Although started by Ariana Franklin this manuscript has been completed by her daughter Samantha Norman. It is a mixture of Franklin with a breath of fresh air from Norman. It will be interesting to see Norman develop her own individual style and voice, which is certainly evident in this book.
The story begins with the deathbed revelations or unburdening of guilt by an abbot. He is having the details written down by a scribe. The tale begins in the tumultuous and violent years of civil war in Britain, during which King Stephen and Empress Matilda fought each other for the throne. The abbot’s tale wanders between the fates or stories of King Stephen and Empress Matilda, Em and Gwil, and Maud.
I enjoyed the inner dialogue Gwil has with himself and God. His conscience speaks to him, as if it were a third-party just along for the ride and having his say on the matter. He accepts Em’s transition to Penda as part of her dealing with the traumatic experience she has lived through.
I’m not sure whether splitting the story in three directions was intentional and it was probably only done to support the historical flow of the story. At times the connection or need for the multiple directions wasn’t very apparent. The main focus for me was always Em and Gwil, and the real importance of Maud’s part in their story doesn’t really become clear until much later on.
I have to say the end was a surprise. I usually cotton on to those kind of things quite quickly, but it didn’t even dawn on me to consider that particular scenario. Overall this is a heart-warming tale of love and support, endurance and bravery with a side portion of political confusion to top it all off.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.