During the brutal winter of 1141, Stephen and Matilda tore England apart in their battle for its crown. The innocent were not spared, and this is their story in this epic medieval tale. Old soldier, Gwil, is not a saint but a man whose heart and courage can’t be faulted. Penda is a young girl delivered from the jaws of death and determined to make her mark on a world dominated by men. And Maud, the young wife of the brutal Sir John of Tewing. They are a great cast of likable, believable characters, and we truly care what happens to them. Add in a murderous pursuit by a horribly stinking monk, and you have an atmospheric, exciting tale that rattles along and should appeal to all readers of historical thrillers and mysteries.
This is, of course, a co-authored book. When Ariana Franklin sadly passed away in 2011, the book was not complete. Her daughter, Samantha Norman, decided to finish it as a tribute to her late mother. What she has achieved is remarkable in terms of continuity of pace, tone and talent. There is poignancy to the novel in that it is the last work of a great writer. But it possesses something very special in that it also launches the career of a sparkling new talent. I am sure Ms Norman’s mother would have been very proud of such a wonderful lasting testimonial. Highly recommended.