I received a copy of this book in an ebook format from the publishers via Net Galley and this is my honest opinion of the book.
1141 and England is in the grip of another war. King Stephen is battling for the crown of England against Empress Mathilda. Gwil, a mercenary, wanders the country, becoming dissillusioned with fighting. One day he watches in horror as a young girl is dragged away by his own companions. He later stumbles across her, near death, and nurses her back to health. Trauma has caused her to forget her past. With Gwil’s help she trains to fight. With a new identity Gwil and the girl now known as Penda, travel across the country on the hunt for the man who attacked her. On the way they become embroiled in the war between Stephen and Mathilda and their lives are to never be the same again.
I am a fan of Arian Franklin’s previous novels feature Adela Aguilar and was saddened to hear of her passing in 2011. I am a fan of historical fiction and Franklin had a style that drew you into a story without even realising it. This story, a standalone novel, completed by Franklin’s daughter, Samantha Norman, is no different. I soon found myself absorbed in the book, eager to find out what had happened to Penda and how her story and that of the other characters would meld together.
I did feel at times that I was not as deeply entrenched in the story and the characters, almost like I was skimming over the surface. That said, I did like some of the characters almost immediately, in particular Gwil, Penda, Maud and Alan so there was obviously enough character drawn narrative to work.
I enjoyed the setting and the time of the novel. I found the historical aspect interesting, with Franklin and Norman dropping interesting little facts about the time into the story to create a fascinating insight into 12th Century life and the hardships faced. In particular I found the aspects of war to be very interesting, the whole idea of Parley and fighting to cease at night etc a strange and unknown piece of history. Reading this book made me keen to read more about this period of history.
All in all I enjoyed this novel very much and found myself racing through the last half. I could not tell where Ariana Franklin left the novel and where Samantha Norman’s work began. In the end I think this is a fitting tribute made by Norman to her mother and a great final piece of work from Ariana Franklin.