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on 26 October 1999
I am a great Cadfael fan and this book is one of my absolute favorites. What I like most about this book is that it is (as well as "Dead Man's Ransom") about true frienship. It's about loyalty to a friend although each friend is on completely different sides and has been deeply hurt by the other because of chosing a different path. The difficult choice Brother Cadfael has to make and which may change his life, when he dedides to look for his son without his abbot's conscent because he will not put his love to God above his love for his son, is also a very touching and interesting aspect. Altogether this book combines all the things I like about the Cadfael chronicles, and I really regret that it is the very last one of them.
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on 20 May 2016
I had pretty much forgotten what little I ever knew about the English Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Maud - round about 1150AD. Brother Cadfael is a monk in Shrewsbury, sent as an observer to an ill-fated peace conference between the warring parties. There is a significant amount of ill-will, resulting in a fatal stabbing, with a young knight unjustly accused. One cause of the ill-will is missing knight Olivier de Bretagne, who turns out to be the son of Cadfael from a pre-monastic existence as a crusader.

This is book 20 in the series so I am sure that I have missed a lot by starting at the end. It wasn't a book that I greatly enjoyed. I found the language stilted, the action sluggish. Much of what happens takes place "off-screen", and is reported second hand to Cadfael, which is perhaps not surprising as an elderly monk would probably not be in the thick of battle.

Cadfael of course is the great interest here. Well, he would not have survived 20 novels were it not so. A monk, an apothecary, a crusader, and a detective - although there isn't a great deal of detecting done in this story.
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on 17 April 1998
I have read every one of these wonderful books, and have delighted in the storylines, the history of the times and the fully developed characters. This book is another great volumn in the series.
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on 15 October 2013
This story is one of the later chapters in the monastic life of Cadfael. It picks up on the characters in 'The Virgin in the Ice' - an earlier book where Cadfael crosses the path of his son, whose existence he was previously unaware of. This time his son needs his help and Cadfael answers the call, even at the risk of being excluded from the Shrewsbury abbey community.
The story is set against the backdrop of the ongoing feud between King Stephen and Empress Maud - a history expertly brought to life by Ellis Peters, describing the loyalty and betrayal tearing England apart in the 1100s.
A very satisfying read.
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on 12 September 2008
I've read lots of the Cadfael series and somehow always ended up disappointed until this final volume. Too many stereotyped characters - the wayward but essentially good young man, the feisty but in the end submissive young woman, the fanatical but misguided monk etc; they pop up in novel after novel, and the overall tone of the series is, to my mind, marred by sentimentality.

But this novel achieves a powerful resonance in its treatment of father-son rivalry, duty and painful separation, and also the conflict between private versus public, religious versus family loyalties. These are important themes very interestingly handled.

I can't help wondering how the author managed to reach these heights only in her final novel. But still: this is easily the best of the series, and is a fine piece of historical fiction.
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on 4 February 2013
A Middle Ages detective story with a monk as lthe detectlive.
an excellent book, good plot,good story and well written.
a twist which leaves you wondering until nearly to the end.
where I made a mistake was reading it after I have read others. This is the last book as Ellius Peters died just after it.
if you enjoy Cadfael books read the others and leave this to the last
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on 6 November 2015
As usual a fascinating story, this time about Cadfael wishing to see his illegitimate son at least one more time before age finally takes its toll.
King Stephen and Empress Maud are up to their usual tricks as are their liegemen and allies. The range is quite a way from Shrewsbury with descriptions of castles and townships and other abbeys. An excellent read!
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on 3 September 2015
this is the last in a series of books i have thoroughly enjoyed. brother cadfael is a character i would love meeting in person. his dedication to truth and his commitment to humanity forces him to leave his content life in the abbey, and this time he is not sure of his welcome back after his work shall be finished.
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on 21 September 2013
The author keeps up her reputation with an excellent story line which is set in the twelfth century, and she reintroduces us to the characters we have come to know so well through her writings.
I owe Ellis a debt of gratitude for the many hours of enjoyable reading she has provided.
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on 29 August 2013
All Ellis Peters' Cadfael books are well researched and written. This differs from the others as the main thrust is towards the action of a mediaeval siege rather than the murder mystery (although that is also included too). Altogether well worth getting for any fan.
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