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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Ancestors' Secrets by Erika M Szabo is an epic fantasy time travel novel that shifts between two women who hail from the same ancient Hunor Clan. Mora is a woman who has been on a 1600-year-long path for retribution, plotting and stewing in anger and malevolence. Her goal is crystal clear: power and control as head of the clan. However, it is Ilona who was prophesied long before her modern arrival and it is Ilona alone who is destined for the sacrosanct role in the face of threats from within the clan. Brought back centuries, Ilona is embedded in a time and place she neither knows nor fully understands, fraught with danger as her powers are honed. The narrative is almost entirely in the first-person through the points of view of both the primary characters, Mora and Ilona, and supporting cast who are integral to each woman and their clan, for better or for worse.
I was keen to read The Ancestors' Secrets by Erika M Szabo for a couple of reasons. The first is that I was impressed by the premise and the promise of two strong female leads, and Mora and Ilona are worthy in this regard. Neither are perfect and even though we are not meant to like Mora, we do sort of understand her motive. It's deeper than the power and the revenge she seeks; we get that. She is not a cookie-cutter antagonist, and because Ilona is far from perfect herself, we are able to read through the eyes of women who are authentic. This is refreshing. The second part that piqued my interest is a modern female thrust back into the 1300s. This is something of an origin story, not just for Ilona but the entirety of the Hunor Clan. The magic is fun but the tension and the settings are Szabo's best work. As for the writing, it's simple and easy to read creating a good story overall. Fans of YA and coming-of-age fantasy will enjoy this wonderful little gem.