By the Sword

Written by Alison Stuart
Review by Nicky Galliers

By The Sword is the first part of a series about two families in the era of the English Civil War, just after the execution of Charles I.

Kate Ashley of Yorkshire is called to Seven Ways, the house that belongs to her late husband’s grandfather who had turned his back on his son when he married into the Ashley family. Kate’s young son, Tom, is named heir to the Thornton estate as the surviving Thornton male, Jonathan, is a fugitive having fought for the King against the victorious Parliamentarians. She travels to Worcester, to Seven Ways, and meets what is left of the Thornton family, including her cousin by marriage, Jonathan. What happens next is Ms Stuart’s story.

This is a well-written book with a plausible story that grips the reader and I read this avidly as the narrative moves with a good pace and is peopled with characters you come to care for. There is a skill in the way Ms Stuart creates them – they are rounded and human, the goodies are not too good – other than maybe Kate – and the baddies are not flat, caricatures of evil but have their redeeming qualities, even if they are not entirely realised.

From a more technical point of view, though, It is not perfect. There are typos, missing words and occasionally the wrong preposition is used. In places the formatting goes awry. There are instances where the dialogue structure also slips and fails to follow standard rules. However, such is the engaging nature of the story that they do not interfere beyond the odd annoyance. I would say that the cover imagery needs to be changed as it portrays a medieval knight and castle and not a Civil War royalist and a thorough re-edit as I would certainly recommend this novel as it is a good read, but the errors are unfortunate. The best praise I can offer Ms Stuart is that I would very much like to read the next instalment and discover how Kate and Jonathan fare under Parliamentary rule, and the return of Charles II – and to hope for a re-edited edition of this novel.

e-edition reviewed