Dead Man’s Hill
This is the sequel to Algar’s first novel, The Shepherd Lord, and continues the story of Lord Henry Clifford. Clifford, after his father’s death at Towton, went into hiding to be brought up with a shepherd family — hence his nickname. This book sees him back in his rightful place as Baron of Skipton Castle and Craven. He is married to a noble lady, Anne, who would rather be anywhere than in his presence, but also has his second ‘family,’ including his lover, Lenaig, and young son to lookout for. The story follows the next part of his life through the murky Tudor politics of the 1500s and the savage feuds and skirmishes on the northern borders, up to the victory over the Scots at Flodden.
I had not read the first book and was worried that I might not understand the story or empathise with the characters. However, this can be read as a stand-alone novel as the past events are skilfully explained in the narrative. Now and again I found the Scottish dialogue jarring, but that is a minor niggle.
Algar is a master storyteller and the action romps through the book, making it a page-turner. His attention to detail is impressive; this is well-researched, not only from the aspect of the politics and events of Henry Tudor’s reign, but also in the everyday objects of that time. The author brings the savage beauty of the north to life, a fitting background to those harsh times. I know nothing of this period, but I found myself wanting to know more.
If I have any criticism, I noticed a number of typos, and there were small sections that need a tidy-up to make them more succinct. While this distracted, it did not put me off the book.