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on 10 May 2013
Re-telling history is a dangerous and often thankless task. Rather than accepting the author's fictional account of what might of happened, you tend to get "helpful readers" as Bernard Cornwell calls them, who are keen to point out the minutiae of errors in facts or are plainly affronted that you have been brave enough to write a different version of events. However, I believe good historical fiction is based on two words..."What If?"

E.M. Powell has asked that question and written a tale that gives an alternative version of one of history's most infamous killings. There were, of course, four knights involved in Thomas a'Becket's however what if there were five? This is the wonderful premise of an engaging and well-written novel that was originally released as a Kindle serial.

A flawed, chivalrous hero paired with a naive yet beautiful heroine is always a mix that works, regardless of genre. Their pursuers are sociopathic and sadistic, there is a conspiracy and the fate of a nation hangs in the balance as good battles evil. What more could you ask for?

"The Fifth Knight" is thoroughly enjoyable, well researched and easy to read. E.M. Powell has created a novel that will appeal to all and I award it 4 crosses!
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on 24 January 2013
I must admit that this is not a genre that I would normally be drawn to but it came recommended and was willing to try it out. I was hooked from the first few chapters and hardly put it down until I got to the end. The characters are well-described and very believable. I was rooting for Palmer and Theodosia from the start and instantly took against the bad guys. Apart from the characters, the two things that impressed me the most were the descriptive style and the pace. Some writers can spend pages describing a room, and others, like Dan Brown throw in detailed descriptions of characters that play little or no role in the main story. EM Powell manages to give just enough description to paint a picture but not so much as to bore the pants of you. The pace of the book is very similar to say, a Robert Ludlum, Dan Brown or James Patterson story and keeps the action going all the way through. There ARE moments where disbelief needs to be suspended but not many and anyway, isn't that you want from fiction? There are twists and turns but I will refrain from saying any more so as not to give anything away. As a first novel, I think it's a triumph and sincerely recommend it to anyone looking for a genuine page-turner.
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on 18 December 2014
I enjoy all kinds of thrillers, modern and historic, and of all those based on a factual past only C J Sansom with his Shardlake series has surpassed all others I have read before.
I downloaded this book because it intrigued me: I knew the story of Thomas Becket, or Saint Thomas, his murder at the hands of four knights who took their King’s word a little too literally, so to rework a piece of fact-based English and French history by adding an extra knight sounded pretty cool to me.
I wasn't disappointed…
Although not as good as Sansom’s writing, in my opinion – it is certainly better than the works of Hilary Mantel, who is incredibly overrated; again, in my opinion – I think this is a clever story, works in some historic fact and adds a bit of intrigue, romance, a damsel in distress and some great imagery in words. The scenes are well described and come to life, almost to the point of reproducing the stink of the period. The story is easy to read, uncomplicated, enjoyable and doesn't take itself too seriously. The outcome is, maybe, a bit predictable, but that didn't spoil it for me.
I've just downloaded the sequel, The Blood of the Fifth Knight and looking forward to reading it over Christmas…
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on 14 January 2015
What a great idea! Put together Henry II's mysterious mistress with the famous murder of Becket and you could have a winner.

Unfortunately what we get is poor characterisation, stilted dialogue and a plot which lurches from one incident to the next, mixing some very good ideas with hoary cliches.

The mixture of 'Historyspeak' and modern colloquialism is at times painful and shouldn't a professional writer know the difference of meaning between 'disinterested' and 'uninterested'? Am I just being pedantic when I
get annoyed at two very useful words with a very useful distinction being misused by people whose job it is to know language and how to use it?
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on 25 January 2014
This story reminds me of a Mills & Boon without the romance. Bland characters and a storyline from an amateur boys own adventure, without the suspense and adventure. The conversion of Palmer from mercenary knight to saviour is sudden and unbelievable, and I gave up half way through. Poor show.
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on 16 January 2015
Disappointing as basic premise sounded interesting. But wooden characters, ridiculous super hero antics and no sense of historical context beyond cod phrases. The sheer silliness of the plot together with the mawkish love story made it hard going and not worth the effort ultimately.
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on 25 February 2013
"The Fifth Knight" was my introduction to this author's work and I am very much looking forward to new novels in the series. From the first scene (yes, I say scene because it reads so much like a treatment for a film or TV serial), she makes the characters matter to you. I may even have fallen a little in love with the hero as he battled sea-sickness in chapter one!

The historical detail is clearly well researched but does not distance you from the action. The author uses some of the language of the time, but never where it would need lengthy explanation. She shows the same restraint with the religious details, although she finds ways to open up ways of thinking and behaving that are very alien to a modern reader. Consequently, the action and dialogue flow naturally and draw us into 12th century lives as if they ran alongside our own.

The action moves quickly from episode to episode, dropping hints at future possibilities and keeping us intrigued as to what might happen next. Is this due to the novel's origin as a serial? Perhaps, but I am grateful for it, as it left me unable to put it down. Reading this book on the train, I came to resent the shortness of my commute to work.
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on 25 January 2013
From the start I felt immersed into the world of the intriguing characters of Sir Benedict Palmer and Sister Theodosia - really enjoyed getting to know them and seeing their story unfold. Well done E.M.Powell for keeping me hooked!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 June 2016
This is a historical novel and a thriller built around the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket, who was once King Henry II’s very competent Chancellor and friend but turned into his enemy, or at least his opponent once he was appointed Archbishop and started defended the rights of his Church against the King’s encroachments.

The traditional view held by (most) historians is that the Archbishop was murdered in his own cathedral by four over-zealous knights whose names are actually recorded and correctly mentioned by the author. These knights are thought to have believed that they were carrying out the King’s wishes to rid him “of that pestilent priest.” This book tells a rather different story about their real motivations and who instigated their actions, suggesting, in a rather original way, that the Archbishop was not the intended target but was killed because he got in the way and refused to provide the information he was asked for.

Whether true or not, the plot is a rather original one and it provides for an exciting story, with the supposed “fifth knight” present at the murder trying his best to protect the real targets of the hit squad that he was initially imprudent enough to become part of as they are hunted across the countryside.

Most of the historical details and events are quite accurate, starting with the conflict between King and Archbishop and Henry’s estrangement from Alienor his wife whom he did keep as a prisoner in one of his castles for some fifteen years to prevent her from plotting against him. What the book does not really explain, however, are the underlying causes for these conflicts.

The character of Sir Benedict – one of the book’s heroes and a penniless mercenary knight of which there were hundreds at the time – is an interesting and well thought one, including his terrible bouts of seasickness. The glimpses we get of Thomas Becket shortly before his murder, and his courage in particular, are also quite plausible. The “arch-villains” knights, however, are a bit caricatured when portrayed as sadistic evil brutes. The character of Henry II, while mostly good, is also a bit questionable with regards to his physical appearance. When the action takes place, he was in his late thirties and had lead a life where most of his time was spent riding, hunting and campaigning. Therefore the portrait towards the end of the book showing him as a middle aged and flabby king doing penitence is a bit hard to believe, although the penitence did indeed happen largely as described, including the flagellation, which may however have taken place in the cathedral rather than in plain view of the crowd.

Nevertheless, one excellent set of features are those touching on day to day life and beliefs of the 12th century, starting with superstitions and the way people quickly believed that numerous miracles could be attributed to the “martyred” archbishop. A related feature was how young girls or boys, whether of dubious parentage or not, could find themselves forced into taking Holy Orders. This could be done to get them out of the way, possibly to avoid having them compete for their parents’ heritage when there was one, but it was also a way to provide for them when the parents were too poor to do so themselves.

The end of the story, with the King’s public penance for a murder he did not commit but was widely blamed for, was perhaps the most moving piece, although having the hero and his ladylove become simple peasants is somewhat implausible, especially given their respective origins. Despite this and a few other quibbles mentioned above, this book turned out to be a surprisingly good and original thriller. Four strong stars.
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on 10 February 2013
Not normally a reader of this genre, I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I was gripped from the start by the events that unfolded and found myself staying up late to read on to the next chapter. The main characters Theodosia and Benedict were believable and likeable and I found myself willing them on to survive their ordeal. I am no expert on this period in history but I found it hard to separate the facts I did know from fiction in what was essentially a very well told and thrilling story. There are some unexpected twists and turns in this fast paced tale but it also has a sweet and gentle love story at it's heart which made it all the more readable. I very much look forward to the next novel from the talented E.M Powell, this was a superb debut.
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