What I wrote on Goodreads about Malarat - not quite a review but an introduction!

MalaratMalarat by Jessica Rydill

Malarat is something of a cross-genre beast in that I believe it has elements both of fantasy and alternate history.
The idea is that it is set in a parallel world where history is slightly divergent. But it's also a world where magic is part of everyday life.
In Lefranu, which is similar to 19th century France, they have levels of technology that include steam trains, dirigibles and other steam-powered forms of transport. But this is confined to the south of the country.
The planet has only recently emerged from a mini Ice-Age, and the northern half has been isolated since the Middle Ages. So large areas have effectively stayed stuck in the Mediaeval era.
These elements - magic, and the culture-clash between Mediaeval and steampunk technology, form the basis of all my books to date. The trouble starts when the steam-powered lot start building a railway north.
Magic is a key element, but the culture of the country is important, together with the fact that Christianity and Judaism both appear, only in a different format. A lifelong obsession with the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the Legend of Mary Magdalen (see the Da Vinci Code for the background) led me to introduce goddesses into the equation.
I love all that esoteric stuff and there is a small parallel with the Orphic Mysteries, in that somebody goes into the underworld to bring somebody back.
In common with many people, I read 'Holy Blood, Holy GrailHoly Blood, Holy Grail and found it a mine of fascinating myths and ideas. I was also heavily influenced by Robert Graves's The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth which I read when I was a teenager. Since then, I have come across more than one book linking Mary Magdalen to Goddess-worship. Graves's book gave rise to the idea that goddesses might be ambivalent, or even negative.
Several of the main characters in Malarat are goddess-worshippers, with the added complication that some of them have actually met the goddess.
Linking back to my first book, Children of the Shaman she is a two-faced (or dual-aspected) goddess called Artemyas/Nyssa.
Robert Graves was not a whole-hearted fan of the White Goddess, whom he identified with the Muse. In Malarat, the goddess's divine plan, or an element of her myth, moves in on the characters and re-arranges their lives, for good or ill. She moves from the background into the foreground, and calls in an outstanding debt that no-one else remembered.

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