Reviewed by Janet Emson
Run, run, girl. In the name of God, run.
It's 1141 and freezing cold. Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, watches in horror as a little girl with red hair is dragged away by his own men. Caught in the middle of the fight for England she is just one more victim in a winter of atrocities.
But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Gwil finds the girl close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment - and he knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her.
But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder - and of a small piece of parchment the cost of which none of them could have imagined . . .
Ariana Franklin's final, brilliant standalone novel, left incomplete at the time of her death, now finished by her daughter.
I received a copy of this book 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 disillusioned 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 Ariana Franklin’s previous novels featuring 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.
I'd like to thank Janet for offering to review this book for me from her own copy when I was looking for guest reviewers. If this sounds like a book you'd also like to read then you're in luck as the giveaway for my original copy is still open and can be entered here.