The very grimness of this novel of the last year of the reign of Edward II is one of its best features. The plot follows several of the players in the events leading to the fall of the Despensers and their king and the mixed benefit of the new regime under the queen, her lover, and her son, the future Edward III—and no character, fictional or factual, is entirely sympathetic. The result is a novel that tells more of the real story of the time, no glossing over or romanticizing, something this reviewer found rather refreshing. The central plot concerns Sir John Swale, a Despenser follower sent to discover why justice has not been served on a blatant murder, leading the reader into the decay of Edward II’s base of support and the rise of his enemies’. Corruption has become the standard, and ironically, it is outlaws and corruption that spell the reign’s doom. The most admirable of the characters know they must make painful compromises. Away from Swale’s story, we receive insightful glimpses into the historical figures Isabella, Mortimer, Hugh le Despenser the Younger, and Edward II himself. No warm fuzzies here. They all are flawed and forced to make compromises as well. The writing itself is sound and compelling, and for the most part, the research faithful to the events and conditions of the setting.