Top critical review
If you liked the other 19 books, you will no doubt love it
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.