1193. The Third Crusade is over, but King Richard I is missing. Is he dead? Captured? No one knows. But plenty of unscrupulous men are ready to take advantage of his absence to secure their own power bases – especially Richard’s brother, Prince John, and his hanger-on, the Constable de Scabious. Meanwhile, two of Richard’s loyal crusaders, Gavin and Will de Granville, return to Hartslove Castle and prepare for the marriage of Gavin and Eleanor de Barre. On the day of the wedding, Scabious arrives with a large force and claims Hartslove for Prince John – hoping that John will grant it to him – and Ellie for himself. In the ensuing fight, Gavin is wounded and Ellie and her nurse are abducted. Will, with his beloved horse Hosanna, sets off in pursuit. Meanwhile, the Saracen Kamil, with a message from Saladin, reaches the Austrian castle where Richard is held. Richard, mistrusting Prince John’s intentions, asks Kamil to go to England and seek out the loyal Granville brothers and gives Kamil the royal seal to prove that he’s alive. Kamil agrees to go, but has a hidden agenda. He covets Will’s horse, Hosanna. What follows is a rip-roaring adventure involving hidden tunnels, fights, and tests of love, loyalty and endurance.
This is the sequel to Blood Red Horse but, thanks to a skilful prologue and first chapter, it is not difficult to pick up the back story. The press release’s claim of ‘real contemporary resonance in the light of the continuing turmoil in the Middle East’ is perhaps over-stated, as the action takes place mainly in England. What are well-demonstrated, though, are the lawlessness of the period and the difficult position of women at a time when they had few legal rights.
Recommended for both sexes. 11 plus.
The title doesn’t really fit the story until chapter 13 (out of 15) when Will gives a green jasper necklace that was once Ellie’s to Elric. The story gets a bit repetitive, using the same phrases again and again, and you’re always being reminded of things that have already happened.
I did like this book though, because the plot is really good and unpredictable. The characters’ personalities are developed very well, and they are true to themselves. My favourite part is where Ellie and Old Nurse are captured by Constable de Scabious because he wants to marry Ellie. I think this book can stand alone but it would have helped to have read Blood Red Horse which comes before it because that is all about the crusade. 1 think it is aimed at advanced 11-year-old to 13-year-old readers. It is more of a girls’ book because there are a few love lines, but boys may enjoy the action.
Early Medieval (to 1337)