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The author of Gildenford and The Norman Pretender continues her brisk, inventive 11th-century-England chronicle--now going beyond 1066 to focus on the last pockets of English rebellion against the invading Norman, William the Conqueror; and the English/Norman conflicts here are viewed through a cross-hatched series of difficult marriages, featuring some desperate (and not always admirable) ladies. Clustered in Ely, an area surrounded by impenetrable marshes, are the forces of Hereward the Wake, a red-haired and hot-tempered English thane who is aided by series-hero Brand. (Brand formerly served William in France, yet he now rebels--feeling that his dead lord, King Harold, has been betrayed.) But meanwhile, in Brand's absence, his beloved daughter Wulfhild agrees to marry a Norman noble called Simon Inconnu to save her home; and courteous Simon, suffering from a kind of knightly amnesia, will gradually win the respect of Wulfhild and all her underlings. (In contrast, a neighboring Norman's cruelty to his wife and household drives the poor lady to madness and a nunnery.) And meanwhile, too, Anand offers the marriage of Willaim I and Queen Matilda--often a violent affair, punctuated by blows; plus that of William's niece Judith, who detests her husband, eventually taking a terrible revenge. True love, however, blossoms when Judith's plain-but-intelligent friend Aude is captured by one of Hereward's men: throughout Hereward's adventures, including a visit to William's camp in disguise (William, recognizing a brave foe, allows him to leave), Aude is on his mind. And finally Brand, who has brought amnesiac Simon back to his past at last, will join Hereward in pledging fealty to William--but for a price. With grisly battles, belladonna murders, marital strategies, and lively period-neutral dialogue: another Anand installment of agreeable historical entertainment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Scribners