- first published in 2104 by Bantam Press
- ISBN 978-0593-07061-1
- 356 pages
- source: my local library
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 even Emma, an eleven-year-old peasant, is safe. A depraved monk obsessed with redheads kidnaps the ginger-haired girl from her village and leaves her for dead. When an archer for hire named Gwyl finds her, she has no memory of her previous life. Unable to abandon her, Gwyl takes the girl with him, dressing her as a boy, giving her a new name - Penda - and teaching her to use a bow. But Gwyn knows that the man who hurt Penda roams free, and that a scrap of evidence she possesses could be very valuable.
Gwyl and Penda make their way to Kenilworth [Kenniford], a small but strategically important fortress that belongs to fifteen-year-old Maud. Newly wedded to a boorish and much older husband after her father's death, the fierce and determined young chatelaine tempts fate and Stephen's murderous wrath when she gives shelter to the empress.
Aided by a garrison of mercenaries, including Gwyl and his odd red-headed apprentice, Maud will stave off Stephen's siege for a long, brutal winter that will bring a host of visitors to Kenilworth [Kenniford] - kings, soldiers . . . and a sinister monk with deadly business to finish.
After the synopsis above, there is not a lot left to tell you about the plot of this novel. To my mind it is much more a historical novel than a crime fiction one, although certainly it does have mysteries. It is set in a fascinating period of English history when the country is torn apart by civil war, King Stephen vs his cousin the Empress Matilda. And the portrayal of this period has a real feeling of authenticity to it. It was a brutal time when nobility seem to have swapped sides readily, once they could see which way the wind was blowing.
The structure of the novel is interesting: at Perton Abbey the abbot is dying.
He has something important to do. he has to record a tale of treachery and murder, also a story of courage and love, before he too twirls off life's tree; yet he is too ill, too weak to write it himself.
And so he is assigned a young scribe to write it for him.
Samantha Norman completed this novel in tribute to her mother Ariana Franklin who unfortunately died in 2011.
My rating: 4.5
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