Monday, 15 December 2008

Medieval Christmas

Medieval artist Giotto's Christmas scene in the Capella degli Scrovegni, Padova, Italy.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Death Comes As Epiphany - Sharan Newman

A medievalist breathes life and vigour into the scholastic debates and religious controversies of 12th-century France in this entrancing mystery debut. Catherine LeVendeur, a young novice and scholar at the Convent of the Paraclete, is sent by the Abbess Heloise on a perilous mission to find out who is trying to destroy the reputation of the convent and, through it, that of the abbess's onetime lover and patron, theologian Peter Abelard. A Psalter created at the convent and given as a gift to the powerful abbot Suger of Saint-Denis is later rumoured to contain heretical statements in its accompanying commentaries. Catherine, in the role of a disgraced novice, must find the book and copy the disputed passages to determine if they are forgeries. Further complicating her search, Saint-Denis's master stonemason, Garnulf, is murdered, a crime which may be tied to the sinister hermit Aleran and the rebuilding of the splendid Abbey of Saint-Denis. Re-entering worldly life, the young novice must face both her sometimes disapproving family and her attraction to Garnulf's mysterious apprentice, Edgar.

There were several things attractive to me in this book, it’s a medieval, it’s a mystery and it features Abelard and Heloise as secondary characters. I was looking forward to see how Newman would develop the story and I wasn’t disappointed.
Catherine Levendeur is a young novice at the Convent of the Paraclete, she isn’t as humble and well behaved as she could be but she believes she has a true vocation as the convent is the only place where she can pursue her studies. The convent seems to be under attack though and the Abbess Heloise asks Catherine to go back home to investigate who is trying to close them down. We get a glimpse of her life in the convent and, after she goes home, of the everyday life in the middle ages, the relationship with god and the divine... Newman doesn’t shy away from showing the good and bad parts of medieval living, not to mention the prejudices against women and other religions. In her quest to discover who falsified a Psalter from the convent Catherine has the help of Edgar, a young man who worked in the construction of the new abbey and has a few secrets to hide. Her relationship with him is interesting and full of tension; both seem a bit unaware at first of what is going on with them.
It’s obvious that Newman has a strong medieval background and can make the story and the characters come alive like no one. While a woman of her time Catherine knows the choices she can make and doesn’t hesitate to change the course of her life and go in search of her happiness even against her family’s wishes. Abelard and Heloise are not a big part of the story but what we get was enough for me to be interested and the setting of medieval France sounded like a breath of fresh air after so many books set in England (not that those are bad of course). Now I’m very interested in knowing what more life has in store for Catherine.

Grade: 4.5/5

Monday, 8 December 2008

THE LANTERN BEARERS by Rosemary Sutcliff

Whenever you read a story written by this author, you know that you will be transported back to the historical period and be able to visualise the events.
This book is set in the period of the last days of the Romans in Britain, and the character,Aquila, a young Roman Officer,has his loyalty challenged (by himself). Does he set said with the Legion or stay in Britain and return to his father and sister.
His decision to remain, leads to his capture by the Saxons, who kill his father and abduct his sister, Flavia. He is held as a Thrall by the Saxons for a few years, and eventually meets up with his sister, who is now married to one of the Saxon chiefs, and has a child.
Flavia helps him escape and he finds his way across the country, and joins with Ambrosius, who wants to unite Britain.
So we are swept along with the events taking place in this era.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Cruel as the Grave ~ Sharon Kay Penman

Justin de Quincy is back again in the 2nd book of this medieval series. Justin is called upon by a friend to solve the murder of a 15-year old Welsh girl Melangell who was killed in the church graveyard. The accused are two brothers who seem to be hiding something are not helpful in solving the mystery of this young girl. The father also seems to be hiding something. Again Justin has his work cut out for him to find a killer and the reason why.

It is April 1193 and Justin is summoned back to court by Eleanor of Aquitaine while Richard the Lionheart sets in a German prison his younger brother John seizes Windsor Castle and the Queen ask Justin to undertake a dangerous mission by asking him to mediate a truce with John. Also, Justin discovers that Claudine de Loudun is with child and she wants to abort the child with special herbs, not sure what to do Justin confides in the Queen, which upsets Claudine. The Queen arranges for Claudine to leave and have the child and home found for the child.

I do not read many mystery's, but the clues that Justin was able to discover and how he unraveled those clues were interesting. Although, not a terrible read was not as good as the first book and I was not impressed with the discovery of the killer. Many of the same characters return in this book, which I enjoyed.

The Queen's Man ~ Sharon Kay Penman

1st Book of the Justin de Quincy Series

New author for me and I am pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed the story. This is the first book in a series that begins in 1192 with the main character Justin de Quincy who grew up as an orphan and was taught by a high ranking bishop who paid for his education, housing etc. During his search for his mother he discovers the bishop is his father.

Justin sets out to find his fate in the world, when he stumbles upon an ambush where he witnesses a murder. As the goldsmith lies dying he ask Justin to deliver a message to Queen Eleanor. Once he delivers the letter the Queen becomes worried her son King Richard the Lionheart has been missing for a couple of months and her youngest son John is plotting to take over the throne.

Queen Eleanor is impressed with Justin and asks him to identify the killer(s). He gladly accepts the task. Justin returns to the town of the goldsmith to begin his investigation, here he discovers some interesting characters. Who can he really trust?

The book is well written nice quick read, very little romance, nice plot and some twists. I am looking forward to reading the remaining 3 books in the series

~Melanie's List~

I am going for *Royalty* the books I plan to read (or have read)
1. The Queen's Man by Sharon Kay Penman (9/17/08)
2. Cruel As the Grave by Sharon Kay Penman (10/14/08)
3. Dragon's Lair by Sharon Kay Penman (11/30/08)
4. Prince of Darkness by Sharon Kay Penman
5. The Falcons of Montabard or A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick
6. Undecided

Great challenge.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

HERSELF by Fay Sampson

This is the last book in the series - Daughter of Tintagel

I have to confess to skipping through the pages.
Disappointed in the way this last tale unfolded as it was excerpts from the old history tales, interwoven into the story (as told by Morgan).
Lost the gist of the story line and it seemed to be a rehash of parts from the previous books.
I wonder whether my disappointment stems from the tales we have been fed over the years about Arthur and Merlyn, and also Morgan, which fantasised and glorified these namesakes.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Alex's List

I completely forgot to post my list here but I already started the challenge.:)

After many hesitations I decided to go for Royalty:

- Maid Marian by Elsa Watson
- Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
- Shields of Pride by Elizabeth Chadwick
- Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
- Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph and Frances Gies
- The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

Thanks for organizing this challenge!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

House of Shadows (Medieval Murderers Group 3) by The Medieval Murderers

House of Shadows (Medieval Murderers Group 3) by The Medieval Murderers

Amazon UK synopsis:
'Bermondsey Priory, 1114. A young chaplain succumbs to the temptations of the flesh - and suffers a gruesome punishment. From that moment, the monastery is cursed and over the next five hundred years murder and treachery abound within its hallowed walls. A beautiful young bride found dead two days before her wedding. A ghostly figure that warns of impending doom. A plot to deposes King Edward II. Mad monks and errant priests ...even the poet Chaucer finds himself drawn into the dark deeds and violent death which pervade this unhappy place. '

5 Medieval mystery stories, between 1114 and 1163, set in the mysterious Bermonsey Priory on the outskirts of London.
Writers Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, and Philip Gooden, each spin a tale centring on the abbey and the curse that is said to haunt it.
At the end the true nature of the curse is revealed.

A good selection of mystery stories, the book also gives you a taste of each writers styles.


this is Book 4 of the Daughter of Tintagel series.

Taliesin is appointed as Chief Bard to King Urien - Morgan's husband, and he is captured in her spell, like many other people.
This story brings out even more, the bitter conflict between Morgan and Arthur, and all is not as it seems in the marriage of Arthur and Gwenhyvar.
The narration of the tale is by Taliesin, and I am finding this method a bit disjointed at times.
You would need to read the other stories in sequence to be able to determine how each of the players fit into the overall story.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Relics by Pip Vaughan-Hughes

Relics by Pip Vaughan-Hughes

Set in the 13th Century, the novel centres around the main character Brother Petroc, a novice monk from Balcester. Unwittingly he is duped into stealing a relic and is framed for a murder he doesn't commit, ending up on the run from the authorities and the real murderer.
Fleeing for his life he runs to his former mentor a Brother librarian who directs him to the the enigmatic Captain de Montalhac and his crew of pirates, who sail him away from immanent danger.
The novel then spins a tale of relic hunters, conspiracies and a Greek princess.......

Although this novel has had good reviews I was disappointed with it.
It started off well but once it got aboard ship and the princess was introduced it became a little too fanciful for me.

Black Smith's Telling by Fay SAMPSON

Book 3 of the Daughters of Tintagel series and this story tells of Teilo Smith - another person who becomes beholden to Morgan - poor Teilo, he used to be a powerful (Black)Smith and master of the old ways. But he is drawn to Morgan and in the process loses his wife, due to her being accidently poisoned. He had made a potion to give to someone else, and his wife has touched the bowls. His daughter leaves home and Morgan then places a spell on him , so that he has to live the rest of his wife, dressed as a woman and carrying out women's roles.
Morgan's sisters" - Elaine and Morgawse are also dangerous and want revenge on Arthur.

We read also of Arthur's rise in power - but where is Merlyn. No doubt we will be told in the following books.

I have always had a fascination with Arthurian tales, and am enjoying these books.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin

The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin

published as The Serpents Tale in the USA - see Marg's review here

Thanks to Marg I hunted out this book from my local library.
I loved it ....just as I loved the first book Mistress of the Art of Death
Well written characters, lots of history, great women's roles.


Ana O.'s Medieval List

I too am aiming for Royalty and my choices are:

- The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
- The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick
- Shield of Three Lions by Pamela Kaufman
- The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
- Masques of Gold by Roberta Gellis
- Hood by Stephen Lawhead

Thanks for having me here! :-)

My Reading List for The Challenge

I'm aiming for Royalty so I selected 6 books to read:

Elizabeth Chadwick - The Marsh King's Daughter

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - The Dark Rose

Paul M. Kendall - Yorkist Age, Daily Life During The Wars of The Roses

Sarah Bower - The Needle in The Blood

Roberta Gellis - A Tapestry of Dreams

Sharan Newman - Death Comes as Epiphany

Hopefully I'll be able to sneak one or two more...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.

Already an international literary sensation, the Gargoyle is anInferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.

I don't actually tend to take much notice of holidays, and that is even more true when it is a holiday that we don't actually celebrate here. It was therefore a bit of a surprise to find myself reading not one but two books that are perfect Halloween reads. The first is a short story collection called Many Bloody Returns featuring vampires and birthdays stories from lots of different writers, and the other was this book.

From the very early pages, it is clear that our main character is one that most people would not want to befriend. Ironically enough, prior to his accident he was, physically at least, someone that would be considered very attractive - young, wealthy, attractive. After a terrible childhood, he drifts into a world filled with pornography and drugs, until he is driven as opposed to drifting in this world. After his accident, his is no longer physically attractive because of his terrible scarring, an irony that is not lost on him or anyone else.

This isn't a book for the faint of heart. The first few pages are nothing but graphic, as our main character, who remains nameless throughout the whole novel, has a terrible car crash.
We meet him a few seconds before as he drives along a cliff top road, influenced by drugs and alcohol. We ride in the car as it rolls down the hillside, as the flames engulfs, as he is rescued and taken to hospital and as he realises the full extent of his terrible injuries. I started reading this book on the train, and I was actually wincing at some of the parts, particularly where he talked about what happened to one of his feet.

And yet despite the gruesomeness of the descriptions, the writing is multi layered with moments of macabre comedy, beautiful tenderness, and incredible depth. The writing is not perfect - there are moments when tenses slip - but it is definitely compelling.

When our burns victim meets Marianne Engel, he is caught up in the whirlwind of energy that she brings with her, almost manic at times. He does not know her, but she is insistent that they have known each other for hundreds of years and she proceeds throughout the rest of the book to tell him their story. She also tells other stories, of ultimate love stories set in Iceland, Japan and England through the years. The story she tells is completely fantastical, and whilst there is some evidence to suggest that people are right to question Marianne's mental stability, our main character finds himself becoming less suicidal, less emotionally restricted and more open to new friendships around him due to her influence.

This book has so many layers - it is definitely a love story, there are fantasy elements, particularly in the latter stages of the book, it is a historical essay on the production of books in medieval abbeys, and a tribute to Dante's Inferno with side trips into mysticism and other historical detail. In lesser hands this could have become tangled and we could have been left with an unsatisfactory mess. Luckily for the reader, Davidson is skilled, and instead we end up with an infinitely readable, complicated and beautiful novel. A strong love story bound in fascinating detail.

Love is an action you must repeat ceaselessly.

This is a very assured debut novel. I can't wait to see what Andrew Davidson comes up with next.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick

One woman forced to make a heartbreaking sacrifice...

When Roger Bigod, heir to the powerful earldom of Norfolk, arrives at court in 1177 to settle a bitter inheritance dispute with his half-brothers, he encounters Ida de Tosney, young mistress to King Henry II. A victim of Henry's seduction and the mother of his son, Ida is attracted to Roger and sees in him a chance of lasting security beyond the fickle dazzle of her current life; but in deciding to marry Roger, she is forced to make a choice.

As Roger's importance as a mainstay of the Angevin government grows, it puts an increasing strain on his marriage. Ida is deeply unhappy with the life she has to live in his absence and grieving for her losses. Against a volatile political background the gulf between them threatens to widen beyond crossing, especially when so many bridges have already been burned.

With so many new books coming out all the time, there are lots of authors that I am pleased to hear have new releases coming up, and then there are the authors that I am genuinely excited about new books from. Among the latter category is British author Elizabeth Chadwick. A quick look through my archives at any of the reviews for her books will confirm just how much I really enjoy them. Luckily for me, she once again has not let her readers down with this excellent novel about the life of a medieval couple trying to walk the narrow path between serving those troublesome Plantagenets and their own happiness.

Our main characters are Ida de Rosnay and Roger Bigod. Whilst still a very young woman, Ida makes her debut at court as one of King Henry II's wards, and very quickly catches his eye for much more earthly reasons. Whilst Ida is aware that it is a great honour to be the King's mistress, she is also aware that she is now damaged goods in terms of the marriage market, even though Henry has promised to look after her, especially once she gives birth to his son.

Enter Roger Bigod, a man who is in the middle of a fight for his inheritance and therefore has to do everything that he can to stay on the good side of Henry, so feeling an attraction to the king's mistress is probably not a great place to be! Like so many of Elizabeth Chadwick's other leading men, Roger is a man of honour, determined to do what is right. In fact, one of those other leading men, William Marshal, is one of Roger's friends and allies. It was interesting to see some of the events that were covered in William's books from an outside point of view. Anyway, back to Roger. What makes him unusual compared to so many of his contemporaries is his treatment of women. There are no dalliances with the court ladies, noble or otherwise, and he never loses sight of what his goals are. He has a determination that comes from knowing what it is that he wants, and doing everything he can to get it.

For Roger and Ida the chance to be together is a chance at happiness despite the odds, but it comes at a terrible price - one that continues to be paid by Ida year upon year. As Roger is called to perform task after task for the Plantagenet kings, always hoping that this time will be enough to have his full inheritance restored to him. There is always a chance, however, that spending all his time and energy in the fight for his entitlements that Roger may well lose something far more important to him.

What this author is really good at is balance. Whilst her books are definitely historical fiction of the highest order, there is an underlying romance as well. There is some sex in her books, but she knows how much detail to give and how much to leave up to the reader's imagination!

With lots of detail and colour, Chadwick knows how to bring the past to life vividly, but doesn't let the detail get in the way of a really good story. She also manages to include something new to me in all of her books! In this case, it was about jousting in the middle of the River Thames. If I was younger and fitter, a man (oh and alive in the 1100s), then river jousting sounds like a lot of fun!

If you haven't yet, read Chadwick, add her to your TBR list. Her books may be difficult to track down in the US, it is well worth the effort of getting them from either Amazon Canada or The Book Depository.

So, the only question left to ask really is when is the next book out?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin

In twelfth-century England, one remarkable woman is trained to uncover the final secrets of the dead.

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonising death by poison - and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund's murder is the first move in Eleanor's long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth.

Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter. But Henry's summons can not be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king's trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of Saint Albans, who is also her baby's father.

Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan's home, a tower within a walled maze - a strange and sinister place from the outside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia's investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund's rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken to the nunnery in Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries.

Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia watchs as dead bodies begin piling up. The murders are somehow connected with Rosamund's demise. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war.
It's fair to say that I really enjoy the work of British author Diana Norman, whether we are talking about the straight historical novels that she publishes under that name, or the historical mysteries that she has started to write under the pen name of Ariana Franklin.

With the character of Adelia Aguilar, we have a character who can take us to the heart of a medieval murder, in the same way that we can see when we watch TV series like CSI. She has been specially trained in the medical schools of Italy to investigate the hows and whys of peoples deaths. In the previous book in the series (Mistress of the Art of Death), Adelia found herself in King Henry II's England, and with this book she is summoned again by the king himself to investigate and see whether his beloved mistress, Rosamund Clifford, may have been murdered, even though she lives in a tower in the middle of a barely accessible maze.

What complicates the investigation this time is that Adelia not only has to look after her own safety, and the safety of her friends, but also that of her daughter. She is being accompanied during her investigation Rowley Picot, a man of many masks - the King's trusted fixer, Bishop, Adelia's ex lover, and father of her child.

For me, one of the strongest parts of this novel was when all the characters were snowed in together for a good length of time. With everyone eager to impress Queen Eleanor who has unexpectedly arrived, and who is looking to start an uprising against her husband for her own reasons, life in a small community is difficult enough, let alone when you are trying to investigate a crime, and keep the Queen happy at the same time.

There is less of the investigation aspect used in this novel, and more interaction with the other characters, most of them have more than one agenda. As the body count grows, Adelia must protect her people, untangle the complicated relationships, and find the murderers of a several people.

I know that there are people who have read the first novel for whom the relationship with Rowley didn't really work, but it really doesn't bother me. I like that there is a chance for Adelia to be loved for the strong and intelligent woman that she is, even if it is a love that has to be constrained by time, distance and circumstance. It probably helps that I like Rowley a lot.

Overall, another fun read, from a fine historical author. I look forward to reading Grave Goods, the third book in the series, which is due to be released in March 2009. It is probably worth mentioning that this book has also been released under a different title in some countries - Death Maze.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

The story takes place in Medieval Cambridge, where several children have been taken and brutally killed. The local Jews have been blamed and take refuge inside the towns castle.
King Henry calls on the King of Sicily to send one of his investigators to try and solve the mystery, along with a renowned doctor. Only this doctor is a woman and the Mistress of the Art of Death.
Together these two, along with her Saracen man servant and King Henry's 'fixer', uncover who the brutal killer is, but not before endangering all their lives

.A well researched and well written mystery.
Loved it.
I'm hoping for further novels.

TIMELINE by Michael Crichton

The story starts in the opening of the 21st century, when a man is found wandering in the Californian desert, totally disorientated. The couple who find the man take him to the hospital, where he dies.
But the doctor is puzzled after doing an MRI scan and we discover that the deam man, Traub, had been employed by ITC - a big company working on quantam physics.
In short, the company has been testing equipment to return people back into history.

We are then moved to a historical excavation in France, around the Dordogne River. The dig is being funded by ITC. When the Professor in charge is ordered back to the States for a meeting with the Company Chairman, the tale gets interesting, especially when the Professor makes a trip back in time and gets stranded. The place is where he has been working with a team of other archeologists. Other members of the team are then "asked" to to back and locate the Professor.

This was an interesting read - taking in the conflicts that were being waged at the time (1400's) and we are told how the Middle Ages were not a Dark part of history, but a time when many advancements were being made.

The students are an interesting mix of personalities and they have to cope with life as it was in that era.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Name of the Rose (Vintage Classics) by Umberto Eco

The Name of the Rose (Vintage Classics) by Umberto Eco

Amazon Synopsis:
'The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, "The Name of the Rose" is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages. '

I loved this novel.
I'd seen the film years ago, but it just doesn't do the book justice.
You learn so much about the middle ages and monastic society.
Brother William is a wonderful character too.

Monday, 20 October 2008


This is Book 2 in the sequence - Daughter of Tintagel

I had to wait a while for this book, as my local library did not have a copy.
And I like to read the books in order as well.

This story follows on with the tale of Morgan, who has been banished to Tintagel, after she tried to kill her brother, Arthur.
The nuns at Tintagel are to look after her and see to her education, but if she leaves Tintagel, she will be killed. This order is by Uther Pendragon, her stepfather.
We are brought into the story by Luned, a nun, and herself a bit of an outcast. Morgan is given into her care and shares Luned's small cell for nigh on 8 years.
Luned is not strong minded and cannot control the determined ways of Morgan, who gives the impression of being on a path to destruction.
Given the setting in Cornwall and the era, the old ways are still practised, though Christianity is evident.
Morgan's old nurse Gwennol Far Sight keeps in contact and introduces Morgan into the old ceremonies.
Luned must follow Morgan everywhere and witnesses the events, and also is dragged into one of them. The result being that she becomes pregnant (she is very ignorant of her body and does not know of this, until she gives birth).
By then she has lost the respect of the other nuns, and is sent away from the convent and makes her way to Bossiney, the former home of Morgan.
Gwnnol Far Sight then proceeds to instruct Lunel into the old ways.

The character of Morgan is one of uttr deviousness, and taking control of others.
Hatred of her family breeds these feelings.

The story concludes with Morgan being married and I am keen to read the next book in the series.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The First Princess of Wales

When the lovely and high-spirited Joan of Kent is sent to this politically charged court, she is woefully unprepared for the underhanded maneuverings of her peers. Determined to increase the breadth of his rule, the king will use any means necessary to gain control of France—including manipulating his own son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Joan plots to become involved with the prince to scandalize the royal family, for she has learned they engineered her father’s downfall and death. But what begins as a calculated strategy soon—to Joan’s surprise—grows into love. When Joan learns that Edward returns her feelings, she is soon fighting her own, for how can she love the man that ruined her family? And, if she does, what will be the cost?My thoughts: Karen Harper's Story of Joan of Kent was an ok read at sometimes the book seemed to drag on and I didnt feel that I was really being entertained at all.It wasn't one of my favorites but I may hold on to the book and reread it in the future to see if my views change.

The Other Queen By Philippa Gregory

The long awaited story of Mary Queen of scots by Philippa Gregory has arrived but it left alot of things desired. Gregory chose to tell the story of the capture of Mary Queen of Scots using the Three first person views. Bess of Hardwick and Her husband The Earl of Shrewsbury and The Queen of Scotland. With only three or four pages dedicated to each character it was really hard to become engaged in the story. The characters were flat to me they didn't have any real personalities I felt like I was reading notes that they left behind. I was really disappointed in this book i expected more of "bang" for the end of the Tudor series but this was a complete disaster for any Philippa Gregory fan.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

I loved this book ... I'm a huge fan of traditional epic tales, and Crichton's reworking of Beowulf didn't fail to impress.

'Written' by Ibn Fadlan, emissary of a Caliph, it tells the tale of his journey with a group of Northmen / Norsemen who return home when summoned by Rothgar to help defeat the Wendol who keep terrorising villages.
The leader Buliwyf (Beowulf) and his men faced the fierce hairy savage wendol (Grendel), their snake haired mother who lives in a cave, and the fire serpent (the wendols with torches snaking down the hillside).
Fierce battles, Viking lifestyle, an Arab emissary, and monsters galore, make for a brilliant tale. It even has footnotes, commentary and an appendix...all fictional though.

Crichton cleverly weaves the actual tales of Ahmed ibn Fadhlan and the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, into this brilliantly constructed story.
At the end Crichton explains why he wrote the tale, his love of Beowulf and his reading of some of Ahmed ibn Fadhlan tales in college.

A lovely book.
Read it or at least see the film the 13th Warrior which is based on this. The film weaves in all three monsters which Beowulf faces in the poem ... Grendel (the wendol), the mother and the dragon (fire serpent).

Read 22/9/08


Sorry about the first post - hit the wrong key!!

This book features various authors:
Michael Jecks
Susanna Gregory
Bernard Knight
Ian Morson
Philip Gooden
Simon Beaufort

The prologue is by Simon Beaufort, and then the other authors follow on with the theme of the story. I particularly enjoyed this aspect: (I recently joined a writing group, and we have just completed an exercise along the same lines).

July 1100 Jerusalem is the setting - the Holy City has been ransacked by the Crusader armies, and amidst the chaos, an English Knight named Geoffrey Mappestone is entrusted with a valuable religious relic - a fragment of the true cross, allegedly stained with the Blood of Christ. And the relic is said to be cursed - anyone who touches it will meet with an untimely end as soon as it leaves their possession.

Several decades later the Cross turns up, and Bernard Knight's character Crowner John joins the story.
Next stage is in Oxford 1269, Ian Morson's sleuth William Falconer is the person investigating a spate of deaths.
1323 sees Sir Baldwin (author Michael Jecks) with the solving of 5 deaths.
30 years later, Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael have their parts to play, and finally the relic is now in London, and Philip Gooden's character Nick Revill features.

The stories are well written and you would think that the same author has penned the book - good characters all the way through.

All of the authors(historical mystery writers) are members of the Crime Writers Association and this has been a great collaboration.


THE TAINTED RELIC (The Medieval Murderers)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (Women In History) by Henrietta Leyser

Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (Women In History) by Henrietta Leyser

Excellent book - covering women's lives over 1000 years.The book starts with the Anglo- Saxons and proceeds to the later Middle Ages.
There are chapters on archeology, law, sex, marriage, motherhood, widowhood, monasticism etc. Throughout you get a real sense of women's lives and the challenges they faced.
Women from all walks of life are described..from peasant to royalty. Their changing economic and legal status is investigated, as well as their day to day lives.
At the end the appendix even includes primary sources including laws, poems and even a 13th century gynaecological handbook!
This book is not only interesting to those interested in women's history, but also gives a good background to those who read medieval romances etc.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


I am off the mark, and have read one of the books from my list.
Wise Woman's Telling is the first in the Daughter of Tintagel series and I am looking forward to the other books.

The story tells of Uther Pendragon, who with the aid of the Cornish warlord Gorlois, united the scattered kingdoms to defeat the invading Saxons. To celebrate the victory, he summons his chieftains, and their ladies, to a feast in London.

What happens at this feast, changes the lives of Gorlois and his family = Uther Pendragon falls in love with Ygerne - Gorlois's wife, and nothing will stand in his way.
Ygerne's 3 daughters get involved in the clash, but the youngest Morgan, who idolises her father Gorlois, is hearbroken when he is killed, and does not trust Merlyn.

Eventhough the story is told by the old nurse Gwennol, you don't feel distracted throughout the story, and I am eager to read the next part - White Nun's Telling.

Uther Pendragon marries Ygerne, and a child Arthur is born, but is appears that Uther has promised the boy to Merlyn and this is where the story ends, with Merlyn taking Arthur.


Thursday, 28 August 2008


Firstly, I have had a lot of enjoyment perusing the novels from the lists on the site, and had a hard time choosing. So I decided that if I could get the books from my local library and select from my own bookshelves, it would solve the problem.

Here are my chosen books and I will elect for the ROYALTY

Timeline by Michael Crichton
Credo - Melvyn Bragg
The Merlin Trilogy - Mary Stewart
The Lantern Bearers - Rosemary Sutcliff
Daughter of Tintgel Series - Wise Woman Telling
White Nun's Telling
Black Smith's Telling
Taliesin's Telling
The Tainted Relic - Simon Beaufort, Bernard Knight etc.

I have had Credo on my bookshelf for sometime, so this has given me the impetus to read the story.

No doubt when I finish reading all of the above, I may be tempted to try some more.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Challenge update

Taking on board some comments by readers ...I've changed the Challenge criteria to make it more accessible to more people.

You can now choose whether to read 3 (Serf), 5 (Gentry) or 6 (Royalty) texts for the challenge, choosing your own combination of modern novels, plays, classic texts, non-fiction ...or just choosing one type. You can even include watching a Medieval based film as one of your choices.

Hope this encourages more readers to particpate...

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Nuns: A History of Convent Life by Silvia Evangelisti

Nuns: A History of Convent Life by Silvia Evangelisti

Interesting book about convent life between 1450 -1700.
The book investigates why women chose to become nuns, their lives in convents before and after they were secluded, as well as opportunities for nuns within the convents.
There are chapters on nun's writing (very interesting), music, theatre and art.

Nectar from A Stone by Jane Guill

Nectar from A Stone by Jane Guill

Set in Medieval times, this story takes place in North Wales.

It has all the elements of a good tale: murder, a bad marriage, political intrigue, romance, etc.

I found the book enjoyable as I live near the the area in which the novel is set - The Conwy Valley. A lot of local legends and local history are interwoven in the story , and you get a picture of live in Medieval Wales.
Ultimately a nice easy read and romantic tale.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Lynda's List

I'm going for Royalty

* My 6 Medieval texts are:
1 The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
2. Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton,
3. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
4. Nectar from a Stone by Jane Guill 15/8/08
5. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (in Old English)
6. Dantes' Divine Comedy

I'm also going to read
Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (Women In History) by Henrietta Leyser.
Nuns: A history of convent life 1450-1700

Friday, 1 August 2008

Medieval Challenge


The challenge runs between 8th August 2008 and 8th February 2009.

You therefore have 6 months to complete this challenge.
You can join anytime.

There are three levels to choose from for the challenge
You choose which level you want to do.
Crossovers with other challenges allowed / encouraged.
Choose from modern Medieval novels, classic texts, plays or non-fiction books ... you can even watch a Medieval based film as one of your choices!

1: Serf
* 'Read' 3 Medieval texts

2. Gentry

* 'Read' 5 Medieval texts

3. Royalty
* 'Read' 6 Medieval texts

Of course you can read as much as you like during the challenge!

To join the challenge
Email me and leave your name and blog address (if you have one) and email address (will not be published) at: holisticknitter (at) uk2 (dot) net
You will then receive an email inviting you to join the challenge and post your aims / reviews here on this blog.

What is Medieval
In the UK the Medieval period is generally thought of between the succession of the English king Edward the Confessor in 1042 to the end of Edward III reign in 1377. However for the purpose of this challenge the European historical period from the 5th to the 16th century (400–1500) can be used - commonly known as the Middle Ages.

Books and Films

Classic Medieval Literature
These could include: Chaucer's Canterbury tales, Medieval Mystery Plays, The Mabinogion, Beowulf, Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Dante's Divine Comedy, etc.
More information here and here

Modern Medieval Novels
These include novels by Ellis Peters, Sharon Kay Penman, Anita Mills, Thomas B. Costain, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and many more.
A good link to a list of novels set in Medieval times is here
Arthurian novel list here
Medieval mystery novel list here

Non-fiction books on Medieval times / authors
These can be biographies of authors such as Chaucer, or books about the Medieval period.
Some examples include:
Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (Women In History) by Henrietta Leyser Women's Lives in Medieval Europe by Emilie Amt
Women and Writing in Early Europe by Carolyne Larrington
Medieval Britain: A Very Short Introduction by John Gillingham and Ralph A. Griffiths
Castle: A History of Buildings That Shaped Medieval Britain by Marc Morris
Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England by Alison Weir
Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England (Paperback) by Alison Weir
Life in a Medieval Village by Frances Gies and Joseph Gies
The Oxford History of Medieval Europe by George Holmes
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira

Films set in Medieval Times
There are lots of films set in Medieval times.
Just a few of my favourite are: Beoulf and Grendle; 13th Warrior; A Knight's Tale; Monty Python an the Holy Grail; the Name of The Rose; Timeline;

Here are a few links to Medieval Times
Inside the Medieval Mind (BBC series).
Take the BBC Medieval quiz here
Guide To Medieval Britain (Channel 4 series)
Medieval Women Rulers
Medieval English Kings