Tag Archives: medieval fiction

Review: Medieval Historical Fiction – The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Anna Belfrage is probably a name that longtime readers of my site have heard before when visiting. This historical fiction writer has probably been reviewed, interviewed, and hosted on my blog upwards of almost 15 times. I must really like Anna and her work – and yes, I do!! From her time travel historical Graham Saga to her newer one, The King’s Greatest Enemy, her stories always capture my attention. I’m proud that her books take up a whole shelf of my bookcase with their beautiful covers. I even can see Anna’s beautiful smile and her energetic essence emanating from them.

She’s proved and earned her regard with me and so I couldn’t be more pleased to share my review of The Cold Light of Dawn, the fourth book in her The King’s Greatest Enemy series, as well as a wonderful guest post that you’ll find in the post following this one. Check out the information for the book and then follow it into my thoughts on the book.

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The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: February 16, 2018
Matador & TimeLight Press
eBook & Paperback; 434 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book #4 Genre: Historical Fiction

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

Review – 

I’ve really had a wonderful time reading this series, which was at first supposed to be a set of four. You can find my reviews of In the Shadows of the Storm (#1), Days of Sun and Glory (#2), Under the Approaching Dark (#3), and now I’ll be discussing The Cold Light of Dawn (#4). I have a particular fondness for medieval historical fiction and so I was thrilled to read this series, with book four culminating into all the drama, intrigue, action, and peril one might imagine from the pages of not only a medieval book, but specifically a Belfrage book. And for those of you that haven’t read Anna, you should know that her books are riddled with it, as well as a good dose of wit, snark, and above all else, resilience. The Cold Light of Dawn is no exception, and in fact, features a high level of all the emotions of life one might handle while also being sautéed in a frying pan. This means that at times, you’ll feel so deeply for characters in the novel you’ll cry, sometimes cheer or sneer, and sometimes just get angry. This is what makes TCLOD a stellar read as it holds nothing back. I think if I remember right at first it was supposed to be the final book, and it certainly does climax, but in the afterword at the end of the book, Anna revealed that she left the door open for more books in this series. Her characters, once again, lead her, and her main male squeeze of the book, Adam, seems to think he needs more time. I certainly fine with that.

The Cold Light of Dawn takes place in early 14th century after the rebellion. Edward II has died, leaving Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer as regents since Edward the III was so young when he was crowned. However, he’s growing older and coming into his own, and Adam is caught between his mentor in Mortimer and his loyalty and respect for this young King who is showing his own capability while they are showing they might just be power hungry. You can read this book as a stand-alone, but there is so much more depth given to the characters and their situations if you read the series.

As readers, we see the story through the eyes of Adam and Kit, a couple who both have important roles at court, but that seem to have to judge the ebb and flow of so many just to keep on the right side. And sometimes, that leads to betrayal even when you try your best. But Adam and Kit know how to survive and keep their bond strong, even through the good times and bad. Anna always creates proper couples in the highest character development, juxtaposing them to each other in the most natural ways. You feel as a reader that Adam and Kit truly exists and your cringe and groan for them, as well as smile as their debates, discussion, and banter. As for the other characters, Anna always seems to match off people in twos, or less, and she gives them so much depth that it makes her one of the BEST authors in regard to creating a cast that is easily identifiable, accessible, and discernable. In this fourth book, Adam really shines at his best though. He probably was worried it was the end of his story because things sure did get exciting for him in all sorts of ways, but also by the end, terribly heart-wrenching.

Those who know me and my reviews know I don’t really ever talk directly about plot or what happens in books, as I want that journey to be the reader’s own, but her dialogue, flow, continuity, and scenes were tied together in a way that made you turn each page as if you were right there in the story. As far as historical accuracy, Anna is the utmost painstakingly perfectionist in her research, and it shows, to create a detailed backdrop that gives us a good glimpse to this time period and reign of court.

I’d highly recommend all of Anna’s books, including The Cold Light of Dawn. If you haven’t read any books by Anna, you could even start with this one, but I’d certainly give the whole series a whirl. Her writing, on this fourth book, and in all, creates a story(ies) you get lost in. There isn’t heavy-handed history or the type that is so dry you’d rather not learn even learn history let alone enjoy it. It’s captivating, almost like a dream, and always over before you want to close the last page.

Once again, Anna creates a skippy plot, engaging dialogue, and beautiful descriptive scenes in The Cold Light of Dawn, and then, wraps them all up in extraordinary characters migrating on a spectacular dramatic voyage in which they polish the dramatic era of the 14th century with a wide range of emotions and intense finesse.

Purchase Links –

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna Belfrage.jpgAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

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Tour Schedule is HERE!

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During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th.
-You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter to Win HERE!


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Filed under Book Reviews

The Fairytale Keeper is an Amazing Medieval Story For Lovers of Fairytales

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Today I have a review of The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo! You can also take the Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz quiz and enter to win a Fairytale Keeper Clutch Purse & $20 Amazon Gift Card below, following the review and the info.

I happen to love fairytales, and not just the happy ending ones, but even the true-to-form  original Grimm tales. Therefore, I love any retellings, awakenings, fracturing, or gentle nods to them as well. I like happy endings and not so happy endings. I love the history that creeps behind them and the Old World feel that resonates in my modern soul.

When I hear about The Fairytale Keeper series by Andrea Cefalo, and saw the goregous cover, I was sold on reading them. In hoping to love them, I immediately did so from the first few pages. As a mom who has loved to read fairytales to my kids since they were just very little in hopes to spark their imagination, I was touched by the beginning.

“I cannot write your story, Snow White. Only you can write your story.”

Adelaide’s mother tells her stories when she is young and calls her Snow White for a nickname. But her mother dies in medieval time from the plague, and though her father does financial better than most as a shoemaker, he still has to bribe a priest to give her mother a proper funeral and pyre. The situation doesn’t quite go so well and Adelaide is forever changed, not only by the death of her mother, but by the degradation of the body at the burial and the church’s politics and lack of compassion. We see Adelaide emerge from the reckless fire of her mother’s pyre as a Phoenix on a mission of revenge and retribution. She becomes a strong-willed, intelligent, and passionate protagonist that all young women can admire.

The real wonderful thing about this novel is how she portrays the relationships between Adelaide and others: with her father (the good and the bad feelings), Galadreil (who becomes her step-mother-see the tie-in…he’s a cobbler, she relates to Cinderella), her best friend Ivo, who becomes her Prince. In the relationships in the novel, we see where weaknesses are made strong, or people are torn apart, in each person with the accompaniment of another character. We see the loyalty, love, and dedication, yet also the tragic fight for Adelaide to receive this back, when all else in middle ages Cologne is suspect, corrupt, and falling to pieces.

If you are looking for a straight retelling of Snow White, that isn’t what this novel or series is about though. Instead the author is much more original as she takes pieces of various fairytales, the ones that Adelaide’s mother told her, and intertwines them into the story. Adelaide is called “little Snow White” and wants to save her late mother (her Queen, who dies and leaves her with an evil witch–just like in the fairytale) from the big bad wolf (taken from Red Riding Hood…the priest, the plague, the terrible burial), her dad is a shoemaker (an ode in a roundabout way to The Elves and the Shoemaker as well as Cinderella), Galadreil who has a similar story to her life as Cinderella (a noblewoman who appears in a dirty dress and has had a hard childhood- yet doesn’t becomes the witch or the evil step-mom), and Ivo who gives the novel a sweet romance to enjoy as he is Adelaide’s Prince Charming. You’ll enjoy a retelling of Hansel and Gretel as well.

You’ll find nuggets of fairytales distributed throughout if you tune in to your reading. It made it quite a fun addition to the dark back story of how awful the life, and the church, was in the 13th century, as well as the underlying “moral” of the story of what revenge can cost someone on a mission to for it. By the end, there is still anger and some dark places in Adelaide’s heart, but she does fine her solace too in regards to telling her own story and keeping her mom alive in her heart by keeping the fairytales alive. Andrea writes with a good mixture of the dark of Grimm’s tales and the more lighter side of Perrault’s versions.

I enjoyed Andrea’s fluid and decadent sentences, her historical detail in terms of setting-places, food, dress, as well as her character development, including how she crafted their emotions to make us connect to them, and her overall plot, which was Adelaide’s journey. It was original and imaginative, descriptive, and absorbing.

I felt like I was thrust back in time not only to my younger years, but to the medieval ages. I couldn’t put the book down and truly can’t wait to dive into the next one in the series. Highly recommended for medievalists as well as fairytale connoisseurs!

Read the First Chapter—> http://andreacefalo.com/book-one-the-fairytale-keeper/free-first-chapter/

Excerpt 1~

Intro: Adelaide’sbest friend and first love, Ivo, has asked Adelaide to tell him the tale of Hansel and Gretel. But Ivo, always ready to tease Addie and try to make her laugh, isn’t being the greatest listener.

“Once Gretel was inside,” I say.“The witch intended to shut the oven and let her bake in it. Then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw what she had in mind and said, ‘I do not know how I am to do it. How do I get in?’

“‘Foolish girl,’ said the old woman to Gretel. ‘The door is big enough. Just look, I can get in myself!’ She crept up and thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into the oven, shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh, how horribly she howled—”

Ivo interrupts me with a great AWOOOO!!!

A huddle of women turn their wimpled heads, their faces screwed up.

“Are you mad?” I ask through giggles. “What are you doing?”

He laughs. “I’m howling like a witch.”

“That’s not how a witch howls.”

He stops. “Oh, then how do they?”

“I don’t know.” I grab his arm and tug him away from the on-lookers. “But not like that…not like a wolf. Come on.”

“Your cheeks are red,” he remarks.

“It’s the wind,” I lie. “It is getting cold.”

He shakes his head at me and howls again.

“Stop it!” I hiss and slap him in the stomach. “Lest I drop you off at St. Pantaleon’s with the rest of the lunatics.”

He flashes a wry smile. “Oh, if I was mad, you’d keep me. Wouldn’t you?”

I roll my eyes and heave a heavy sigh.

“So how does it end?” he asks.


“The story. Hansel and Gretel. What happens?”

“A wolf eats them.”

“What? No. That can’t be how it ends.”

“No.” I cross my arms. “You don’t get to know how it ends. This is thrice you have interrupted me.”

“Oho,” he guffaws. “But I promise I will be a good boy if you’ll tell me the end.” He raises his flaxen eyebrows, eyes brimming with mischief. “Or I could howl some more.”

“The witch burned to death.”

“And…” he prods.

”And?” I repeat in a mocking tone.

“What about the father and the stepmother?” he asks.

“What do you think happens to them?”

He is silent for a heartbeat, squinting an eye and pursing his lips. “I think…the father and the stepmother go find them,” he says. “Gretel tosses her in the oven. They eat the house, and they live happily ever after. Am I close?”

“Close enough.”

“So what really happened?”

“Nothing really happened,” I say. “It’s just a story.”

“You know what I mean, Addie. How does it really end?”

“The children find gold and jewels, and then they make their way back to the father. The stepmother was already dead. They lived happily ever after.”

“Huh.” There is a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“I think I like your ending better,” I admit.

“Did they eat the house first?” he asks.


He shakes his head, eyes wide with feigned shock. “I would have most certainly eaten the house.”

I give a sniff of laughter. “Me too.”

Excerpt 2~

Intro: Adelaide and her Father are imprisoned in the North Tower, where at best, men are locked away and forgotten, and at worst, they are interrogated and tortured. The Archbishop of Cologne, suspecting the beginnings of revolt in his city, comes to question Adelaide.

I do not know how long I am in the dark. Shrill screams echo through the hallway, and I shudder with fear, thinking every one of them belongs to Father. It is the most wretched feeling, worse than the last moments of Mama’s life, for I can do nothing to help him except pray. And so I do, until my knees are raw from the damp stone floor.

The cell opens, and just outside the frame of the door stands the archbishop.

It is true. He is here.

He is a slight man with icy, scheming eyes and thin lips. I sink to my knees, prepared to beg.

“I hear you make trouble in my city,” he says, his accent remarkably Roman. “I am good at dealing with troublemakers.”

“Please, I beg you to have mercy. Father and I tried to go to your cathedral, but—”

“I have not asked you to speak,” he interrupts.

“She is feisty, Your Excellency,” pipes the guard who caught me. “Kicks like a mule and bites like a dog.”

The archbishop gives a slow turn of his head, and the guard’s face goes white. “Leave us.”

The guards bow and hasten from the room. The door to my cell claps closed behind them.

The archbishop gesture languidly. “Do you know what happens in this tower?”

“Yes, Your Excellency.”

“Do you love your father?”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

“Then you would save him—if you could?”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

“Does your father urge rebellion upon the church?”

“Your Excellency, if I may explain—”

“Yes or no.”

“No, Your Excellency, he tries to stop them.”

He raises a silver eyebrow. “So you know of plots?”

I have said too much.

“I, I have overheard a stranger’s whispers, Excellency, but also overheard my father tell this man that he shall go to church. My father has no desire to see a rebellion.”

“Of course you would defend your father. I shall have to find ways to get the truth from him, if I cannot get it from you.” He pivots toward the door.

I surge forward, clutching his robe. “I swear it on my mother’s soul, Your Excellency! He is innocent!”

He turns, regarding me with an indifference that terrifies me. “Perhaps you tell the truth about your father’s innocence, but I know you lie of something else. You know who incites the rebellion, and yet you keep it from me. For this, you and your father shall be punished. But…I can be merciful. If you tell me who incites the rebellion, then your punishments shall be light.”

I stall, hoping a brilliant lie shall come to me. A lie that he shan’t see through. A lie that can save us all. But nothing comes.

“His name is Elias, Excellency.” I avert my gaze, wishing I had never mentioned this stranger at all, wishing I had never overheard his conversation. But more than anything, I hope I have saved my father.

“You shall confess that your father ordered you to abandon the church, and tell no one of any other story, or I shall have to change my mind about your father’s punishment.”

I wonder if he is seeking a confession in order to punish us as heretics and that all of his other promises are lies.

“But that is not the truth, Excellency. It was—”

“Ah, but, stupid, stupid girl, I do not care.” He meets my eyes, no hint of unease. “And those are the kinds of words that might make my men want to drive a hot poker up your father’s rectum and burn you both as heretics.”

I swallow hard. “Then I shall say whatever pleases you, Excellency.”

“Perhaps you aren’t so stupid after all.”

02_The Fairytale Keeper_CoverThe Fairytale Keeper, Info~

Re-Release Date: February 1, 2015
Scarlet Primrose Press
Formats: eBook; Paperback
Pages: 262

Series: Book One, Fairytale Keeper
Genre: Young Adult/Historical/Fairytale Retelling

Adelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now. Now, she would give anything to hear her mother say it once more.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren.

Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.

Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

Praise for The Fairytale Keeper~

“A…resonant tale set late in the 13th century… with unexpected plot twists. An engaging story of revenge.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Great historical fiction. Strong emotion injected into almost every page.” –Amazon Vine Reviewer

“…a unique twist on the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Part fairy tale retelling, part historical fiction… The Fairytale Keeper is a story of corruption.” -Copperfield Historical Fiction Review

“The story that Cefalo weaves is intriguing and leaves you hanging on, wanting more.” -Hooked to Books Book Review Blog

“…it doesn’t feel like any retelling. Because it’s not. The Fairytale Keeper is its own unique story…very entertaining, containing a strong female role, a sweet romance, and much more.” -Lulu The Bookworm Book Review Blog

Buy the eBook~

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Buy the Paperback~


Take the The Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz Quiz


About the Author Andrea Cefalo~

01_Andrea Cefalo_Author Pic 2Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature.

The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016.

She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies.

For more information please visit Andrea Cefalo’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Follow The Fairytale Keeper Pinterest Board.

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Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thefairytalekeeperblogtour/

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Filed under Book Reviews

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is Destined to be One of Top Historical Mysteries/Thrillers of 2015

Powell_Knight_Cover_Template_UK.inddI’ve recently read The Blood of the Fifth Knight, which is the sequel to The Fifth Knight, a historical mystery thriller set in the times of Henry II and written by E.M. Powell. If you missed my review last year of The Fifth Knight, you can check it out by clicking on the title. Though the sleuth is the same in both books, you can be assured that you can read the sequel as a stand alone as well, though the first book was quite excellent and would provide further background information you might enjoy.

As for The Blood of the Fifth Knight, I absolutely loved reading this novel. I do love a good mystery, but in all fairness I must disclose that sometimes it takes me a few times to get “into” some mysteries, even if I liked them by the end. With Powell’s sequel, this wasn’t so at all. I was grabbed by the first few pages and read fervently as she entertained and thrilled me page by page. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t have distracted syndrome.

Why? I think it’s her sentence structure, her formation, her details….but beyond that, I think it’s her characters. They are so dimensional and crafted with an exquisite hand. I love Powell’s touches of humor, which always come lightly and just at the right time, and she’s one of few that makes action sequences exciting. She uses a whole cast of characters with different attributes that come to life off the page, making them easy to visualize within my head.

She did an extreme amount of research for this novel and it shows, as well as her vivid imagination for the time period. I love her glorious descriptive details, rich and full of life and zest. Her writing is never brooding, but fun and uplifting even in some situations that would be given a heavy air by others. Her historical basis was authentic and plausible and she wound her plot intricately and with care, weaving her characters and their motivations together like she had seen it all right before her eyes.

I love her choice of Sir Benedict Palmer as her sleuth, even if most everyone does not know that Henry II has called him in as an investigator, not a gardener. He seems very observant, but does get himself into some precarious situations which are quite humorous for many reasons. That added a flair to the story. Also, with her juxtaposing back to Palmer’s own wife, Theodosia, and his children, who were left behind in the home, it really gave the story depth and showed us societal levels and nuances of the time period which added to the plot. In regards to this, I especially enjoyed the character she introduced in Joan, Palmer’s long-lost sister. I liked her attitude and her strength, and her ingenuity, which set up an alternate mirror in regards to Theodosia’s moral compass.

I really liked Powell’s portrayal of Henry’s mistress, Rosamund Clifford, for whom Palmer was secretly called in to snuff out the assassin who tried to kill her. She didn’t regurgitate any historical story here just for legend sake, but instead she played upon their known affair in order to create a suspenseful mystery that was full of intrigue and drama. Talk about a damsel in distress! Surrounding this entanglement was, of course, Henry II’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, of whom he wished to divorce, and her lover, who had his eyes on the crown. Where Rosamund seems ignorant and in need of attention, Eleanor seems to know what she wants and won’t give up her place easily.

My FAVORITE part though was how Powell integrated the “zoo” into the novel, the grouping of animals that were secured or given as gifts to the crown which were kept at the Tower (later to be the London Zoo). The description of the animals, from the lion to the leopard, were amazing. The sequences with the animals made me wonder if Powell had ever been a zookeeper! I was enthralled by their use in the plot and felt that it was very original in comparison to almost anything else I’ve read in the historical medieval thriller genre.

I’ll be hard pressed to find many other mystery novels that I’ll love as much this year as The Blood of the Fifth Knight. Whether you have a flair for the medieval period or not, this mystery is for any reader who loves a thriller that sends them on a visual chase, as it treated me to an evening of escape and entertainment, and had me turning pages faster than I truly wanted to….I didn’t want to leave the characters behind!

Highly recommend as one of the top mysteries of 2015!


Chapter 1

Canterbury, Kent, England, 12 July 1174

A king’s flesh tore like any man’s. Sir Benedict Palmer knew it would, but still it shocked him to see it.

He stood among the many hundreds of pilgrims and gawkers that crammed the winding streets of Canterbury, watching the penitent King Henry make his tortured way towards the cathedral. The shouting crowds stood ten deep, twenty in places, pushing for a better view.

‘Can you see him?’ came the close whisper from Palmer’s wife, Theodosia.

He met her fear-filled grey eyes. ‘He’s nearly here.’ Though Palmer could see with ease over the crowd, his small-boned Theodosia could not. Not yet, but very soon. And the sight would horrify her.

The broiling sun overhead lit the red that remained in Henry’s greying hair, and he wore the blackened ash mask of the sinner. The sweat on his face carried dark streaks of ash and a different red down his naked upper body. Blood stained the royal flesh, flesh white and soft as a turnip root. A line of sweating, black-robed monks followed him, scourges in hand, delivering this brutal public penance for the murder of the cathedral’s Archbishop, Thomas Becket.

Theodosia’s hand tightened on Palmer’s arm. He knew she had longed desperately for this day. Longed for it as much as she dreaded it.

Another crack echoed above the noisy mob, and the black coils of a scourge striped Henry’s bare chest and shoulders again. Folk gasped, women screamed. A group of white-robed monks raised their voices in a noisy hymn.

Theodosia gripped harder.

‘Confiteor Deoomnipotenti, istisSanctis et omnibus Sanctis.’ Henry continued to recite his penance, his thin voice cutting through the horde’s buzz.

‘Beg for forgiveness!’ yelled an unseen man. ‘Saint Thomas Becket is all forgiving!’

A new din of yells, whistles, and cries broke out.

‘By the glorious Queen of Heaven and the angels, repent!’ A hatchet-faced man flung up his hands.

‘Beg for the mercy of the Almighty!’ wailed a pockmarked priest.

‘Repent!’ A woman held tight to the cloak of her witless, drooling son, a cross shorn into his hair. ‘Repent now!’

All in this mob blamed Henry—blamed him as surely as if he had held the sword that had smashed Archbishop Thomas Becket’s skull on that freezing December night three and a half years ago. The night that Palmer and Theodosia had both witnessed, that had near cost them their lives too. The night that the cathedral had become Becket’s tomb, where his lifeblood had been splashed across its stone floor.

But today, the huge grey cathedral towers stood against a searing sun in a blue sky, marking Becket’s triumph from Henry’s martyr to a holy saint. Today, Henry the sinner stumbled low on the hot, brutal streets of Canterbury, begging for forgiveness from the man he’d had cut down, his own flesh shredded and torn. Already he looked as if he might fall.

‘A godly dead man is worth more than a living knave!’

Another rage-filled scream.

Palmer licked the salt of sweat from his top lip and held his reactions in check. The King was no knave, yet the world had to think so.

Palmer glanced down at his silent wife, fearing her collapse more than the King’s. The high buildings trapped the stink from the near-solid run-offs from the privies, as well as the noise and heat. He hadn’t wanted to come to witness this ugly spectacle, but she’d insisted.

They’d travelled for weeks from their distant village of Cloughbrook in Staffordshire. Weeks without much food, as they walked in a praying, singing throng of every kind of pilgrim, which grew with each day they neared Canterbury. Now they stood here as the sun climbed, fiercer by the hour, without the relief of shade or water. Fiercer still, the mood of those watching Henry’s agony. The fierceness of the righteous. Palmer knew it well.

And Theodosia stood beside him, with her stomach big, the baby she carried expected by autumn. But he needn’t worry about her fainting. Despite her heat-cracked lips and freckled skin, he saw the clamp of her jaw, the firm set of her gaze. She wouldn’t yield: she waited for her King. Yet her gaze flicked to their small red-haired son, edging forward through the knot of legs and skirts, curious to gape too.

‘Tom.’ Her quick order brought him back to Palmer’s side.

Palmer laid a hand on the lad’s slender shoulder. ‘Stay with us, eh? Can’t have you getting lost.’ Not much chance of that. Becket himself could come down from the clouds, and Theodosia would still have an eye on the boy.

There was a crack as another scourge met the royal flesh. The crowd let out a fresh roar, drowning Henry’s cry of anguish.

Hands, fists and staves pressed at Palmer’s back, tried to force past him to gape closer. He swung his son off his feet and plunked him on his shoulders as he held Theodosia to him with his other arm.

He turned to those behind him. ‘Stop your shoving, you hear me?’

A fat pilgrim with an even fatter wife glared at him. ‘You ignorant farmer.’ With his breath a blast of tooth rot, the man’s face shone with rage and heat. ‘I can’t see past you and your—’ He caught the full force of Palmer’s look.

And shut his noise.

‘Benedict.’ Theodosia pulled at his arm. ‘Not here. We are on a holy pilgrimage.’

Palmer gave the silenced man a final glare and turned back to see the King’s approach along the street. ‘You ignorant farmer.’ Yes, he resembled one in his worn, patched clothes. He had to. If the pilgrim knew—knew who he really was, what he, Sir Benedict Palmer, had done: half those here would run screaming from him; the other half would tear him to pieces. No matter that King Henry knew the truth, that Henry would say Palmer’s actions had been justified. Henry himself was so close to losing his kingdom, losing his crown. Many said the King did this penance to make amends with God, before he lost power to Queen Eleanor and her ferocious sons, rising in rebellion against him. And all Palmer and Theodosia had been through would have been for nothing.

‘Make way for his Grace. Make way!’ Canterbury’s guards forced the watchers back with drawn swords.

Shoved aside too, Palmer took a half step to steady his stance.

Tom’s small hands clutched tightly at Palmer’s hair.

‘Alright, son?’


His son’s high voice hardened his resolve. Forget knighthood, kingdoms, battles. The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the murder that Henry now did penance for. The murder that he, Sir Benedict Palmer, had been present at. What mattered now was to keep his family safe.

But if a king could fall, if a king could be swept aside, then where did that leave him?

The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Synopsis~

Powell_Knight_Cover_Template_UK.inddPublication Date: January 1, 2015
Thomas & Mercer
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 368p

Genre: Historical Thriller

A triumphant sequel to Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight. A desperate king trusts a lone knight to unravel a web of murder.

England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign.

Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.

As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry’s traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.

Review Praise for The Fifth Knight

“Powell does a masterful job. Highly recommended.” Historical Novels Review

Author E.M. Powell, Biography~

????????????????????????????E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller THE FIFTH KNIGHT which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) she now lives in the north-west of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She is a reviewer of fiction and non-fiction for the HNS.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.

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