3 out of 4 stars
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First Lessons by Lina J. Potter is a story of a "genius" medical student who, after finishing her third year of medical training, travels home for a holiday. On the way to her parent's home, Aliya is involved in a car crash. She feels her neck break, but the moment before her consciousness departs she thinks, "Is this it? I don't want to die! I want to live!" Her body dies, but by some unknown miraculous intervention, she wakes in the body of Countess Lilian Earton in a world that has progressed only to Earth's equivalent of the Middle Ages.
Lillian, the former owner of the body Aliya now occupies, is recovering from a miscarriage after falling down the castle stairs,and has been ordered to several weeks of bed rest giving Aliya some time to acclimate to her new environment. Aliya finds she can speak, understand, and even read the language. During Aliya/Lillian's recovery, Aliya finds books on religion and others on world geography, which she reads to help her to blend into her new world. As time passes, she records as much as she can remember about surgery and medicine that she fears she might forget. While Aliya, in her former body and time had been physically fit, intelligent, and driven, Lillian was more than a hundred pounds overweight, out of shape, and mentally lazy.
With Aliya's bold spirit and her "just do it" attitude, She brings about a transformation for the Countess of Earton and it affects everyone in the castle and communities beyond.
Potter's story premise, the plot, and the characterization all come together to make an enjoyable read. The most significant issues I found with the story are that relationships, understandings, and integration into a completely foreign system seem too easily accomplished. People are far too accepting of her new ideas. I would have believed these people would be so deeply entrenched in their way of doing things that change would be difficult. At the very least, I would think it would create suspicions dangerous to Aliya/Lillian. Granted, as Countess of Earton, she has political clout, but the acceptance of others towards her attitude and her changes comes too easily. I would have expected much more resistance, especially from the trade guilds. Even so, I enjoyed the story. Had resistance been shown and overcome, it might have rated higher.
I generally shy away from translated stories for fear that so much would be lost as to make the story dull or boring. However, First Lessons flows well and suffers little from the language conversion. Editing is very good and I rate this story 3 out of 4 stars.
I think the genre classification of Historical Fiction might be amiss. While it is possible First Lessons is a historically accurate depiction of life in the medieval time frame, there is nothing to indicate this is a slice out of Earth's history; in fact, the main character Aliya/Lillian believes she is on a different world. The story should probably fall within the Sci-Fi/Fantasy, or possibly the Other Fiction genre. I think readers in these genres will enjoy the story immensely.
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