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Summary

Book 1 of the award-winning historical fiction series The Troubadours Quartet

Historical Novel Society Editor's Choice

Winner of the Global Ebooks Award for Best Historical Fiction 

Finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards and the Chaucer Awards  

"Believable, page-turning and memorable." (Lela Michael, S.P. Review)

1150: Provence

On the run from abuse, Estela wakes in a ditch with only her lute, her amazing voice, and a dagger hidden in her underskirt. Her talent finds a patron in Aliénor of Aquitaine and more than a music tutor in the queen's finest troubadour and commander of the Guard, Dragonetz los Pros.

Weary of war, Dragonetz uses Jewish money and Moorish expertise to build that most modern of inventions, a papermill, arousing the wrath of the church. Their enemies gather, ready to light the political and religious powder keg of medieval Narbonne.

Set in the period following the Second Crusade, Jean Gill's spellbinding romantic thrillers evoke medieval France with breathtaking accuracy. The characters soar and include amazing women like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Ermengarda of Narbonne, who shaped history in battles and in bedchambers.

"Historical fiction at its best." (Karen Charlton, author of the Detective Lavender Mysteries)

©2011, 2015 Jean Gill (P)2018 Jean Gill

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Wonderful

I'll start with a disclaimer; I never read historical fiction. I love history and always chose non-fictional history books over fictional stories. Having said that, I enjoyed Song at Dawn hugely. I wasn't really expecting to as I do get frustrated when there are inaccuracies in historical fiction books. Jean Gill has kept a very close line to the true nature of the politics of the time. I highly commend her for the huge amount of diligent research she must have undertaken to get this story so accurate. It was also fascinating to learn about the life of a troubadour, as their role in Royalty's court is not fulsomely documented. Jake Urry provides exquisite narration, and what a task he had, providing voices for female singers as well as the troubadours, French aristocracy and the Jewish and Muslim characters. What an enormous and overwhelming challenge this must have been. Mr Urry rose to the occasion and must be congratulated on his success with so many difficult roles.
Am I a convert to historical fiction? Will I now be adding it to the list of genres I will read? Honestly, no, I like my history completely factual, even though I appreciate this makes me sound like an old curmudgeon! I will however be looking out for the next in this excellent series. If I'm going to break out of my comfort zone, it can only be with a writer who exhibits high standards and class, and Ms Gill is certainly that writer. Felicitations all round!
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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Writers and Authors
  • 04-08-18

Hidden mysteries and agendas

Song at Dawn is a historical fiction, set in Medieval Occitania after the Second Crusade.  The author takes the readers/listeners on a medieval action-packed women's adventure following the Second Crusade. This is the first book I’ve read by Jean Gill and also my first listened to narration by Jake Urry I loved the narration Jake he did a fantastic job, making the characters come to life. 

We follow Estela de Matin, a teenage runaway ran away. Estela de Matin encounters Aliénor of Aquitaine, the Queen of France. In time Estela will realize the court is full of political intrigue and gossip. In this volume we really watch Estela de Matin grow, I love her relationship with Dragonetz. 

Song at Dawn has hidden mysteries and agendas, a girl on the run, the consort of the King of France, all the character were interesting and I look forward to seeing how the author builds them in The Troubadours Quartet, Volume 2 will we have more attempted assassinations, alliances, deception, and conflicts of interest.  

The main and supporting characters are very well developed, with motivations, and desires we all have - money, love, and a darker side. The story unfolds each character revealing secrets, passion, and intrigue. The book has several characters which I think reading it maybe harder to keep track but the Audiobook with the narration just flows and you find yourself deep with intrigue, espionage, and romance. I have to give kudos to the narrator again as there are several female characters in the Song at Dawn and Mr. Urry does the voices perfectly.   

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Heather North
  • 01-07-18

Great!

Great listen with a fantastic narrator! I received a review copy of this audiobook at my request and I have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Victoria Palmer's Review.
  • 30-06-18

Victoria Palmer's Review.

Hidden mysteries and agendas, the hidden catacombs of Court Intregue with a young, innocent woman caught in it's web and an illfated romance who through all, keeps her head up and spirit strong. Enhanced and brought to stunning life by the narration of Jake Urry. A wonderful story to get lost in as you lose your heart. Well done.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon CustomerBeliever
  • 20-05-18

Beautiful

I got this story via audiobook boom and this is my voluntary review. I enjoyed this historical story. It was well written and the many twists and turns that were shown remained true to the time it was set in. The way the characters were presented was interesting. The queen and the music teacher were well developed. I liked the story and was glad to be given the opportunity to listen to it.

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  • Rebecca Azizov
  • 14-05-18

a beautifully written book

the story was well written and very interesting I love the story very much it was very original the narrator did a great job as well
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Betababe
  • 18-09-18

A Tale of Queens

In the time of the Crusades, religions tore the world apart. Not that constant warfare wasn't the standard of the day, but now questions of faith had an additional fire to them as ecclesiastic and royal politics conspired and feuded, and Courtly Love inspired song, but was despised by clergy. This story somewhat follows the travels of Aliénor (Eleanor) of Aquitaine, Queen of France, newly returned from the Holy Lands, across France, with an extended stay in Narbonne on her way to Paris. Ermengarda of Narbonne, who wished to preserve in harmony her kingdom's status as a crossroad of enterprise and learning, did her best to protect her Jewish and Muslim populations. A strong, well-researched background for the love story of Estela and the troubadour Dragonetz!

The warm, rough voice of Jake Urry, narrator, softens and smooths into dulcet tones for the ladies as he brings us face to face with the brutal world author Jean Gill describes with intense attention to detail. With all the treachery and brutality one would expect, there are also tender moments and humor as the historically restrictive lives of women are explored.

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  • BookAddict'sReviews
  • 08-08-18

I love Urry!

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery historical fiction by Gill! It was well thought out and had exciting moments that captured my intention instantly. I enjoyed that authenticness to how characters acted and the importance of rank in society that was brought up many times within the novel. I was a little confused with Estela and how she was able to give up so much so easily. I suppose she's just hardier than what I imagined someone wealthy would do in that situation. Also Arno left me a bit confused on the romance end of this novel. I figure though we will get more explanation in the subsequent books. I am very fascinated by the overall mystery and look forward to how it comes about in future works! Gill has a great story on her hands, and I can see it becoming a favorite series of mine. I give it a 4/5 stars.

Jake Urry, I love him! He is an excellent narrator and truly brought me into the previous audiobooks I've listened to where he narrates. I wondered at first how he would transition his creepy and deep voice to fit a historical fiction with romance involved, but he did an excellent job! He has a voice made for suspense and just knows how to use it! He also did a great job with the female characters, as they didn't sound all nasally, which some male narrators tend to do. I give the narration a 5/5 stars!!!!!

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jake Urry. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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  • DabOfDarkness
  • 06-08-18

Don't mess with Medieval ladies!

Estela de Matin has secrets and that made her an engaging character right from the beginning. Alienor is intrigued too and takes her into her household out of curiosity. The women build a kind of trust even as politics and scheming threaten Queen Alienor and those around her. The Victomtess of Narbonne, Ermengarda, has to put her people first and the whole of France second. Estela is talented in both singing and playing her mandora, so she’s placed as a troubadour in training.

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction. The history aspect was first and foremost. I loved all the details that made me feel like I was learning even while I was entertained. The fashion and gender roles of 12th century France are well incorporated to the tale. For example, it was fashionable for the ladies to have high foreheads, so some would modify their hairline by shaving part of their hair off to extend their foreheads.

While there were strong gender roles during this time period, the ladies were not sidelined in this tale. There is indeed romance, but they don’t spend all their time on it. So refreshing! I loved that the female characters would talk about all sorts of things and not just romance. They drove the plot and didn’t always have to rely on bedroom skills to do so.

Dragonetz was an interesting character as well. He’s a knight and a troubadour. He is sworn to serve the Queen but he also has a secret lover. He also has a dedicated spy and confidant – Sancha (spelling?). She’s a unique character in that she’s really a man who has chosen to live as a woman for decades. I really hope the series explores her character more.

I did leave the story feeling a little confused on three points. First, would Estela really have left home with so little? She comes from a privileged family and it’s not clear to me what could have forced her out on her own, literally sleeping in ditches. Second, I don’t get why Estela gave up her virginity when she did to who she did. I was left wondering if she just wanted it over with so she could stop worrying about it. Third, I don’t get Arno. The one weak thread in this novel is this idea of love above and beyond station, family, marriage, etc. I think Arno was caught up in that and was supposed to be this example of unrequited courtly love… and yet it didn’t feel like a complete picture to me. With that said, some of these points might be made whole in the sequel.

The story ends with several dramatic scenes, wrapping up the main mystery of who has been leaving threats for the Queen. There’s still a larger mystery that Dragonetz must solve plus the politics of Narbonne are practically on fire at this point. The crusades weren’t all glory and profit and I loved that several aspects were displayed through the characters. All told, 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Jake Urry is always a treat to listen to. He has an excellent voice and I have enjoyed several stories that he has narrated. With that said, his female character voices could use a touch more variation. He can do a decent female voice, but all the ladies sounded like alto ladies. There wasn’t much difference from lady to lady. There was some singing in this book and often it was in a foreign language – and Urry did a great job with these songs. I also liked the little snippets of music between chapters. I know this is a small thing, but it took me forever to figure out that it was ‘Moor’ and not ‘maul’ that Urry was saying, referring to the one Moorish character in the story. 4.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jake Urry. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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  • Margaret
  • 27-05-18

Who is behind it all?

The book begins with a young girl on the run, the consort of the King of France and her guard Dragonetz. From here we get intrigue, espionage, romance, unrequited love, attempted assassinations, unclear alliances, deception, and conflicts of interest. Enough to keep most readers happy. There is not a lot of time spent detailing life in this time period, yet the way the book is written it does give the reader an understanding of the times. This book reminds me of Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

This is the first book I’ve read/listened to by this author and I would definitely listen to another.

This is the second book I’ve listened to by this narrator and I would love to listen to another. He reads at a pace I easily listened on 1.5x speed and his pronunciation was clear enough to allow this. There are several women in the story, and although the women’s voices were well done, I found the choice for the Estela was not quite right. Her’s was the deepest and most sultry out of them all. His overall tone and cadence while narrating lends a romantic tone to the entire story.

There are no explicit sex scenes, excessive violence or swearing.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and voluntarily left this unbiased review

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  • April H.
  • 08-05-18

Song At Dawn

Song at Dawn
: Jean Gill

A historical fiction that takes the listener to the period following the Second Crusade, set in Provence, France around 1150. The many and varied characters seem to have some of the same experiences as their more modern counterparts. I liked it, but I had a hard time keeping the characters straight.



The narration was well done. The characters were well portrayed by Jake Urry.



I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.