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The Heaven Tree Trilogy

(Heaven Tree #1-3)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  991 ratings  ·  117 reviews
A trilogy of novels set in twelfth-century England and Wales--The Heaven Tree, The Green Branch, and The Scarlet Seed--chronicles the adventures of master stone carver Harry Talvace; Ralf Isambard, Lord of Parfois; and their two sons.

Set on the volatile, hotly disputed Welsh border, this full-bodied, swift-moving story of deadly politics, clashing armies, and private passi
Hardcover, 899 pages
Published October 1st 1993 by Warner Books (NY) (first published 1960)
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Kate Quinn
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the finest historical fiction novels out there. Technically it's three novels, but they all blur into one. The story revolves around a trio of people bound together in ways they don't understand: a ruthless English lord, his enigmatic Italian mistress, and the talented stonemason who builds the lord's cathedral. The characters are wonders. The stonemason hero is so pure and good he is nearly a saint, yet without ever being saccharine or unrealistic. The lord is a villain who earns ...more
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: medieval fiction
The first book in the trilogy, The Heaven Tree, tells the story of master stonemason Harry Talvace as he is hired by Ralf Isambard to build him a great cathedral at Parfois along the Welsh Marches. Isambard also brings courtesan Benedetta along with him as mistress, although he is unaware that Benedetta bears a lifelong unrequited love for Harry. Harry makes a desperate choice to save a child from hanging that has dire consequences for himself, his wife and Benedetta, although Harry returns to h ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you like the Brother Cadfael series by the same author, or Ken Follet's historical building books, then I suggest trying the first book of this series. For me the story is superior to the Follett epics. Would recommend, too, the fans of Sharon Penman's 'Here Be Dragons'
sample - page 188 :

"Harry went on foot through the town, downhill by the curving streets in the sharp, cool light of the morning. Nine years had not greatly changed Shrewsbury. The narrow shop-fronts between their dark, tim
Jul 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history lovers,
Shelves: fiction
I think I read the first book in the trilogy around 1993 or '94. Not sure when I finished them. Brilliant writing, profoundly moving, redemptive, thought-provoking. Takes place in the Middle Ages. Central character an artist of great integrity. Harder to find in this country. Edith Pargeter is the real name of Ellis Peters, author of the Brother Cadfael mysteries. The Heaven Tree was, by her admission, her best work, and I'd have to agree.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I bought these books in a bookstall in the Leeds train station in 1969, when I was 15, and they rocketed to the top of my favorites list, where they remain to this day. Fascinating characters, a great story. Until I discovered Dorothy Dunnett, these were the measuring stick by which I measured all other historical fiction.
Stephanie Ricker
Jul 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
For some reason, I didn’t really like it all that much until about 300 pages in. Around 600 pages, I started really enjoying it, and by the 800th page I was in love. I can’t put my finger on why I don’t love it as a whole, though. There’s something, some flaw or inconsistency that puts my teeth on edge and keeps me from loving it the way I love that type of book. The only thing I can come up with is that Pargeter reminds me of my own writing (though hers is obviously better). She used the same p ...more
This is a rich trilogy, full of powerful themes, genuine wisdom and historical references.

As I finished it, I was pondering Pargeter's examination of paradox. This series is about:
life and death
defeat and victory
betrayal and loyalty
honor and wickedness
revenge and forgiveness
suffering and joy
despair and hope
creation and destruction
endings and regeneration
royalty and tradesman
nobility and servants
feeling and reason
truth and falsehood
captivity and freedom.

Additional themes are politics, personal a
AnneKristine Norris
Aug 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This trilogy had all my favorite things. History of Wales and England during the turbulent 13th century, stone masons building a church much like Pillars of the Earth, characters you either hated or loved, and each edition left me needing to pick up the next book to see what happened. I even liked the way it ended, weaving together all of the pieces rather seamlessly. I loved it.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read this quite recently which is amazing since I read other Edith Pargeter works when her books were more contemporary. I loved this trilogy - I bought each book separately from picking one up in a charity shop. the beauty of the words, the romance, that harshness of the times - wondrous stuff.. the books are on my shelf for me to re-discover in a few years time...
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mediaeval history buffs (early 13th century)
Recommended to Marguerite by: It was a lucky find at a used book sale.
The Heaven Tree was vivid with excellent characterization, esp. the resourceful Benedetta. It was also an emontional bungee jump, so I need a pause to catch my breath before going on to The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed. I hope the second and third novels match the first in breadth.

Update, June 31, 2011. The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed delivered just as much intrigue and suspense in a harsh yet rich medievalsetting as did The Heaven Tree. What I truly appreciate about this trilogy is
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have no words. This book is intense, deep, and enveloping- passionate, rich, and indescribably wonderful. Any lover of Tolkien, fan of historical fiction, or romantic should read it. Simple as that.
May 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The three books which made up the trilogy are bound in one volume. This is a story of the Middle Ages, when great cathedrals were being built all over Europe. The story begins with a stone mason who is very talented and his best friend. Thefirst book is set mostly in France, where they meet a nobleman who hires them to build a cathedral for his estate in England. This is the England of King John who ruled when Richard the Lionhearted was off on the crusades. It is a cruel, merciless period in hi ...more
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
4.5 stars. 1200-1235 England. A war on the border of Wales and England. An autocratic tyrant of a lord hires a creative genius to build a cathedral for him. This is the story of Harry the sculptor and stone mason; Isambard, the lord of Parfois, a medieval castle at the border of Wales, and Madonna Bennedetta, the beautiful woman loved by Isambard who loves Harry. A rather routine love triangle, a story that is anything but routine. The three books tell the story of them, and then Harry's son; th ...more
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
This trilogy takes the entire first book to get into the story. It's beautiful and sometimes shocking. In a nutshell it's the story of a young man's "duty" to avenge his father's blood. But he finds himself surprisingly held back from doing so.
The book's strongest point besides just being fascinating, is how it shows how human hatred and vengeance can be - they falter, they can be indecisive, they can flare up violently over the most foolish things.
Worthwhile, which is good, cuz it takes a while
Ash H.
Oct 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a trilogy set in medieval England, the chaotic rule of King John.
These are a series of exceptional novels and the characters stay with you as any well remembered individual you met in real life. It is that evocative, that beautifully written and that haunting.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I don't re-read books too often, but this is one I need to revisit, perhaps in its audiobook version. One of the best historical fiction books (by one of the best historical fiction authors, also known as Ellis Peters -- the Cadfael mysteries were written by her) I can think of.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
The writing in this historical novel was beautiful and engaging, and the characters were vivid. The setting—the Welsh border of England during the reign of King John—provided plenty of tension and violence to carry the plot. I loved the first third of the book and wished it had continued in a similar vein throughout.

What I didn’t love, however, was the too-good-to-be-true goodness of Harry, the hero of the story, whose only “flaw” seems to be his sense of compassionate justice that sets him at
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Overall, this trilogy was an engaging story with great characterization and faithful to historical events. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Page 378

I loved the first book in this trilogy.
The historical setting is England in the 13th century, the background of Welsh unrest is familiar to me, having read Here be Dragons in 2017. There the POV was from the Welsh side and the story focused on Llewelyn, the rebel prince of Wales. It was good to see the situation from the other side of the conflict (from the Eng
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was my second time reading this trilogy, which has a permanent place on our bookshelves. Edith Pargeter, best known for her Brother Cadfael mysteries written under the nom de plume Ellison Peters, was nothing if not a romantic. The trilogy (The Heaven Tree; The Green Branch; The Scarlet Seed) is set in the English march country and Wales in the first 30 or so years of the 13th century and it follows the lives of an English nobleman who becomes a stone mason/builder, his foster-brother, a Ve ...more
Jerrie Brock
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites. Sometimes difficult to read, sometimes a pure pleasure. History sort of bent around a story, but well worth it. The general events are accurate for the time and the real life characters inserted, so the creative license to fit them to a well written story is perfectly legitimate. Its moving because it is a story of learning to understand the differences in all of us and the self-imposed goals we place on ourselves. They don't always turn out the way we want them to, and some ...more
Frank Peters
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter is an excellent set of books. I was completely unable to put it down. Even when flying, I had no interest in watching a movie as the book was much more riveting. The book is historical fiction based in 13th century England and Wales. It is full of adventure but not an adventure story, has romance without being a romance and mystery without being a mystery. The characters are real, deeply flawed yet likeable. The plot line has elements that are too predic ...more
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my friends just noticed that I "always recommend long books," and this would fit that bill at ~800 pages. But it's worth it if you like art and are interested in medieval-era history. This is the story of two stone carvers, one free and one a slave, who grow up as best friends and then have to contend with reality when they realize one can go wherever he likes and the other can lose his hand for a mistake. So they (Harry and Adam) run away and help build Notre Dame ... and have other adve ...more
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeous story set in England and Wales in the 13th century. The first book in the trilogy was originally meant to be the whole story, and it could stand by itself...but I'm glad it doesn't. The story follows Harry Talvace, a young man of a good Norman family in England, who renounces his heritage to become a mason and becomes entangled in a love triangle when he agrees to build a church for the English nobleman Ralf Isambard. The history and politics of England and its relations with ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This book takes place in the 1200's in England, and Wales. It follows a young Mason through his life, and then his son. It is a historical fiction that has a lot of political view points of England vs. Wales, and some French in there as well. There is also a lot of war and battles in the book. I enjoyed the raw emotions of the characters they most out of the book. There is tragedy, and well as joy.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Dorothy Dunnett and Jean Plaidy
Recommended to Kate by: Sue Henry
One of those books that makes you think about calling in sick you can stay home and read. I didn't think the second and third books quite held up to the promise of the first (and they contained much more tedious political maneuvering), but still kept me riveted right to the end. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, and he first few pages are a bit tough while you adjust to the language and figure out the relationships, but I highly recommend sticking with it.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written story set in 13th century on the border between England and Wales. It is filled with memorable characters include Master Stone Mason Harry Talvace, Lord Ralph Isambard, Madonna Benedetta, England's King John, and Llewelyn the Great of Wales. The story continues through The Heaven Tree, The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed and will be an excellent choice for readers of historical fiction.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Although I couldn't always follow much of the battle and court issues (the "olde" English was a little hard to follow), I though all 3 books were great. I don't think they should be read separately, or out of order, though.
These were about Harry, Adam, their friends and family--stone cutters around 1200 AD, with King John and his son, King Henry.
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of my all time favorites. More than ten years later, the characters are still alive in my imagination. Love, intrigue, medieval culture, and artisan's compulsion to follow his vision combined for a long and fascinating read.
Elaine Lortz
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've always enjoyed Brother Cadfael mysteries, so I was keen to give this book by the same author (under a different name) a try. It was wonderful, truly fabulous. It's the sort of book that will take up residence in my mind and add a new dimension to many things for me from here on out.
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a trilogy set in the middle ages about a stone cutter who works on cathedrals. Great characters. It's one of those books that you hate to see end.
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aka Peter Benedict, Jolyon Carr, Ellis Peters (later editions of her work are sometimes published under this pseudonym), and John Redfern

West Midlands Literary Heritage website biography

Novelist. Born September 1913 at Horsehay, Shropshire. Her father was a clerk at a local ironworks. Edith attended Dawley Church of England School and the Coalbrookdale High School for Girls. Through her mother,

Other books in the series

Heaven Tree (3 books)
  • The Heaven Tree (Heaven Tree, #1)
  • The Green Branch (Heaven Tree, #2)
  • The Scarlet Seed (Heaven Tree, #3)

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“Learn humility, while there's yet time--': those were the last of the abbot's words he had waited to hear. All very well, he thought, to be humble in accepting one's own pain and deprivation, perhaps, but what right have I, what right has he, to make a virtue of meekness when it will be Adam who suffers? I call that cheap humility.” 2 likes
“Should I come to you, Father, with anything that made me ashamed? What do I matter? What's honour to me? My honour is to keep her from harm and from grief. I have no other; I want none.” 1 likes
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