Even if you know what happens to Becket, Willard weaves a fascinating tale of drama and intrigue. Henry II and Thomas Becket are locked in a battle of the wills. Henry is determined to win, but will he? Henry II wants more power. Becket believes Henry's thirst for power has extended too far when he wants to include Church matters.
Even though we learn about the raging battle between Henry II and Thomas Becket, the story centers around Simon and his twin brother Edmund. Tragically, Simon and Edmund are orphaned. Where will they go? Who will they live with? Sadly, they are unable to stay together. Simon eventually enters the household of Thomas Becket as a scribe. Edmund enters the service of Henry II as a page. They provide eye-witness accounts into the personalities of Henry and Thomas and their ongoing dispute.
Willard not only outlines the facts of the case, she also engages the heart of the reader. We sympathize with Simon's suffering, the loss of his family and his inability to use his hand. In doing so, we also see gain compassion for Becket and his dilemma. Through Simon's compassion for others, we come to admire Simon's noble spirit.
Willard expertly educates by entertaining the reader. We learn about Henry inflicting his impulsive, raging temper on innocent lives and the devastating impact it has on them through his whims and forced marches, resulting in death to many. Most people just know that Henry and Thomas disagreed, through this story we learn how far ranging the effect of his temper had on others.
Willard accomplishes what few children's authors are able to do; She holds the interest of adults as well as children. She creates a story that holds the reader's attention, by developing a multilevel story that engages the heart and mind. We not only learn about Henry II and Thomas Becket, but we also learn about the greatness of the human heart, the strength of character to stay true to conscience, and the value of a loving family.