This book is described on the cover as a Prelude to "Rape of the Fair Country", the first of a trilogy. While the trilogy books were written in the 1950's the Prelude was not in fact written until 1985 when the author was in his eary seventies.
I did not find this book an easy read - I found it difficult to get up any speed, which to me, is the hall mark of a good book. There were far too many characters and some of the technical terms relating to mining and ironmaking were not easy to grasp. On a social level, there were some bizarre incidents/ situations which were difficult to follow.
The author has a disconcerting habit of informing us of the outcome of major incidents before going on to describe them in some detail - for example, the death of Bendy in the cave and, later on the death of the twins in the ironworks. This, for me, spoiled what could have been very dramatic story lines. We are also informed early in the novel that Hywel's wife will die, he will remarry and eventually have a son.
As the book was written so many years after the trilogy, it is possible that the Prelude would receive a different reaction from someone who had read the trilogy first - perhaps by putting the main story into some kind of perspective.
Having said that, the reviews for the first book of the trilogy are all 5-stars, so I feel somewhat guilty at giving this only 3-stars. Nevertehless, I intend to go ahead and read at least the first book of the trilogy.