LJ's Reviews > Fitzempress' Law

Fitzempress' Law by Diana Norman
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Oct 08, 2008

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bookshelves: 1100s, contemporary_post_1945, england, female_author, historical, mystery, time_travel
Read in September, 2008

FITZEMPRESS’ LAW (Hist/Mys/TT-Len, Pete, Sal-England-Cont/1100s) – G+
Norman, Diana (aka Ariana Franklin) – 1st novel
St. Martin’s Press, 1980, US Hardcover – ISBN: 0312294190

First Sentence: “Whassat?”

Three contemporary teens set upon an elderly woman who curses them that they must use the law to save their souls. An accident results with their bodies lying in a coma in hospital while their souls have been transported back to the time of Henry II (Fitzempress).

Len, an orphan, is now Aluric, a peasant with an eccentric mother, finds himself drawn to education and wanting to become a monk. Pete, always the follower, is now Sr. Roger of Mardleybury, a knight who has been cheated out of his father’s land. Sal, forgotten in her divorced parents moving on with their lives, is Hawise, whose betrothal broken and is being forced, against her will, to take the vows of a nun.

While this book involves both time travel and a mystery, it is primarily a novel about the challenges of living during the 12th Century during the time of Henry II. At that aspect of the story, Norman/Franklin excels.

The author’s descriptions are vivid and real. This is a time when superstition, paganism and the Church rule the lives of the people and murder of Beckett is laid at Henry’s feet as the reason for anything going wrong. The injustices against the poor, the Jews and, in fact, anyone who has less power and/or money than someone else are starkly depicted, but not without humor and humanity.

The characters, in their past lives, are fully-dimensional with the backstories of those characters. We learn more about Len and Pete than we do Sal, but each is interesting and involving.

What does not work as well, for me, is the time-travel from the aspect that the characters have no transitional issues acclimating to the medieval time or language or that they give very little thought to their past. The biggest issue I have, however, is with the very end of the book, which is abrupt and, in some ways, makes no sense with the rest of the story.

I enjoyed the book; I loved the realism, the history and that Henry is shown for all the innovations he made in law that have impacted our lives today. This was her first book and she certainly has come a long way from here to “Mistress of the Art of Death,” and “The Serpent’s Tale” so perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh. If you can overlook the weaknesses, it is well worth reading.
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