in her novel that makes Jewel in the North a worthy final instalment to this series.

The narrative in Jewel in the North is well crafted. Stringer incorporates a compelling tale, centered on the usual struggles faced by families of any time – love, marriage, births and deaths. Stringer also adds specific period detail to the mix. These include storylines focussed on drought, land rights, floods, federation, the changing role of women and the beginnings of the stolen generation. In particular, Stringer intertwines a subtle background of what life was like for the local indigenous people in this area and the influence of European settlement. Land ownership plays a significant part in this historical yarn and Stringer uses story arc to highlight the feuds, often deadly ones, that played out over land possession between pastoralists and the local indigenous people.

It is easy to develop strong feelings towards the characters featured in Jewel in the North. As this is a follow on from the previous two books in the series, there are some familiar faces, as well as some new ones to shake up the storyline. Love them or hate them, the characters that drive Jewel in the North’s plotline along are compelling in their own unique ways.

The last chapter in Tricia Stringer’s Flinders Ranges series was a fitting one and I felt satisfied when the book came to a close. A story filled with great hardships, injustices, suffering and with the theme of pure survival at its core,  Jewel in the North gives us a glimpse of what life was like for our pioneering families of Australia. Jewel in the North is the powerful closing story to a fine historical family saga, written by a wonderful Australian storyteller, Tricia Stringer.

*I received a copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway and the publisher, Harlequin Books Australia, in exchange for an honest review.

 Jewel in the North, by Tricia Stringer was published in April 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of  Jewel in the North, Tricia Stringer, visit  here.


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