Conquest: The Anarchy (The Conquest)

Written by Tracey Warr
Review by Helen Johnson

As the priest pronounces Nest married to a man she doesn’t want, her dead lover appears. But this is the 12th century, and the priest’s word is God’s Word. Nest is as sunk as the ship she’d believed her lover to be upon.

So begins the third instalment of a trilogy following Nest as she navigates life as a prize in the war between Anglo-Norman King Henry and the 12th-century Welsh kings. Nest, a Princess of Wales, is trapped between conflicting loyalties, as sons born of forced marriages fight for Henry, while her Welsh family schemes to throw off the Norman yoke. Meanwhile, Haith, the man Nest loves, leaves to investigate how the ship he should have been on had sunk, taking with it King Henry I’s heir.

Warr’s Henry is a vivid, strong personality, making the anarchy after his death all the more believable. In the chaos, the Welsh see their chance.

When Warr delved into Welsh history and discovered Nest, she must have known she’d struck story gold. Warr creates a believable world by imagining lives less about politics and more about love, and this emotional involvement kept me reading. As in real life, however, politics intrudes, bringing with it messy complications. I was glad of the “who’s who” list to help keep track of the many, but necessary, subsidiary characters.

Warr’s research is impressive – both the conquered, and women, tend to be “invisible” in the historical record. Her love of Wales shines clearly. So it may be churlish of me to feel my 12th-century illusion broken by a remark about gambling on cards, thought not to have arrived in Europe until the 14th century.

However, I enjoyed Warr’s story of a woman whose marital life was used as a weapon of conquest, and my appetite is whetted to discover Nest’s earlier adventures.