Cathie Dunn is a writer of historical fiction in the tradition established by Sir Walter Scott, except that, reflecting the way in which historical fiction has evolved in the 21st Century, it is far more meticulously researched. It is set against the somewhat obscure period of Anglo-Norman history (perhaps a little less obscure now than it was a few years ago, as a result of Helen Castor's TV series, The She-Wolves of England) dominated by civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda for the crown of England and the Duchy of Normandy (1139-1154). It is not a novel of the great events or the most powerful figures of the age. The reader is not an eye-witness to the Battle of Lincoln, and does not meet Stephen or Matilda, or other key figures such as Robert of Gloucester or Waleron de Beaumont, although they are very much in the background. Instead, Dunn presents a credible picture of a land that is both ungoverned and ungovernable, in which appointed law officers have no law to keep, in which mercenaries roam the land raping and plundering at will, and in which nobody knows who they can trust. At its heart is a beautiful heiress, courted by several men, but unsure of their true intentions; a bitter rivalry between former friends; and jealousy between two brothers. The main characters all belong to the minor nobility, and we are invited to explore the impact of total political chaos on the personal lives of these people, whose concerns, ordinarily, would be with the administration of their estates, and of justice on a very local level. It is fast-paced, with plenty of action, realistically portrayed, and a fair amount of romance, though always with an edge. The descriptions of place are faultless. A thoroughly good read.