Regicide: Peter Abelard and the Great Jewel

Written by David Boyle
Review by Anna Belfrage

After a clunky prologue, Regicide develops into a fast-paced and entertaining read, featuring the delightful Hilary the Englishman. Hilary is a clerk in holy orders whom we first meet when he loses his cushy job as tutor to the fair Alys. Said Alys has died, so Hilary is expelled from a life of comfort and sent on his way by Alys’s father, who can’t wait to be rid of him. Soon enough, Hilary’s life takes a more adventurous turn as he is dragged into events that start with foul death and end with Hilary travelling all the way to the Holy Land and back, always no more than a step or two ahead of his pursuers. Why is he being hunted? Because Hilary has been burdened with a task—and a secret—that could potentially threaten the rule of Henry I, King of England.

Hilary is not alone: with him travels Peter Abelard, a man recently forcibly separated from his beloved Heloise and some rather vital body parts. Still, Peter rises above all this and eagerly adds his intellect to Hilary’s increasingly desperate quest.

Mr Boyd is more than familiar with the events and people he depicts—from William Rufus’ death in 1100 to William the Atheling’s unfortunate death in 1120—and his zest and enthusiasm for his story and his characters makes this a compelling read, complete with vivid descriptions and an intricately wrought intrigue.

At times, this enthusiasm affects the writing negatively, resulting in incomplete, convoluted and confusing sentences, incorrect usage of pronouns and prepositions, and the odd anachronism: neither Stockholm nor Boeuf Bourguignon existed in the early 12th century. However, these are minor irritants, easily forgiven in a novel as charming and engrossing as this.