The Sinner’s Tale
A medieval knight with a sin he fears will condemn him to eternal purgatory; a modern-day woman whose anti-terrorist rhetoric conceals a desperate emptiness; and a secret link that transcends eras form the basis for Will Davenport’s The Sinner’s Tale. Beth Battock is an ambitious political player when a scandal forces her to flee to the childhood hamlet she’s avoided for years. There, she comes face-to-face with the father she resents, an ornery grandmother who knows her better than she thinks, a gentle stone-cutter she once dallied with, and an ancient inscription with a tantalizing familial connection to the exploits of a 14th century knight, Sir Guy de Bryan.
Sir Guy suffers from venal sin; he also suffers from a prescient understanding of war’s futility. Though a veteran of bloody battles, Guy is a man of peace in a time of brutality who believes he must atone for the wrongs he perpetuates. In his quest for redemption, Guy plants the seeds for a ceremonial immortality that will echo through the ages into Beth Battock’s hollow life.
Vivid scenes of warfare and the harshness of medieval life intersect with Beth’s struggle to overcome her conservative stance on terrorism in the 21st century. The descriptions of Sir Guy’s journey from hopeful youth to weathered witness are imbued with the authenticity of the period. The novel encounters its main difficulty in the modern world. The characters lack the compelling personalities of their medieval counterparts, and Beth proves a challenge to rally around, even as her narrow-mindedness starts to crumble around her. Until family upheaval confronts her, she remains steadfast to her way of thinking—an analogy of our own inability to learn from the past. Beth does learn, eventually; still, it is the knight’s passionate quest we care most about.