Book of the Month
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Cover &Book of the month
Book of the Month
|Read our review|
“A family of minor nobility, comes of age in the perilous world of late 11th century France, where powerful noblemen massacre the other and innocents in unending petty warfare over lands and silver, despite the efforts of the Church to control their violence. Galien, educated for the priesthood, trained at arms and horse by his father and older brothers, all knights, finds his once-certain future as a high Church official compromised by family misfortunes. Through a series of often violent events, he discovers his own destiny as events in France and the distant Holy Land draw inexorably toward the great war of faiths known in history as the First Crusade.”
The huge list of characters, and other information (except for the map) at the beginning of this debut novel is a little overwhelming, especially as an e-book version. (Lists never go down well in e-books as it is not as easy to flip backwards and forward on a Kindle as it is with a paperback – I do wish authors would remember this!) However, once into the story proper, the narrative gets going nicely. The characters are well drawn, the plot well thought out and the action progresses at a decent pace. As far as I can tell the research was fairly well done, although I did spot some anachronisms and a few factual bloopers, plus some mild continuity errors within the plot– but not enough to spoil the reading experience. (I would suggest the author finds an good editor experienced in the period for his next publication.) There were also a few minor errors of grammar, punctuation etc, but I read a pre-publication ARC edition, so hopefully, these have been corrected in the final version.
What was particularly enjoyable was that the narrative covers the everyday life of the characters during the pre-Crusade period and during the events that led to that eventual Call To Arms. Presumably, the next in the series will continue with the next phase of this turbulent times. The author also focuses on the ordinary men (albeit the ‘Knight Class’ of men) rather than the usual point of view of the kings and nobility involved. It was somewhat refreshing to be down among the masses rather than in the leadership ranks. Interesting, too, to see how the traditions, etiquette and ‘chivalry’ of the knights began to emerge as the era and events progressed. Amis explores the complexity of life in the late eleventh century, avoiding the stereotypes of arrogant nobles or hard-done-by peasants.
In this debut novel the inexperience of the author does show in places, but there is promise here. Possibly an author to watch.
It is often with a certain amount of trepidation that a reader opens the second instalment of a series – will it be as engrossing, as enjoyable? Will the characters and the events of their lives be as believable as the previous novel? No worries about any of that with book two of the Linford Trilogy – The Flame Within. Actually, I would go as far as saying it was even a tad better than Book One because I had already met the characters – but this one could just as easily be a stand-alone story for anyone who has not yet read Book One.
Slightly different to the usual run of a series, this second book runs parallel to the first, a simultaneous telling of the story as it unfolds, rather than running onward as a consecutive ‘what happened next’. The drama, from the different point of view of the characters is very cleverly done.
Back in 1918 Alice fell in love with Thomas Linford while he was recovering from injuries received during WWI. In 1923, she is his wife, but things are going wrong for Alice. Thomas is finding it hard to adjust to his disabilities and he is in the depth of feeling sorry for himself, enhanced by his resentment that his brothers did not go to war and are not suffering like he is. Divorce in the 1920s was not really an option, and so, inevitably, Alice starts an affair. Which is when the problems get worse for Alice. No spoilers about what happens next, except Alice has the courage to pick herself up and turn her face to the future. I really liked Alice and several times felt like muttering, ‘You go girl! Good for you!” She is ambitious, determined and brave, but perhaps too trusting of those who lie, betray or try to manipulate her.
Alice herself is a delightful character, Thomas, and his family – successful London builders – the sort you automatically despise. And then there is Alice’s family ... all of them are characters that grab hold and cling on to the reader’s interest because they come across as so believably real. Some of them we like, some we don’t. Some we cheer for, some we hiss and boo.
Ms Harris’s research is impeccable, both of life in London during the Great War, and its aftermath, and in the poorer communities of Lancashire. Her style is eloquent and passionate from the first, opening line to the last.
If I had to compare this novel to something from popular fiction I would immediately cite Catherine Cookson... although with the caveat that I think Liz Harris is even better than ‘Our Kate’.
Have you the courage
to enter the world