3 out of 4 stars
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Aliya Skorolenok is a medical student. She is looking forward to her medical course and is very talented. As she is travelling with her family in a car, they meet with an accident. Meanwhile, Martha, a maid and nanny of Lillian, the Countess of Earton, begs a witch to put life back into her mistress. But, Lily doesn’t have the will to live and somehow, Aliya ends up in the body of Lillian, in another period.
She is disoriented at first and decides that the strange setting is her hallucination. But, she slowly realizes that she has died in her previous life as Aliya and is now in the obese body of Lillian. She slowly recovers from her childbirth and realizes that she is blessed to be alive, irrespective of the body she possesses. She learns that her husband is unloving and doesn’t care much about her. She grasps the customs of Earton and absorbs the suffering of her people. Also, the castle is on the verge of deteriorating without proper care, as the old Lillian was too obese to even walk properly. She recognizes her duty to her people and sets out to correct the mistakes of her servants, her husband and the old Lillian. Will she able to help her people or will she be accused as a witch?
First lessons by Lina J. Potter is a beautifully written historical fiction. The plot of the story is simple and clear. We get a clear picture of the thought process of Aliya. I loved how she used her modern world knowledge to help the people of Earton. I liked how she had a no-nonsense attitude with the servants and used her position as a countess to her full ability. For instance, the scene where she orders the servants to do her work properly, she was pretty scary and menacing. Also, she realizes the duty and responsibly of her power and doesn’t misuse it for personal benefits. She wants what’s best for her castle and people. The character of Aliya is well written. She is not portrayed as a meek, innocent, fragile girl who cries at the sight of blood. She is a student of medicine and is very brave and intelligent at times of crisis.
The branching of the plot to several narrations helps the readers to understand the characters better. Even though the readers do not have much need to understand the significance of some of the characters in this book, it is evident that we will need to know their story to understand the sequel. For instance, the relationship between Adelaide and her husband’s cousin is not very important to the story of Lillian in this book. But we might need to know the backstory to understand the sequel. Jess, The Count of Earton, will definitely cross paths with Lillian in the sequel.
I am not a fan of so many backward thoughts expressed in this book. I understand that the author is only trying to explain the nature of the society in that time and these thoughts are not her own but body shaming is not cool. Every male character in the book cares only about the physical appearance of the women. They judge the person according to it. I did not like it. I also did not like the charter of Jess. He seems shallow. I liked the Virmans a lot better than the nobles and royalty.
The setting of the book was very well written. The author presents a detailed description of every aspect of the setting. For instance, the market scene and the setting of the castle were filled with minute details, that I was able to imagine the smell and appearance of the said places. The plot is fast paced and flows flawlessly. The footnotes helped me a great deal. I was not able to understand some old English terms, as I am not a native speaker, and the footnotes made me more connected to the book. The book is exceptionally well edited, as I did not see any errors while reading through.
There were a few aspects in the book that confused me a little. There is no explanation for the body swapping. Is it magic? Why was only Aliya chosen to give another chance? Is there a reason? Is there a connection between Aliya and Lillian? I hope the author explains this, in the next book. Next, why is there not more about the first wife of Jess? I know that she is not important to understand the basic plotline. But, the backstory of his first wife can help the readers to understand the hatred Jess has towards Lillian. Next would be, how can Aliya move on so easily, after her entire family died? Why isn’t she searching for ways to go back to her past, or at least take her time to grieve? Then, where is Earton or the whole kingdom? Is it the ancient times or another world itself?
These confusions don’t hinder the free flow of the plot, and I am very sure the answers are complete in the sequel. I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to the fans of body swapping, time travel, historical fiction, strong female characters and fans of books like The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Mistress of Nothing, Remarkable creatures and, The Last Runaway.
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