In a small village during the Middle Ages, a fire has killed five boys: Breton, Stephen, Matthew, Jonathon and Christian. Christian’s mother Mear has been living as a mute man for the past decade, and the village has no idea all of the secrets she hides. The only proof she has of her past is a ring she finds her son was wearing around his neck when he died– the ring of his father.
Mear has been working for the blacksmith Salvius, who has been her friend since she and her son were found injured and desperate when Christian was but a baby. Salvius is blond, tall and handsome, and he has always taken on the role of a leader. He has also been the caretaker of the orphan boy Cole, who is known for his habits of thieving and lying.
The fire occurred in the home of Benedict the weaver, whose son Stephen was also killed. Some, like Breton’s father Tom, wish to point to Benedict and his Jewish wife Sophia as the ones who set the fire.
Mear’s good friend Liam bravely attempted to save their boys, including his own son Jonathon. Liam is a large, red-headed “layabout” woodsman, and he is the one person who can always make Mear laugh.
Counter to that is the carpenter Geoff– the dark, brooding father of Matthew. Mear has always found Geoff somewhat distasteful. There are rumors that Geoff was molested by his father when he was a boy, and that maybe he has his father’s predilections.
After the fire, these despondent parents embark on a journey to the king, along with Hob the alderman, seeking justice for their children.
During the trip, dangers abound and secrets are uncovered. We learn that Mear used to have another friend, a woman by the name of Nell. Nell took Mear in after she was brought to the village, and offered her sanctuary. But it seems some in the village may have viewed Nell as something of a witch, and she was killed some years before (and mystery surrounds her death). After all, in villages where everyone knows everyone’s business, and speculates on what they don’t know, people can be bitter and backbiting.
The talk flickered back and forth from mouth to mouth. They were jackdaws fighting over a bit of flesh, ripping this grisly matter back and forth until nothing of sense was left.
I loved this story. The characters drew me in, and the author has such a talent for putting emotion into visual pictures, to give them real substance.
I am pierced to the root then, all of my veins bathed in a liquor of terror.
Hob’s absence is like a tooth missing– everyone feels the wound, but no one knows how to fill the gap.
The past puts the bit in Tom’s mouth and rides him like a demon. His face is thick with rage.
The author pulled me into a tragic and engaging story, with all the sights, smells and emotions of the characters’ world. It had a Gothic feel to it, and in my mind as I saw them on their journey, I envisioned a dark and desolate snow-covered woods, like something out of the north of Game of Thrones. I heard the creak of the wagon wheels and felt the cold. I heard the silence of no birds or insects making themselves known.
The characters bicker and argue on their dangerous trek, but they also fight for and care for one another.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour.