OUT OF THE DAWN LIGHT by Alys Clare

26 08 2011

Something different from Alys Clare.

Being a fan of the Hawkenlye mysteries, I opened the book expecting another wonderful story featuring Abbess Helewise and Sir Josse d’Aquin, but found myself in an earlier period and a rather different setting.

Actually, it is just over a hundred years earlier, the year 1087, and whereas in the Kent of Helewise and Josse the Normans are accepted, there are good ones and bad ones just as there are good Saxons and bad Saxons, here in the Fens of East Anglia so soon after the Conquest the Normans are still very much the enemy, the plunderers, and the families of those who owned the estates before the Normans seized them are still hardly able to contain their fury.

When William Rufus became king on the death of his father, William the Bastard/the Conqueror, rebellion was in the air.

In a Saxon village somewhere in the heart of the Fens, they were celebrating Lassair’s sister’s wedding when the news of the Bastard’s death reached them. Lassair herself was now thirteen, and almost ready for marriage. At the wedding was her boring admirer Sibert. Also at the wedding was a stranger who “stood wartching me. He was dark, the glossy hair cut in the new style, and his bown eyes were sort of crinkled round the corners as if he laughed a lot. Although not tall like Sibert, he was broad-shouldered and had, as Goda might say, a manly figure. He was perhaps five or six years older than me, clad in a flowing cloak of rich chestnut brown over a tunic of dark red and his boots shone as if he’d spent all morning buffing them up. None of which would have impressed me, thought [sic] except for two things: he was extremely handsome and he was smiling at me.”

Perhaps I can interrupt this review to say that the word “thought” there, which makes no sense (does she mean “though”, does she mean “I thought”?) is far from being the only example of careless editing in this book. Here are a few more: “you just knew there were bulbs and seeds safely tucked up beneath the smooth brown soil just waiting for spring” – ‘He had once been told by an elderly family retainer who came from the Fens that once, long ago” – “imposed … their harsh rule on an unwilling, unwelcoming populous” – “Romain would know nothing about until he woke” – about what?

I mean, “populous” for “populace”. Come on. That is not editing, it is simply using the spell-checker and hoping for the best.

But back to the book. The stranger, whose name is Romain, turns out to be the heir to an estate on the coast which Sibert’s family owned before the Conquest. Naturally, Sibert also considers himself the heir. Now it looks as though neither of them will get it because Romain’s father supported William Rufus’s brother Robert in his bid for the throne. As a result, he is in big trouble, and will probably end up having the estate confiscated by the new king.

Romain wants Sibert to help him find a missing heirloom, an ancient crown of power. But Sibert has no idea where it is and has no power to locate hidden objects. The one who can is thirteen-year-old Lassair, the apprentice witch who is the heroine of this story. And as she just happens to fancy Romain, she is more than willing to help.

So the three of them set off on the quest to find the crown. But when they find it, things go horribly wrong.

A book full of magic, as one would expect from Alys Clare, and as always beautifully written (if carelessly edited).

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9 12 2012
THE WAY BETWEEN THE WORLDS by Alys Clare « Kanti Burns, Book Reviews and more

[…] too, is growing up and is no longer the unsophisticated village girl she was in the earlier books. (Out of the Dawn Light, Mist Over the Water, Music of the Distant Stars – such beautiful […]

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