Richardson’s first novel takes as its backdrop the Siege of Magdeburg in 1631, one of the more brutal passages of play in the Thirty Years’ War. Its central characters, Christa Henning, daughter of a Protestant printer in the city, and Lukas Weinsburg, a sergeant in the besieging army are, however, far from being the leading players in a predictable Romeo and Juliet-style plot. The novel is an accomplished debut by a writer who has worked hard to embrace the tough, bleak and uncompromising atmosphere of the times, and perhaps it is no accident that a writer based in Belfast has chosen to recreate one of Europe’s great wars of religion. The characters are well drawn and the scene-setting shows evidence of thorough and careful research. This is a fiendishly complicated piece of history, yet Richardson leads the reader through its twists and turns with assurance.
Ultimately, however, this novel will not stay with me. It is good, but not great. For all the author’s obvious hard work, while there is nothing to fault exactly, there is no real spark to set the pulse racing and keep you awake at night. Enjoyable, but I won’t be going back to it.