21 10 2011

England, late 11th Century

The second of Alys Clare’s new medieval mystery series is set on the island of Ely, in the heart of the Fens to the north of Cambridge, where the Normans are erecting a huge new cathedral, and in so doing destroying the old but greatly revered Saxon one.

When a pedlar brings a message that a cousin, Morcar, is lying in a hut in Ely grievously wounded and with no one to care for him, Lassair, the apprentice healer/witch, is sent there from her home in the nearby village of Aelf Fen.

Lassair is sixteen now, old enough (more or less) to be trusted on her own with this mission, but of course she cannot go alone, so Sibert accompanies her. We met Sibert in the previous story, Out of the Dawn Light.

Morcar is in a high fever, delirious, talking what seems a lot of nonsense about being in danger from four men in monk’s robes who do not behave like monks. Then another man, wearing an identical cloak to Morcar’s new one, is murdered. They begin to believe him.

But what is it all about? It appears that these four men are holding a youth captive within the monastery. Why?

Although Morcar is in no condition to travel, they decide that for some reason his life really is threatened by these four “monks”, so Sibert takes him back to their village, leaving Lassair alone in Ely.

She is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Then the sorcerer, Hrype, Sibert’s uncle, turns up. And it transpires that there is another mystery, one stemming from the happenings there some twenty years ago, when Hereward made his last stand against the Conqueror (known as the Bastard) on that very island. Hrype was there. And it was then, at the time of that great battle, that Sibert was conceived and Sibert’s father was mortally wounded.

As always with Alys Clare’s books, this story is full of the medieval magic and mystery I love. And in this new series, underlying everything that happens is the ongoing hostility between the Saxons and the so-recently arrived Normans. Think Britain in the 1960s if Germany had won WWII.

A wonderful story. But yet again marred (for me at least) by the annoyance of careless editing. Here are one or two examples: “I was so grateful for his support. So much so that, following on so closely after …”  “a comfortable place on the deck of the ship that was talking him north …” “The he sat quite still …”




2 responses

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

[…] 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 […]

30 11 2017

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