I wont discuss the story here, but rather comment on the quality of this book. I understand Toby Clements has hitherto kept the wolf from the door through producing a series of 'parody' humorous books, but this is step into a work of serious fiction, and indeed substantial scholarship. The best historical fiction is based on a historian's grasp of the subject matter : for example Patrick O'Brian's peerless Naval Fiction is based on a phenomenal understanding of the period, drawn from extensive scholarly research. Toby Clements has shown here that he has put in the hours, to ensure his own experience as well as his learning can inform his writing. The best fictional writing is frequently based on the premise : 'write what you know', and in order to do that the author has I believe learned to use some of the weapons of the period, including the longbow and the poll axe. This comes across in the battle scenes, which also show a grasp of the gritty reality of the medical care available at the time, and is all underpinned by the substantial controlling power and influence of the church and the aristocracy.
The lead characters are well drawn, three dimensional and nuanced - with great humanity and truth in their behaviours. This is a fine book, which I have enjoyed immensely, and I very much look forward to reading the continuing saga.