Scars from the Past

Written by Derek Birks
Review by Nick Brown

Scars from the Past is the first of a new series following the fortunes of the Elder family during the Wars of the Roses. It would, perhaps, be most enjoyed after having read the first series, Rebels and Brothers, but it works well as a stand-alone story. There is a list of characters at the front of the book to which new readers may refer.

The novel depicts the Elders during the final years of Edward IV, mingling real and fictional characters. Derek Birks is particularly good at creating a warts-and-all view of the social conditions of the late Middle Ages. The lack of comfort of living conditions and life in general are very effectively shown. This element appealed greatly to the archaeologist in me.

The author’s style is to follow a variety of different members or friends of the Elder family rather than a single narrative, before tying them all together in an exciting and well-paced climax. For this alone, the book is well worth reading. There is plenty of action along the way, with back stories involving love, ambition, revenge, and lust. The cast contains a good mix of strong male and female leads.

The period is well researched and the settings atmospheric and vividly described, so that at times the reader feels embedded in the mud and rain. As with all good family sagas, there is a repellent villain. My only slight criticism is that at 500 pages the pace can flag on occasion, but it builds up to an excellent and well-delivered finish.

The book is nicely produced and well-edited and, as with all good historical fiction, the reader learns fascinating period detail while being entertained by an experienced author who knows his trade. I look forward to the next instalment.