FITZEMPRESS' LAW by Diana Norman


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A chirrupy, quirky historical fantasy in a strenuously modern idiom, with a single-minded message about English common law and its beginnings in the 12th century. Three motorcycling English misfits--Pete, Sal, and Len--barge into a cottage filled with herbs and simples, rough up the old woman within (who says something about bringing them to law), but then have an unusual accident and find themselves in 12th-century England during the reign of Henry II. Len is now Aluric, a Hertfordshire peasant; Sal is the orphaned Hawise of Redbourne, hustled to a convent by her would-have-been father-in-law who broke the marriage contract; and Pete finds himself in the mail of Sir Roger of Mardleybury, who's lost his land to a usurper and is traveling with a band of knights fighting chummy acquaintances in French castles. Thus, before the Hertfordshire finale at the spanking new King's Court, featuring an innovative use of writs and a jury, each time-traveler will find attractions in medieval life. Len/Aluric will absorb the soul of a peasant ""anchored to a couple of square miles of specific earth."" Pete/ Sir Roger finds the joys of companionship with bumptious young knights, excitement in a hunt, and strength in a community of Cambridge Jews whom he saves from a pogrom. Sal/Hawise is contented as a ward of the King's justicar, along with some lively ladies. And, now having witnessed real injustice, the three, their time running out, plead their cases before the king's court--for freedom, for land and for marriage--and they witness a new justice system in the making. As a Jewish lawyer puts it: Henry ""offers quicker, simpler, cheaper, cleaner law. Okay, he sells justice but for the first time it's there."" Finally, then, the trio is bing-ed back to the 20th century--clearer, cleaner, and motivated to the ears . . . while the witch that sent them back in time cackles. An aggressively educational, spottily amusing oddity--probably of most appeal to law-minded young adults.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's