Shortlisted for Book of the Month
England and Acquitaine
Serving a king must have been a trial in the olden days, especially when that king was Edward I. Sir Richard Burnel, cousin to the recently deceased Robert Burnel, the King's Chancellor, is ordered to go to Aquitaine to fight in the on-off wars against France. This despite the fact that Richard has a crippled leg and only one eye. Not that Edward will be there; he has troubles with the Welsh. And, to a lesser extent at this point, the Scots.
Inept leadership leads to the surrender of two cities and Richard is captured and held for ransom. But he is an impoverished knight – the family fortune having being frittered away before Richard ever set eye on any of it – and cannot afford the ransom.
And where does this leave poor Illesa, his wife and their two children? Begging favours for the money which is not forthcoming. There are two possibilities: Richard could turn traitor or Illesa could recover a special treasure to use to get her husband back. With her cousin Azalais of Dax and Gaspar a travelling player, they hatch a plan fraught with danger. But can they get Richard released before he is tempted to betray his king?
The novel moves along at a good pace and certainly at times I found myself reluctant to put it down for even such mundane things as life. Many might recognise this as the sequel to The Errant Hours and will welcome it, I'm sure. But here comes my only real criticism: I would have liked a little more of the back story incorporated into the narrative or dialogue; we do not know, for example, just how Richard got his injuries. The author does give a little piece of their history in a note prior to the beginning of the first chapter, but I did not feel it was enough to acquaint any new reader of the full details and therefore I would strongly recommend reading the first volume.
Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this and it will take its place on my 'keepers' shelf. The ending isn't quite conclusive (what will happen next?) which I hope leaves it open for a third in the series.
© Richard Tearle
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