Email this review


 A robust and majestically peopled and paced medieval trilogy-- a stormy tale of thunderous dark passions and spiritual triumphs-- in a one-volume collection of two hitherto-out-of-print novels and one never-before published here: from the author, as Ellis Peters, of the hugely popular Brother Cadfael mysteries. The Heaven Tree (1960) begins the story of stone mason Harry Talvace, who is brought to ``Parfois,'' in Shrewsbury, by Ralf Isambard, to create a church. In the reign of King John, however, English/Welsh conflicts heat, and Isambard, Lord of Parfois, orders Harry horribly killed for treason. Meanwhile, Isambard's mistress, Benedetta, refusing marriage, is bound to the corpse to perish but narrowly escapes death. Then, in The Green Branch (1962), young Harry, son of the craftsman--who had finished his church in chains- -matches wits with the Lord of Parfois, awaiting revenge. Finally, in The Scarlet Seed--in its first US appearance--all the old horrors and griefs, rages and revenges, will shrivel and dissipate. The Lord Isambard (tall, lean, ``a dark recollection of beauty'') reveals a heart in agony and a painful growing love of his ``son,'' young Harry. Eventually, while war rages betwen the English and Welsh, old man Isambard and Benedetta will die magnificently, Aida- fashion, in the boarded-up church; and young Harry will find a bride, see war as both an Englishman and Welshman, witness the end of Parfois--and of hatred--and know that his father's church, now in fragments, ``will wear out the stone. Eyes that have once seen it see all things differently thereafter.'' Pargeter's work is remarkable for its consistent high seriousness, and, here, once again, she manages to give appropriate shading to both the barbarous and spiritual in the medieval mind. These are mighty beings and Pargeter gives them mighty deaths and revelations. Occasionally the prose may wobble on the edge of purple, but there's always a quick-step recovery into Pargeter's usual supple and solemnly lyrical narration. A quite grand affair.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1993
ISBN: 0-446-51708-9
Page count: 912pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993