I first read about Richard and Aoife in Denee Cody's The Conquered Heart. I loved it! A historical romance that had real characters and a real historiI first read about Richard and Aoife in Denee Cody's The Conquered Heart. I loved it! A historical romance that had real characters and a real historic setting? Just what I love the most. I set about researching everything I could about them to see if what I had read was real or not. I didn't find much and what I found was mostly courtesy of Wikipedia.
A few years later I found the books of Elizabeth Chadwick. I love her books, have been reading them as they are published and she is one of my favourite authors. You can see how thrilled I was when I saw Richard and Aoife's daughter as one of the main characters in a couple of her books. I loved those books but I still wanted more about Strongbow. I was quite happy when I discovered this book existed and quickly managed to get my hands on it.
The book is written, both from Richard and Aoife's point of view, in alternate chapters. It depicts first Richard's childhood and young adult years. His relationship with his father, and how that will influence him for the rest of his life, his relationship with his father. Then Aoife's relationship with her own father, a man with a fearless reputation but apparently very close to his children.
When Dermot MacMurrough, Aoife's father needs help to regain power and lands in his native Ireland he goes to England in search of a champion. To convince Richard he promises him what he cherishes the most, Aoife and his own kingdom after his death. Aoife isn't as happy as her father with the bargain but she eventually agrees to the marriage. She and Richard will fight and conquer both the lands and power that her family and his will wanted.
While it was nice to have an overview of events, the book is small and it covers a long period of time, I would have preferred to have more detailed information about, not only their relationship, but also about the daily aspects of their everyday life. The differences between Norman and Irish ways and their adjustment to each other and their new life. It also the first I heard of Richard’s first marriage and children and of him and Aoife having boys. I was under the impression he had only one son, who died early, and Eve, who became William Marshall’s wife…
I wonder if this is a good example of Llywelyn’s work? I’ve heard of her before but mostly in connection with Lion of Ireland, her book about Brian Boru.
I will continue to look out for books about Richard and Aoife. A couple of years ago I reread The Conquered Heart and, after all the meatier medieval reading I had been doing it seemed lighter and more romancified than what I remembered. I guess my hope is that Elizabeth Chadwick will eventually think of them as main characters for one of her books. That would make me really happy!
The Queen's Man is SKP first book in the Justin de Quincy series. It's a mystery series set in medieval England (around 1193) and Justin is the illegiThe Queen's Man is SKP first book in the Justin de Quincy series. It's a mystery series set in medieval England (around 1193) and Justin is the illegitimate son of a bishop that, after finding out the truth about his birth, has a falling out with his father and decides to set out on his own.
While on the road he witnesses the robbery and murder of a goldsmith. The man's dying words ask him to deliver a letter to Queen Eleanor and, after reading said document and seeing how it might be worth killing for that is exactly what he does. The letter informs the queen of the fate of her son, King Richard, a prisoner of the Emperor. Worried about her favourite son Eleanor asks Justin to investigate what was behind the murder, whether it was truly to waylay the letter and if the King of France is behind the act.
It is obvious from the beginning that the court is full of spies and that both Queen Eleanor and her son John have their own men trying to gain information. Justin strikes a friendship with one of the queen's ladies - Claudine - and is immediately suspicious of one of John's creatures - Durand.
His first steps are to investigate the goldsmith’s life and family. At first it seems his own relatives might be behind the crime and Justin decides to follow the murderers trail to find out the truth. He ends up being helped by Luke de Marston, the under sheriff who is also looking for the same killers.
I think Penman did a good job with the historical setting and contextualization of the action but I found it a bit lighter in historical detail than my previous read by her (TSIS). And despite having liked Justin my favourite characters were Luke and Nell, I intend to read the other books in this series and I definitely hope they make an appearance.
The mystery was interesting, not exactly the conclusion but the way Justin and Luke set out to discover things and draw their conclusions. In fact the mystery ends with a plot twist that I did not see coming and that I am not sure was completely convincing. Still it made for a very pleasant read
After having read the stories of William Marshall and Isabelle de Clare I was looking forward to read about their eldest daughter, Mahelt Marshall. ElAfter having read the stories of William Marshall and Isabelle de Clare I was looking forward to read about their eldest daughter, Mahelt Marshall. Elizabeth Chadwick is another author that never lets me down and I am happy to say that To Defy a King was another wonderful read.
The book starts with familiar events but now from Mahelt's perspective. When her parents decide to go to Ireland they want to leave her well cared for and so negotiate a marriage between Mahelt and Hugh Bigod, the eldest son of the powerful Earl of Norfolk. Mahelt is very much aware of her importance as a Marshall and of her sense of honor which sometime clashes with her father in law's will. Hugh, however, realises that his young wife's spirit is what attracts him and that he will have to employ subtlety to make her grow up and learn where her loyalties must now lie.
Although they are in good standing with the King, the Bigods have to take care about who they associate with and Mahelt's reckless actions may well put them in danger. They are connected with the King through Hugh’s half brother William Longespée but the relationship between the two is strained at best. It will take some time and persuasion till Mahelt learns to balance her feelings and weigh what's really important, to think of herself as a Bigod. And while Mahelt and Hugh work on their marriage, King John continues his rule through war and fear. Soon Hugh and the other barons start plotting to limit his power and protect their rights and privileges. If her father was always the king’s man even when in disgrace, now Mahelt sees her husband rebelling against the king and take up arms to defend what he believes in.
To Defy A King is a lovely book! Chadwick’s characters are people that you can identify with, who have the same basic expectations about life, love and society in general that everyone has and in each of her books there's a solid background of research that really brings to life the everyday events of the Middle Ages without it being obvious.
If Mahelt is a strong heroine, Hugh is the one I appreciated all the more because of the way her read his wife and managed to make her grow up and learn her place without crushing her. I wonder how Chadwick manages to consistently write male characters that are wonderful examples of humanity and sensitivity without losing any of their manliness? There are many reasons to pick up this book, the solid historical background, the plot that makes use of it and the engaging characters will appeal to every historical fiction lover but the truth is that her descriptions of feelings, emotions and needs with which we can identify will make this a terrific read for everyone.
I had no idea, when I was offered this book for review, of what was in store for me while reading it. But it was a medieval, my favourite period, andI had no idea, when I was offered this book for review, of what was in store for me while reading it. But it was a medieval, my favourite period, and it was about the Black Prince, about whom I've had a long lasting curiosity, so it really was inevitable that I should start it as soon as it arrived.
The story opens with Sir John Potenhale on a quest to find a woman, the widow of a man he fought in battle, whith whom he shared some time and who teached quite a few things. And it is at he request that he starts telling his story and how his life crossed with her dead husbands.
Potenhale was a young squire following the english army during the Hundred Year war. His actions bring him to the attention of the Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, and he becomes part of the prince's household. As they follow the path of war Potenhale grows in experience and in wisdom both in the battlefied and out of them. Through the Prince's interest in the Fair Maid of Kent, Potenhale becomes acquainted with Margery, one of her ladies, and while the interest seems mutual a previous marriage to Lord Thomas Holland puts a both in both the Prince's and Potenhale's aspirations.
For the next few years, actually not that few, they will fight for England in french soil, they will learn strategy, when to make alliances and when to punish traitors. They will attend happy tourneys and they will face the black death, the plague. What could have been a dry read becomes a tale of an age of honour and chivalry, of being steadfast in the face of adversity and of pondering matters of life and death, when faced with your perceived destiny. In one of the battles Potenhale makes a prisoner of the french leader, Geoffroi de Charni. he returns to England with them till his ransom is payed and it is immediately apparent that he is the man whose widow he is telling the story to. Charny, who wrote a book on the Art of Chivalry is a very interesting character, in the end the one I was most fascinated with. It is a gift from the author that she writes her tale so well that when he was telling Potenhale and the Prince the story of the Templars I felt I was right beside them listening.
Although the beginning and the end of the book are marked by the amorous relationships of the characters I thought that was only a little part of what really mattered here. It's about following a code of honour, the code of chivalry, about being virtuous, being true to God and to their Lady. Rosanne E. Lortz wrote an intelligent and engaging tale based in real characters and events. Historical Fiction doesn't get much better than this.
Don't tell anyone but I had a bit of a problem with the 18th and 19th century Women Writers Challenge. I kept looking at the list I had chosen and I dDon't tell anyone but I had a bit of a problem with the 18th and 19th century Women Writers Challenge. I kept looking at the list I had chosen and I didn't feel like reading them. So I went browsing Project Gutenberg to see if I found anything that could count for the challenge and that interested me at the same time.
When I found this title I didn't immediately realise it was a story for children, what appealed to me was that it was a medieval story and I seldom resist those.
I really did like it and can totally see how it would appeal a child. The hero is a child, Richard of Normandy, who inherits the dukedom on his father's death while still a child. The little Duke (very well titled) becomes first a prisoner of King Louis of France and then, after escaping with the help of his loyal servants, allies himself with the Danes and manages to imprison the King who is later exchanged for his sons that Richard had met while at court.
Basically this is the story of a young boy becoming a man, controlling his emotions, conquering his desire of vengeance and fully embodying the Christian values of forgiveness and good will to others. Richard of Normandy would later be known as Richard the Fearless and the great-grandfather of William the Conqueror.
The Saint and the Fasting Girl is a story divided in two parts. In the first Georgia is the Abbess in a Yorkshire Abbey that follows the ways of St IsThe Saint and the Fasting Girl is a story divided in two parts. In the first Georgia is the Abbess in a Yorkshire Abbey that follows the ways of St Isela. The Saint has died and promised to return so Georgia lives to see that moment. When the story opens, the abbey and the nearest village are under attack; Georgia has a vision and knows she must save the baby girl whose birth is eminent as she will be an important part of St Isela's return.
Georgia manages to keep the Abbey safe but Phillip SeVerde, the archbishop of London, wants to control the land. They'll both fight for it, with SeVerde sending troops and Georgia trying to evade them while raising Lo, the baby who she believes will grow to be awakened to St Isela's story and eventually lead to St Isela’s return. However, in a period of religious instability that is the Kingdom of Henry VIII, the abbey ends up destroyed and Georgia is killed.
On the second part of the book a young girl, Jane, realises that she is Georgia. She must devote herself to prepare the way for St Isela’s return and the first thing is to look for the sisters who lost their home when the abbey was destroyed and to look for St Isela's treasure that she had hidden in the abbey.
While Jane is still a girl, she behaves very much like Georgia, set in her beliefs and determined to restore Isela's ways. She only behaves as a teenager when she grows fond of a young servant and we see them bickering their way to love. But her main concern is to save Lo, now a grown woman, from the man who has brutalised her and to find St Isela's treasure.
I think what I enjoyed the most about the book was how the author can really make us understand how religion was an integral part of the medieval mind. Everything was ruled by religion and social class. Not only we see in the story a lot of violence towards the lower orders but that behaviour seems to be expected and accepted by everyone.
I did like the first half of the book better because I had some trouble warming up to Jane. I was surprised by how she enters the story and in the beginning she is not very likeable. I must say that one of the interesting things of the story is that there are several twists that keep you guessing. In fact, given all that happens, the ending is also quite surprising. I only wish the "fasting girl" aspect had been more explored, both Georgia and Jane don't eat when they are worried and upset but they didn't seem to fast on purpose and I was very curious about that angle of the story after having read something about it on Anna Richenda's website.
I found this a very interesting and original story with its focus on monastic life and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about that period.
One final word to thank the author Anna Richenda for having sent me a copy.
I’ve been hearing lots of things about Sandra Worth and when the opportunity came to read this book I couldn’t let it pass. Especially as it is set duI’ve been hearing lots of things about Sandra Worth and when the opportunity came to read this book I couldn’t let it pass. Especially as it is set during the Wars of the Roses which is a period in the history of England that I like to read about.
Lady of the Roses is about Isobel, a young heiress who grows up a ward of the crown – the crown being Queen Margaret of Lancaster – but falls in love with John Neville, a member of the House of York and brother of Warwick the Kingmaker. For a while they looked like star-crossed lovers that wouldn’t be able to overcome the enmity between Lancaster and York but after the Neville family pays a large amount for her Isobel is allowed to marry John.
I did enjoy knowing their story and I think Worth expertly engages the reader in her tale, I can’t remember when it was that another book made me run to the nearest encyclopaedia to know who was who and what happened when. Although I have already read several books set in the period I don’t think I had ever payed much attention to John Neville in a family where several people have the same name is really useful to have a family tree in the beginning of the book.
While Isobel is the main character, I think it is John that emerges as the voice of reason and the symbol of honour in a difficult period. The way Worth describes him made me think of SKP’s The Sunne in Splendour and Richard III. Maybe, just maybe, they are a bit too good to be true but making them so human certainly makes for wonderful characters. By marrying John Isobel joins one of the most powerful families of the land at the time and through her eyes we see the main political events of the time.
Anyone interested in knowing how the Wars of The Roses started has a good explanation here. Although I can’t really vouch for all the details being correct I think the main idea is the right one. The only thing I wasn't too happy with is that the two queens - Margaret of Lancaster and Elizabeth Woodville - sound a bit too bad to be true, not that they couldn’t possibly have been that bad (and mad in Margaret’s case) but I think they must have been more subtle about it. On the other hand, I felt the same about Isobel's uncle and it seems he really was as bad as Worth describes him so maybe those two were that way too.
A very interesting story with the "holes" in history being nicely filled with story.
Pope Joan is a figure I was aware of but knew next to nothing about, her existence is surrounded by mystery and so she seems the ideal figure to writePope Joan is a figure I was aware of but knew next to nothing about, her existence is surrounded by mystery and so she seems the ideal figure to write a historical fiction novel about. Author Donna Woolfolk Cross writes an interesting tale about what could have been a young girl's life in that time.
Daughter of a canon who values women little and definitely finds them unworthy of an education her Joan has to struggle from early on to pursue her studies. Luckily she finds a monk willing to help her learn and who eventually will lead to her being accepted at a school. Much brighter and intelligent than her brother, Joan stands out as a student and eventually develops an attachment to Gerolt, the nobleman in whose house she leaves in. But Gerolt leaves and the village is attacked by Norsemen.
To survive Joan disguises herself as her dead brother and becomes John. As a man she is more easily accepted and continues her studies at the Fulda monastery and later travels to Rome where she is known as a dedicated scholar and a celebrated healer. Her fame is such that she is called to attend the Pope and so enters the Vatican's sphere of influence. There she will understand the politics behind the scenes and she will meet Gerolt again. The story is very easy to read and proceeds at good pace. However I did feel that Joan, as a character, was a bit too perfect to be totally believable. Not only that but some things seem to happen too easily or too coincidentally. I suppose I would have liked to see more of her thought process and she having to work more to get where she ended up. She does have some painful decisions to make regarding her relationship with Gerolt but everything else seemed to fall into place quite easily. I did enjoy learning about the politics behind the throne, the same as in every other kingdom, and was surprised to learn about the power of the people in the election of the Pope.
History is full of possibilities and this was certainly an intriguing story that kept me interested till the end. Thank you so much to the author for sending me the book.
I am always very fond of stories that bring some light to those minor, forgotten characters of history. I am fully aware that if they are minor characI am always very fond of stories that bring some light to those minor, forgotten characters of history. I am fully aware that if they are minor characters a lot of the writer tells me is pure fiction but I like to imagine that it could have been so.
When I found a book about Princess Alais of France, of which I only knew she was Richard, the Lionheart's betrothed and that they never married because she became his father's mistress, I couldn't help but be interested. As many of the HF being published today this one belongs to a subgenre, it's a historical mystery. Princess Alais would have had a baby by King Henry and about 20 years lately here she is trying to find out what happened to the child she believed dead.
I found this an interesting story, it is written in a light tone and you get an overview of what was happening in England and France at the time. Alais was once used as a pawn between Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry and now she is set up to be one again. Luring her with information about the child, she is quickly captured by King John who is trying his best to find the same information and eliminate a potential threat to the throne.
However I did feel that Alais was a bit too daring, and shall we say modern, in her way of thinking at times. That made it a lighter read than what I would have liked. The author also felt the need to add a love story, I have nothing against that but making it so quickly consummated definitely made it look a bit too much like a romance novel. Overall I would have preferred a more solid read in terms of medieval behaviours and way of life but I still found it a pleasant read if not a memorable one.
The Love Knot is the story of Joanna of Acre and Ralph de Monthermer, or at least a small part of their story told in the form of letters between themThe Love Knot is the story of Joanna of Acre and Ralph de Monthermer, or at least a small part of their story told in the form of letters between them and between the King of England and the man he sent to investigate whether Ralph could be the murderer of Joanna's first husband, Gilbert de Clare. Joanna had been widowed only a short time before starting a relationship with Monthermer and it is known that they secretly wed while Joanna's father was busy arranging another match for her.
On the discovery of their relationship Joanna, who seems to have been a determined young woman, and Ralph were, for a time imprisoned and out of favour but were later on accepted and restored in the king's good graces. Vanessa Alexander (a pen name for Paul Doherty) imagines what happened during those months and what led the king to accept and apparently approve of the match between a daughter of England and a commoner.
The letters between Joanna and Ralph were moving and compelling. They address not only their feelings but also what is happening to them, why and how strong they will be to protect their secret. In parts of it one almost feels like an intruder in someone's private life as they are of a most intimate nature.
The letters that the king's envoy writes were very interesting to read also but of a different nature. Through him we really feel we are watching a trial and it seems there is more eagerness to find evidence of guilt than of innocence. But Trokelowe is determined to find the truth. He successfully discovers Joanna and Ralph's secret and, despite this book not being labelled a mystery I felt there was enough for me to think of Trokelowe as a sort of detective which also appealed to me.
This is a small book and a very easy read that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
As you probably already know I am one of those people who thinks Roberta Gellis cannot write a bad book, some less good yes but never a bad one. I amAs you probably already know I am one of those people who thinks Roberta Gellis cannot write a bad book, some less good yes but never a bad one. I am glad to report then that I really loved reading A Mortal Bane and it definetely joins the group of her good books.
It is a medieval murder mystery set in a whorehouse located in an old priory that the Bishop of London has let to Magdalene La Batarde. Magdalene was once a whore herself but now she just controls the business, checks that everything is in order for her "guests" who come and visit her women. All of the women have some disability, one is deaf, another is blind and so on... Madalene provides them with a ceiling and they all seem reasonably happy with their lot. But one day one of their visitors is murdered in the church next door. Magdalene just knows that the whores will be the first ones to be blamed so she decides to conduct a private investigation. When the victim is revealed as a papal messenger even the Bishop of London is called upon to discover the culprit.
I really enjoyed reading about these people, Magdalene was a bit reserved at first and we get to know her better as the action progresses. The whores are treated more superficially and we don't know all of them all that well although I suppose that can happen in future books. Sir Bellamy of Itchem is the Bishop of London' man, charged with investigating the crime he starts to feel a bit jealous of the visits to Magdalene's house till he discovers she only manages the business. And there's also William of Ypres, Stephen's man in the war against Matilda which gives us a glimpse of the politics of the period, he is also Magdalene's protector which pleases Bellamy a bit less... The characters were interesting and engaging and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.
I have no idea if whores could rent from the church but I think Gellis wrote a compelling story that seemed to me with a believable medieval atmosphere. The morals of the time, from church members and otherwise are called into question and there are several twists and turns before the culprit is finally found. As a whole a really interesting story. I will be looking forward to read the next books in the series.
This book had been in my TBR pile for a few months now. I don't really remember why I put it there, a good review I read somewhere no doubt. It fittedThis book had been in my TBR pile for a few months now. I don't really remember why I put it there, a good review I read somewhere no doubt. It fitted perfectly as a Historical thriller for the 2009 Suspense & Thriller challenge and that's why I picked it up.
I have to start the review by saying that I enjoyed it very much and I can't wait to continue with this series. Master Matthew Shardlake, hunchback and commissioner to Lord Thomas Cromwell, is a very interesting and complex character, and Sansom creates a very interesting mystery with plenty historical detail namely the turbulence that surrounded Henry VIII's closing of the monasteries, the political intrigues that were very much a part of his court and the corruption that was common to both places.
Master Shardlake is ordered by Cromwell to go to the Scarnsea monastery and investigate the murder of the commissioner previously sent there to organise the closing of the place. Shardlake goes with his assistant Mark Poer and finds that the previous comissioner had found some problem with the accounts when he was murdered. While the Abbot and the Prior would like to convince themselves and Shardlake that someone from the outside is the murderer, Shardlake is convinced that one of monks must be responsible. Corruption seems to run rampant and more than one of them is hiding a few secrets. Could it be the murder? While trying to understand their motivations, Shardlake also starts to reflect on his life, his choices and his blind faith in Thomas Cromwell...
Unexpectedly a young novice dies and the plot thickens when it discovered that he was poisoned. Shardlake also discovers that the previous helper at the infirmary, a girl named Orphan, disappeared eighteen months before and the mystery of her disappearance may well be related to everything else...
This is one of those books where the mystery is as interesting as the background story; one can't help like Shardlake, not because he is terribly sympathetic but because he is human. He starts very confident in his beliefs and actions and slowly starts to doubt his faith and the rectitude of the man he follows, all that reflex ion of what was going on in England at the time and the worries of the common people whose situation is not improved by the Reform made this a very engaging story and I can't wait to continue reading the series.
The marriage of Eleanor Courteney and Robert Morland heralded the founding of the great Morland dynasty. Now Paul, their great grandson is caught up i The marriage of Eleanor Courteney and Robert Morland heralded the founding of the great Morland dynasty. Now Paul, their great grandson is caught up in the conflict of kings and sees, while his niece Nanette, as maid-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn, becomes caught up in intrigue at court.
The Dark Rose starts as the story of Eleanor Courtenay Morland´s great grandson Paul. Although I did like The Founding, the first book in the Morland Saga, I wasn’t overly impressed with Eleanor. She seemed a cold woman, determined to succeed in her goals and ready to sacrifice family to achieve them.
I was a bit worried because Paul Morland doesn’t seem overly sympathetic in the beginning either. However I think she managed to convey his complex personality and how most of his actions were rooted on fears and insecurities. Those are feelings that he manages to conquer with age and he becomes a much more interesting person. One mustn’t think that he is the main character of this story though. As in the first book the author manages to create a strong female character and it’s through her eyes that we witness the main events of that period. Nanette Morland will, as a child, be raised with Katherine Parr and as a young adult be the companion of Anne Boleyn following her from her time as a Lady in Waiting to her final days as queen.
The private story of the Morland family with the jealousies between brothers and half brothers, the alliances sealed with marriages and their worries with religion, social reform, and the political events and how they affect their business mingles beautifully with the bigger picture that is Henry VIII’s court with its political intrigues and religious changes.
I quite like this view of history from a minor, fictional character point of view. I was a bit worried regarding her portrayal of Anne Boleyn since I’ve read a few books about her lately and some authors seem to go a bit overboard in her descriptions but in the end I think it was a well balanced portrayal with a few minor details I would prefer not to have had included.
I also like the fact that she has strong women as characters and from what I’ve read online there are more to come in future books of the series.
In London of 1384, Crispin Guest is a man adrift in a rigidly defined society. Left with only his life, he’s a disgraced knight, convicted of treason,In London of 1384, Crispin Guest is a man adrift in a rigidly defined society. Left with only his life, he’s a disgraced knight, convicted of treason, stripped of his rank and his honor for plotting against Richard II. Having lost his patron and his friends, with no trade to support him, Crispin has turned to the one thing he still has--his wits--to scrape a living on the mean streets of London.
Crispin is called to the compound of a reclusive merchant who suspects his wife of infidelity and wants Crispin to look into the matter. In dire need of money, he discovers that the wife is indeed up to something, but when Crispin comes to inform his client, he is found dead--murdered in a sealed room, locked from the inside. Now Crispin finds himself in the middle of a complex plot involving dark secrets, international plots, and a missing religious relic--one that lies at the heart of this impossible crime.
Being the medieval lover that I am I really couldn't let the opportunity of reading Jeri Westerson's new release pass by me. The fact that I had never heard of the term "Medieval Noir" before made me even more curious about this book.
I'm happy to say that I did enjoy reading it very much!
There's something different from what I'm used to in my medieval readings. Westerson does a great job of creating the medieval world of the London of the lower classes. Although some of the higher noble personalities of the time are mentioned and Crispin Guest thinks of himself as a knight it is really the world of the common folk - merchants, tavern owners, servants - that comes alive in the book. One of things that struck me has different is that the story has a very lively rhythm, the action is fast paced yes but also the characters reactions and way of thinking seems to be more practical than what we are used to. There's not much of the ceremonial and manners usually connected with the medieval nobility, here people are trying to survive and sometimes it's their quick thinking and their wit that saves them.
Guest is a somewhat conflicted character. Once a knight, he was stripped of his title by the king after a treason accusation. He recognises how unlikely it is that he has survived to tell the story, most people would have been executed, and knows he lives due to the interference of his former Lord, John of Gaunt. I did really like Crispin Guest very much. I liked how he was a less than perfect character and how Westerson let us into his head, his doubts about his place in the world and how that influenced his dealings with the people around him.
Without family or fortune and having to support himself he resorts to do occasional investigative works for whoever asks thus winning the nickname The Tracker. As the story opens he is asked by a London merchant, Nicholas Walcote, to spy on his wife and discover if she is indeed cheating on him. But when Crispin goes back to report on the case the man is inexplicably dead and Guest is immersed in a murder investigation.
I thought the mystery was well thought of and well plotted. The author keeps us guessing at what really happened and as the action progresses we realise the intrigue is a lot more complicated than we initially thought of. From the intrigues surrounding the cloth trade to danger brought by the possession of the Mandollyn, the true image of Christ, Westerson spins an absorbing tale. The fact that Guest is such a dark character himself, unable to forget what he once was and to accept what he is reduced to, and the fact that he lives in a world of intrigue and danger where only his strong character and investigative skills helps him being ahead of the bad guys as well as an ambivalence in him between good and bad make the term medieval noir seem totally appropriate. His relationship with the Sheriff of London for instance is almost a self punishing one even if in the end there's a sort of truce between the two men.
I'm looking forward to follow Crispin Guest through more adventures in the future and I'm glad this book is number one in a planned series.
Highly recommended to mystery and medieval lovers! ...more
Two families, two cities, one rogue go-between, and a set of gorgeous tapestries, all in a late medieval setting.
Nicolas des Innocents, a handsome, lascivious artist, is summoned to the Paris home of Jean Le Viste, a nobleman who wants Nicolas to design a series of battle tapestries for his house. Jean’s wife, Geneviève, persuades Nicolas to talk her husband into a softer subject: the taming of a unicorn by a noblewoman. Nicolas shapes the tapestries with his own vision, dedicating five of the six to the senses and using the images of Geneviève and her daughter, Claude, with whom Nicolas is smitten, for two of the ladies in the tapestries.
Nicolas takes the finished designs to Brussels, where master weaver Georges de la Chapelle will make them. At first Nicolas is scornful of Georges, but gradually comes to respect him and his wife Christine, and to take an interest in his daughter Aliénor. Nicolas models two more of the ladies in the tapestries after Christine and Aliénor, but his heart lies with the unattainable Claude.
Several story strands are woven together through the design and making of these complex, seductive tapestries.
Chevalier, famous for her novel about Vermeer, focuses her attention here on the Flemish tapestries known as The Lady and The Unicorn. She introduces to the family who ordered them made and to the fictional characters of the cartoonist who made the drawings and the family of weavers who weaved them.
I really enjoyed knowing that she included real people in the novel. I love to go check who’s real and who’s not when I finish a book. And I also enjoyed the fact that she made us understand why people wanted tapestries, how long and how detailed was the work of weaving them and how important was the design. How people’s lives were affected by that tapestry and how each sees in the Tapestry something different. As each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view we are aware of what each of them thinks regarding the tapestry and its meaning.
The characters involved in the story come from different background and it’s the cartoonist, Nicolas des Innocents, who is the link between them all. He wasn’t a particularly likeable character with his unicorn story and his desire to bed most of the women he comes across. There’s an obvious connection between his story and the Unicorn in the tapestry but I must confess that my dislike of him coloured, in part, my appreciation of the story.
The Tapestry represents the 5 senses and the sixth is called A Mon Seul Desir and it is interesting in the end to see how Nicolas and Genevieve de Nanterre see different things in it. Isn’t that in fact the nature of art? To be a different experience for everyone?
Chevalier’s novel has many layers and it is interesting to appreciate also how she portrays the status of women in society, the relationship between the several women in each house, the professional relationships that the weavers maintain and value and a view of society as a whole.