The quote on the front cover of this book says "Barbara Erskine's storytelling talent is undeniable", and having read the book, I can whole-heartedly agree.
This is a compelling time-slice story set in:
- 865 - where we meet Eric, blacksmith and maker of a beautifully crafted sword which he calls "Destiny Maker"; Eric lives in an Anglo-Saxon village at a time when small villages on the East Anglian coast lived in constant risk from Viking invaders
- 1865 - where we meet Dan, blacksmith and farrier who works for the Crosby family, whose Hall is built on the site of the original Anglo Saxon hall from Eric's time
- present day - where we meet Zoe and Ken, who have opted out of the rat race and relocated from London to Suffolk; their home is the barn conversion where Dan worked; their immediate neighbour, Leo, lives in what was originally the forge and Dan's cottage.
The three stories are linked together by sightings of a ghostly Viking warship.
There are a host of interesting characters, including footpath diva Rosemary (who gets the whole village at loggerheads over her insistence on a footpath going across a farmer's field rather than round it), and Sharon and Jeff, the neighbours from hell and their tearaway children.
I found that the book flowed well and it is an easy and enjoyable read. If you like a book that isn't too demanding and has a compelling story line, then you will enjoy this book.
So why only 3*s. Well for me, character is all; I really want to identify with the main characters and see that their attitudes shape their actions, and that in turn drives the story line. However, I found Zoe weak as a character, and the burgeoning relationship with Leo seemed trite and predictable. The other characters, even major ones like Ken & Rosemary, seemed very one-dimensional - just there to hang the story off really. The most interesting character in the book was Jade (the 12 year old feral child)! I also thought the ending wrapped up all the relationships just too neatly and easily - real life is far more messy and painful!
All in all, not (in my opinion) one of Erskine's best. But still an enjoyable read.
This is an excellent novel by Barbara Erskine, who seems to improve with every book she writes. Zoe and Ken move to a quiet barn conversion in Suffolk, much against Zoe's wishes, so that he can indulge his competitive streak through his love of sailing. Left to her own devices, Zoe finds that she is best by strange dreams and visions, and it seems as if the barn's past is coming back to haunt her. Meanwhile, she falls for scarred, solitary Leo... and they find their love and their lives running parallel to the lives of those who loved and lived before, in particular the stolid Victorian smith, Daniel, unwilling lover to the Lady of the Big House... and the Saxon smith, Eric, who has created a mystical sword for his Lord. With consummate skill, Ms Erskine weaves a fantastic tale of loves thwarted and loves lost, of malice and magic and ancient curses, and shows why she is still Mistress of the timeslip novel, leaving others in the shade! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! Superb summer reading, with plots and characters that stay with you long after the story has ended. Recommended!
I have yet to read a Barbara Erskine book I have not loved, even if at times her tendency to stretch historical fact jars a little where my love of accuracy is concerned. For the sake of her sheer storytelling prowess I read them purely for the pleasure of escaping to a world of the paranormal presented in such a captivating manner. There are, to my knowledge, no "real" historical figures in this tale, and as a totally fictional novel I found it an excellent read. From page one, any of Barbara's books become virtually unputdownable, if such a word exists, and this is no exception. It will take its deserved place in my complete collection of Barbara's works, which have been read and reread numerous times over more years than I, and probably Barbara herself, care to remember. I look forward to the next work by this talented and fascinating author.
Over 25 years ago I bought a book called "The Lady of Hay" ,this was my first Barbar Erskine book and I loved it and I have read it several times and it still sits on the bookshelf with every other one of her books, some are a bit tatty from over use, I have hardbacks and paperbacks. Some have been fantastic and some not so fantastic. But they are a collection I am pleased and proud to have. So what is the point of this ramble, well I think it qualifies me to say this is one of her best, the story or should I say stories are fast moving and engrossing. The plot envoles the far past, when the Vikings were invading, the middle past of the 19th centuary and the present. These three stories entwine around each other, and each is a story within itself but enhances the others. The heroine, Zoe, of present time is a very likeable person,and is one amongst many of the very convincing characters. I found it hard to put down and couldn't wait to get back to it. I will put on the shelf with the others and wait eagerly for the next one to join it.
Zoe and Ken have moved from London to a converted barn in Suffolk so that Ken can do more sailing. Zoe is less than happy with the move as she is not keen on sailing - except in calm weather - and the move has meant her giving up a job she loved.
Their immediate neighbours seem a mixed bunch; loner Leo with his badly scarred face and Rosemary with her obsession with public rights of way and her quiet husband Steve. Then there's the family from hell who use the third barn as a holiday home. Zoe feels uncomfortable in her barn and senses other presences though Ken is not aware of them. After he's seen a ghostly Viking ship he starts to take her fears more seriously.
Fans of Barbara Erskine will recognise some of her trademark ingredients - especially when you add in the two stories from the past intertwined with Zoe's in the present day. From the time of the Viking ship there is Eric who forges the sword known as Destiny Maker. In the nineteenth century there is Lady Emily Crosby and her lust for Daniel Smith the blacksmith. Evil haunts both stories from the past and spills over into Zoe's life in the twenty first century.
I thought the story was well constructed and compulsive reading. I particularly liked the way the same themes are woven into all three stories. I liked Zoe as a character and I thought the Watts - the family from hell - were well drawn especially the children, Jackson and Jade. I thought the differences of opinion between the locals and the crusading Rosemary were well done and believable. This is a tense page turner which may attract new readers to Barbara Erskine's work and is sure to please her many fans.
on 24 February 2015
A typical Barbara Erskine tale with trademark features of different historical timezones and supernatural activity. A somewhat ambitious attempt, I thought, to tell a story in three different timezones - Anglo Saxon 865, Victorian 1865, and now.
We meet Zoe and Ken Lloyd when they move to a converted barn in Suffolk so that Ken can indulge his love of sailing, and also, I felt, to get one up on his friends. Right from the beginning it is clear that this is not a happy marriage, and that Zoe has moved away against her better judgement. I felt Zoe was very compliant and had put up with a lot from Ken, who appeared bombastic and selfish. Zoe, it seemed, had never stood up for herself and had simply gone along with what Ken wanted for a quiet life. All that is about to come to an end when Zoe begins seeing a Viking longboat on the River Deben which their houses overlook.
There were similarities in the differing time zones. We have Eric, a master swordsmith crafting Destiny Maker, a sword imbued with magical powers for his lord Egbert. These are changing times for the country, full of suspicion, curses, new religion set against the old, and superstition. A thousand years later we meet Lady Emily Crosby, Lady of Timperton Hall, her husband and the labourers on their estate farm and their families. Then today we have Zoe, Ken and their neighbours. Each of these time periods feature "love triangles" of sorts with one selfish, arrogant person and another acquiescent one - or should I say passive-aggressive? - at the heart of the matter.
Barbara Erskine explores how events in each of these separate times leave imprints upon the buildings and environment which affect later events, people and relationships with often tragic consequences, but which can also offer an opportunity for freedom and release. Three strands of time may seem ambitious but the story is told skilfully to avoid any confusion. History is destined to repeat itself until a resolution is reached.
This was a good read with a lot of tragedy. However, I failed to find any real motive on the part of the ghosts who appeared, particularly Edith. What did they want? Though there was no overt reincarnation angle, characters did go through very similar events to their predecessors. Life for Zoe appears to be a palimpsest of other, earlier lives. I felt quite miffed that there was no proper resolution to the Dan, Susan and Emily storyline. We found out what happened to them, but did they ever find peace? This could have been explored in greater detail.
I felt the Jade subplot to be in very poor taste and really wished that this had been treated differently. I also couldn't believe wholeheartedly in the new present-day relationships that were started on such a flimsy background, and Leo was far too sketchy as a character. I think the new lovers were simply an excuse to break up an already unhappy relationship.
Zoe's story is also left unresolved, for the reader to decide for themselves, I think. I was left having enjoyed the story but feeling so sad for all the characters. Nobody was happy or really had things resolved. The ending was rather swift, with an element of too much cheesiness and I am still not sure about the reason for the appearance of the Viking longboat in the present day.
on 13 September 2012
I have read all of Barbara Erskine's books and I love them all. Disappointingly, I found this one a bit weak? It is still good read, but not one of her better ones. Barbara, would love to read another haunting story like Midnight is a Lonely Place. I hate leaving negative reviews and those who read Barbara will know how fascinating and informative she is and this is not lost in this book at all. Don't let me put you off reading it, but want to be honest (even though it feels disloyal).
on 1 May 2013
I am a huge fan of Barbara's work, and her books are usually well rounded with characters that spring to life from the page. Tis book was poor, I didn't think the stories were very well linked, the protagonists were frankly poorly drawn and unsympathetic..... i was left thinking so what at the end of the book! I would even go as far to say that if this was a first book by a new author it would not have been published in it's current form, but would have needed extensive re-writing, but because it's a Barbara Erskine book it was. So disapointed
on 28 July 2015
This review is long overdue as I attempted to read this book awhile back and failed. I love most books by Barbara Erskine but this one I struggled to grasp the three different timeslips..865 with Eric, a blacksmith and farrier whom creates the sword of destiny....with Dan, also a blacksmith who is employed by the residents of a manor now built on the land of the Anglo Saxon site.....the present....with Zoe and Ken whom have left London for a new life and a love of kens sailing, Leo, a solitary person with his own secrets.....all who now live on the original Anglo Saxon village.....their lives all become entwined with the ghosts of the past and the continued sightings of a Viking warship,which foretells a death....
barbara erskine is a well known author for her timeslip novels, which I have always loved, it is a page turner, however the characters especially Zoe was not a strong character as I hoped she would be and seemed to pull the story down
on 14 January 2016
The write-up promised an exciting read, but I regret to say that after struggling for over a week, I gave up halfway through. I found it far too slow, verging on boring which was exacerbated by the tedious switching around of three different time periods.
I appreciate Ms Erskine is an accomplished writer and I wish her well, but I'm not likely to be reading any more of her books.