In Pursuit of the Green Lion
The first two novels in Riley’s highly entertaining trilogy about the adventures of Margaret of Ashbury have recently been reissued by Three Rivers Press. Set in England in the 1350s, In Pursuit of the Green Lion is the second installment, and finds the widowed Margaret newly wed – by force – to the scholarly “Brother Gregory,” who is actually Gilbert de Vilers, second son of a boorish nobleman. Margaret is extremely fond of Gregory/Gilbert, but the forced marriage and subsequent confiscation of her late husband’s property have placed her at the mercy of her scheming in-laws. Her situation becomes more untenable when Gregory leaves for France to chronicle the exploits of the Duke of Lancaster. But then Gregory is captured by a sinister count from Navarre, and Margaret enlists her old friends Mother Hilde and Brother Malachi to help her rescue him, escaping in the process the dangers that hover in her father-in-law’s home.
Despite being the second in a trilogy, this novel can stand alone. It contains a liberal dose of humour and of the supernatural, trademarks of this author. Fifteen years have passed since I first read In Pursuit of the Green Lion, and I enjoyed it easily as much the second time around. But I am probably a more critical reader than I was in 1991, and so I will say that I thought the action flagged for a short spell about three-quarters of the way through. However, this is a minor quibble in the context of an intelligent, fun read, where the savagery and pageantry of the Hundred Years War are expertly rendered. I am really looking forward to The Water Devil, Margaret’s third outing.