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on 27 April 2017
I enjoy reading historical fiction so I found myself really engrossed with this story. The author brought the characters and the period to life and I found myself very much in sympathy with the lead characters Sir Arnold Palmer and the King's daughter Sister Theodosia. So if you like a good yarn I recommend this series of books.
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TOP 100 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 28 May 2017
One of three by E.M. Powell and a great read are they all. Didn't want to put them down. Got all three at same time to my Kindle
What a delight and a pleasant change from some books which ramble, and drag you off in all sorts of directions.
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on 14 June 2017
Introducing Sir Benedict Palmer, a knight who does`nt has his troubles to seek. A chivalrous man at heart, he has a fit of conscience when it becomes apparent that his four companions have the murder of Thomas a Becket on their minds ! I would exhort you to read this novel.
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on 13 August 2016
Excellent interweaving of fact and fiction. A very clever concept well written frustrating and exiting in equal measure. I recommend without hesitation. A good yarn, so five stars.
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on 28 April 2017
An interesting work of fiction worked around historical fact. The ending was a tad obvious. But still, a good read.
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on 27 April 2017
Good book, good series, bit bloody here and there
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on 29 April 2017
...although drawn from some aspects of history only...it's still a generally good tale. The central characters were fairly engaging on the whole.
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on 11 May 2017
This gives a new insite into the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury although fiction it could have possibly have happened or something similar.
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on 11 May 2017
A tale of the intreg surrounding the murder of Thomas Becket and the events which took place afterwards. Written in a way that makes it easy to get involved with and hard to put down.
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