Lions in the Garden ★★☆☆☆

Lions in the GardenI was severely disappointed by the stereotypical romance and on and off strong female character in Luna’s Lions in the Garden.

Ludmila Novakova–Mila–has barely set foot outside Prague Castle in her seventeen years. But with the choice between braving the bandits and wolves of Bohemia’s uneasy roads or being married off to a disgusting old baron, she’s taken what she can carry and fled.

Escape won’t be easy. Even Mila has heard the rumors of a rebellion coming against the court. The peasants are hungry. The king hasn’t been seen in months. Mila’s father, the High Chancellor, is well known and well hated.

But Mila can’t sit behind a stone wall and let fear force her into a life of silk gowns and certain misery. Her mother’s death has taught her that much. She has one ally: Marc, the son of the blacksmith. A commoner, a Protestant–and perhaps a traitor, too. But the farther she gets from the castle, the more lies she uncovers, unraveling everything she thought she knew. And the harder it is to tell friend from enemy–and wrong from right

Ludmilla Novakova, Mila, is the daughter of Lord Novak, a high ranking member of Prague’s royal court. She has rarely been outside the castle walls, but attempts to run away when she learns about an older, boring, member of court asking her father for her hand in marriage.

Lions in the Garden‘s opening scene is very serious and sets the mood for the dangers that Mila will see outside of the castle walls. While riding away from the castle, Mila’s horse injures its leg and she is set upon by bandits, who slit the horse’s throat in front of her. Mila is then saved by Marc, the blacksmith, rebel Protestant, and love interest. The more I saw Mila’s character the more I was confused by her characterization.

In the opening scene, she has a knife which she brandishes to protect herself. It shows her as being willing to take care of herself and establishes her as the opposite of the quiet and well behaved woman expected in that time period.

Later, when she is kidnapped, she is completely helpless and only attempts to escape once, relying on Marc to save her.

Marc and Mila’s romance is forbidden, adulterous, and stereotypical. As the daughter of a nobleman, Mila cannot marry beneath her and before Mila is kidnapped, she is engaged (against her will) to Lord Radek, whom she has known since they were children, so she especially cannot explore her new found relationship with Marc. Of course, when marc rescues Mila from the bandits, she is “aware of his warmth” as they ride back to Prague on his horse and she “can’t stop thinking about him” once she is inside the castle.

Perhaps the biggest moment which through me out of Lions in the Garden, was after Mila and Marc escape the kidnappers and find themselves in a rundown inn. At this point, Mila has been beaten, hit twice in the head hard enough to knock her unconscious, almost raped, and ridden on a horse at full gallop with another person for over a day. She “can’t even get up the stairs” to their room because of how tired she is. Yet, she has more than enough energy to run her hands all over her savior and get to third base.

Originally posted on on May 12, 2016

By J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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