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The Winter Siege

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,188 ratings  ·  542 reviews
A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England’s devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the
Hardcover, US, 357 pages
Published October 9th 2014 by Bantam
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Samantha Norman There will be another one. Having finished "Winter Siege" I've been inspired to continue the series and am working on the next one at the moment

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Sharon Bolton
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I’m not a great fan of historical fiction, but I loved the Adelia Aguilar books of Ariana Franklin. She avoided everything I dislike about the genre and wrote so vividly, with so much fun, creating characters that were real, lovable and enduring. And so, like many other Franklin fans, I’ve been eager for Ariana’s daughter, Samantha Norman, to finish her mother’s last novel.

First, the disappointment (for me, anyway). The Winter Siege is not an Adelia book, being set largely in 1141, around forty
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best British historical novels I have read and I have read many. This passionate, fast moving and atmospheric novel captures the brutality and horror of the civil war in England in the 12th century between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda.
The characters are deep and well rounded and you get caught up in the drama.
A Breton mercenary Gwil, fighting in the Cambridgeshire Fens stumbles across Emma, an eleven year old peasant girl who has been raped and severely hurt by a devil in a mo
First Sentence: It is a wood-paneled room of sumptuous size—the abbots of Perton have always done themselves well.

In 1141, England was engulfed in civil war between King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda over who would wear the crown. It is 1180 and a dying abbot has one last important task to accomplish. He summons a young scribe in order to document a much more personal story set during that backdrop and occurring during a long, brutal siege winter.

While readers were heartbroken by
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I loved Franklin's books, but I'm sorry to say that I couldn't finish this one. It adopts a contemporary tone in the dialogue especially which I found intensely irritating. Characters from the 12th century say things like 'Yuck' and 'Totally'. This sits oddly alongside the meticulous depiction of clothes etc of the time. It's riddled with anachronisms: for example, a character likens opposing soldiers to apes. And where would she have seen one? At the same time, there is a lot of heavy-handed hi ...more
Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~*
Setting: Medieval England

The story opens when Henry I dies without leaving a heir, and the country is sent into a state of anarchy which begins the story of the battle for the crown between Matilda and her cousin Stephan.
Em (a young peasant girl) is cornered by a troop of soldiers while out with her mother and sister.
Captured, brutalized, raped and left for dead, she is later found by Gwyl a bowman who nurses her back to health and although her body heals her mind is more reluctant.
With her ha
I've given this an A for both content and narration at AudioGals.

The Siege Winter is a superbly written and thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical fiction set in twelfth-century England at a time of great uncertainty and upheaval. The country is being torn apart by what is, in essence, a civil war between the supporters of the Empress Matilda (daughter of the late King Henry) and those of her cousin and Henry’s successor, King Stephen. The bulk of the tale is set between 1141 and 1143, but th
Dec 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded to 4. Very readable, engaging novel set in the 12th century civil war in England between Matilda and Stephen for the throne. A dying abbot relates the events of the novel to a scribe. The story involves a young girl, Emma, rescued after violation by an evil monk and left for dead, by a mercenary soldier, Gwil. She is disguised as a boy for protection, given the name Penda, and the two travel together. He teaches her archery and she becomes proficient. Matilda joins them and they make ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If given the choice to take it or leave it, I would have to leave this one behind. I love historical fiction and by that I mean full-throttle historical fiction. This was not that. I could possibly overlook the colloquial differences, but the 'telling' was just too contemporary for the time period given.

And oh the language. I don't mind gritty language, but this felt so gratuitous. It was a constant onslaught and it hardly even felt authentic. Everyone was always so angry.....I need more than j
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
The Winter Siege
by Ariana Franklin, Samantha Norman

A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England’s devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, not
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What fans of good historical fiction mysteries weren’t devastated to hear about the death of the writer Ariana Franklin (pen name of Diana Norman) in 2011? She did leave us a wonderful gift, however: a final novel, completed by her daughter Samantha Norman, and it is a very good work indeed.

This book is not part of the series featuring the medical examiner Adelia Aguilar but is a standalone novel in the same time period, i.e., the mid-12th Century, and also set in England.

During this era, Engla
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having read English historical fiction as a favorite for over 50 years, and probably 100's if not going into the 4 digit number of books, I have to post- that this author and this particular novel is one of the very best.

Outstanding. In its eye witnesses narrative, in its emotive nuance to identities, in its chronological order, and especially within its realistic and often brutal intensity of the devious crack that almost always exists in a long and viscous civil war.

The siege period under Maud
Mrs. Kay
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best historical fiction books I've read in a long time. After just finishing it I want to go back and re-read it again, just because...

I was apprehensive because I haven't been the biggest fan of Matilda in my studies, to be frank she wasn't a very good politician and many times could have won the war if she had been more of a tactician. This book was more aligned with the supporting characters and how the arena of war can turn men cold and women into heroines. It wasn't unti
Terri Wino
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: year-2017
Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death books are one of my favorite historical fiction series and her death left the story without a satisfying ending.
This book was not quite as enjoyable, but I did find it interesting enough. I liked the characters a lot, but found my attention wondering several times because I felt the story moved a little too slowly. I'm glad Ms. Franklin's daughter was able to finish this book so that readers could have one more taste of her work, even if it wasn't
I loved this book. I'm a big fan of historical fiction. I found it hard to put down. I look forward to reading another book of hers.

Not bad at all. I really enjoyed parts of it, but if you are looking for really good, authentic, medieval historical fiction, try Elizabeth Chadwick.

More review to come.
Melissa Etcheverry
Jan 12, 2013 marked it as to-read
I was sad to hear that Ariana Franklin had passed away. I hope they do her credit in this story; I would hate to see her legacy sullied.
The kind of book that reminds me why I love reading. Ariana Franklin will be greatly missed, though I look forward to reading her daughter's books.
Jo Barton
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
It’s 1141, and in the harsh and dangerous world of medieval England, the war between Stephen and Matilda gathers momentum. The people of the Cambridgeshire fens eke out a lowly living surrounded by convoluted rivers and reed beds, and bring up their children amongst the tree branches of willow and alder. Raising the four thousand eels needed to pacify the Bishop of Ely, and keeping the protection of St Ethelreda is their greatest worry, until the construction of a new castle for Hugh Bigod, the ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
Wow, I am on such a bad-book streak! I guess I was laboring under a misapprehension with this one. I thought it was an historical novel, but it's more of a Da Vinci Code- type "thriller" complete with evil monks and dashing knights. It's packed with cliches and strewn with anachronisms. 12th century characters say things like "thanks so much" and "keep your eyes peeled". Just say nay.
Jamie Collins
2.5 stars. This historical novel was started by Diana Norman (aka Ariana Franklin) and finished after her death by her daughter Samantha. It’s pleasant enough, but it’s not as good as the other Diana Norman books I’ve read. I very much like the historical mysteries she wrote as Ariana Franklin, which are set late in the reign of Henry II. (My only quibble with them is that Norman is the only historical novelist I have ever encountered who dislikes and disparages Eleanor of Aquitaine. That is ver ...more
Listening to this makes me realize how much I miss Arianna Franklin, author of the fabulous Mistress of the Art of Death series, who died before it was finished. She's such a good storyteller and gives us involving though flawed characters, compelling stories, lovely writing, and a real sense of time and place. This is set in 12th century England and employs 2 time lines to tell the tale. The Abbot of Perton Abbey is dying, but he has a story to tell and requests a copyist to record it. That's 1 ...more
Eva Müller
9% in is rather early for me to DNF something but I realised something:

There are so many better things to do than reading about the redemption-arc of a male character that is offset by him witnessing the rape of a female character.

Like looking at pictures of kittens.

Hilari Bell
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Atmospheric and wintry novel set during the Anarchy, which focuses events around a young traumatised girl, a mercenary soldier and a female castelaine - this is really rather moving at times.


A slow churning medieval mystery with several underlying plot lines. It was hard for a while to get into it, but then eventually it flowed nicely, and I enjoyed it more than other Ariana's mysteries.

I am a sucker for anything medieval, and the events took place in the castle that offered a certain hermetic feeling that I always found interesting.

I also liked that the book did not focus on the mystery per se, but it also explored the topics of rape and emotional trauma as well as gender rol
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before Winter Siege I’d actually only read one book by Ariana Franklin, to wit Mistress of the Art of Death . I loved that book, its setting and its characters and was sad to learn that had passed away only a few weeks before I read the book. When I later discovered that her daughter, Samantha Norman, had finished her last book and that it would still be published, I really wanted to read it, especially since it is set in a time period that holds a special place in my heart. The Anarchy, as t ...more
Bookish Ally
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars rounded up to 4 Taking place during the Anarchy - with the struggle for the crown between Steven and Mathilda raging (sometimes in the background and sometimes part of the storyline) during the time of William Marshal (not mentioned) , this book begins as a dying abbot has a story he must tell. As he tells it, he withers if it is, in part, what keeps him alive. Filled with knights and ordinary people, it is a tale of love and betrayal...of defilement and redemption.
Monica Hills
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent story set in the 1200s during the time of Empress Matilda and King Stephen. The story is told from the point of view of several different characters. I loved all of the characters and really enjoyed how they entwined together. I have enjoyed all of Ariana Franklin's books and this one was no exception.
James Fishwick
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, history
Fast-moving well-written historical fiction set in the Anarchy. A couple of fun twists and turns, a neatly resolved story, great description. Believable characters, men and women, used to explore historical gender roles.
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great historical fiction! I haven't read too many books set in this time period so the history was as interesting to me as the story itself. Gwyl and Penda are compelling protagonists, but Maud was my favorite character, somehow I really identified with her. Ariana Franklin did an excellent job of describing castle life and the intricate politics of the time period, I was as captivated by all of that as I was the drama of the main plot! I loved the relationships between all of the characters and ...more
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Ancient & Medieva...: APRIL 2015 (Group Read 2) Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin 99 101 Jun 22, 2015 07:26PM  

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Ariana Franklin was the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman had written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lived in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

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