Read for the RIP VIII Reading Challenge.
Having recently read the two Gareth and Gwen books, which were pretty much modern procedurals put into a medieval Welsh setting, reading this Brother Cadfael book was an interesting contrast, and a good reminder of what a great writer Ellis Peters is.
This book is set within the very real events that happened during the fight for who would succeed King Henry I in England. Henry’s nephew, Stephen, has come to Shrewsbury Castle, where they are loyal to his cousin, Empress Maud (Henry’s daughter). The castle falls, and as an example, Stephen has everyone that held it executed. Brother Cadfael and the other brothers at the Abbey are given the task of burying the dead, and Cadfael discovers an extra body amongst the soldiers. It seems another man was murdered, and his killer hoped to use the executions to cover his deeds.
There’s other intrigue afoot – the daughter of the castle warden has disappeared, just as Cadfael is brought a boy from the town by his aunt, hoping that the monks can shelter “him” from the fighting. The whole town is unsure of what will happen as Stephen consolidates his power, and many men have come to take the lay of the land, and see who they should pledge their loyalty to.
This book has such a great authentic feel to it – you really feel immersed in this world, and there are so many great characters with varying stories that show how much this civil war is effecting the citizens of England. It’s such an interesting story – both the little stories, and the greater story of Stephen and Maud. I’m really enjoying these books.