The Siege Winter: A Novel by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman

Readers of my blog will recognize one of the author names in this week’s review: Ariana Franklin. Earlier this year I reviewed the first book in her ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ series. While this particular book does not fall in to that particular series, it does fall within the historical period she writes in.

England in 1141 was a land torn apart by war as King Stephen and the Empress Mathilda both vie for the crown. It is a dangerous time where there is little law and no one; from little town to large manor; is safe. Emma is a young girl hailing from one such small town. Kidnapped by a depraved monk with a thing for redheads, she is viciously violated and left for dead. When the mercenary for hire Gwil discovers her, he knows he cannot leave her to die and so adopts her. With no memory of who she was before, Emma is renamed Penda, and for her safety her hair is cut short and she begins to dress as a boy.

Penda learns to use as bow and arrow much as Gwil does and soon the two archers find themselves at Kenilworth Castle. A small but strategically important place, young Maud is it’s chatelaine. A fierce young woman, she is determined to hold on to her home as she tempts fate and gives shelter to the empress. Aided by a number of mercenaries for hire, including Gwil and Penda, Maud must face a long and cruel winter. Even with the weather, visitors flock to Kenilworth; kings, soldiers and one particular monk with a penchant for redheads.

I found The Siege Winter an interesting book. Like the other novel I reviewed by Ms. Franklin, The Siege Winter is harsh in its depiction of day to day living. Life of that time was cruel, especially if one was born a woman.

I did notice a few minor discrepancies while reading that might irritate some but shouldn’t deter most readers. The discrepancies are historical for the most part so unless you are an absolute stickler for historical accuracy, there shouldn’t be a problem. Some might take notice that the dialogue is all fairly modern with contractions and such. I found it made it easier to read and to identify with the characters; others might not.

For the casual reader who doesn’t care much for strict historical accuracy, I urge them to give The Siege Winter a try. I found it a most entertaining page turner.

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