Redheaded Bess has strange fits of precognition--the world goes into slow motion and she sees pictures of the future. Raised in the royal household as maid to King lames I's daughter Elizabeth, she believes herself the bastard of the nasty monarch; her love for the Prince of Wales goes unfulfilled since both think it would be incest. In fact, lames burnt her mother at the stake and Bess is a hereditary witch, accounting for her skill in herbal medicine and her power over men. By the time she finds this out, we are well into the Thirty Years War, her mistress having married the German Elector Palatine. Vivid writing abounds: ""His great orbs of eyes rolled like dark marbles, and saliva, overflowing his stammering mouth, matted the thin, foxy beard and ran down on his garments."" The English part of the book is gripping despite loose ends of plot, but once Bess gets to Germany, the book goes flat. Even true love, false accusations, and gang rape by the Spanish army fail to inspire. More Morgan le Fay and less Mother Courage next time, please.