“I must learn to be as the bear in a cage with the stick that pokes it always, through the bars. The bear acts as if the stick is made of air, and takes no notice of it, even when it is sharpened and draws blood. I must do the same.”
This historical mystery grabbed me from the brief historical note at the beginning. Set during the reign of Richard II in 1377, the small village of Duns, England. A tragic house fire takes the lives of five young boys; but the fire is very suspicious. Why were all of the boys at the weaver’s house in the night? Why were they locked in? Why did they all have precious possessions with them? Some townsfolk think that this is the work of the Jews. Seeking justice the father’s of the boys decide to bring the bodies of their boys to the King to pass judgement. We see the treacherous 200 mile long journey on the dangerous roads through the cold winter through the eyes of Maer.
Mear is one of the best historical fiction characters I have come across. Disguised as a man and a mute since she reached the town 10 years prior with her infant son, Mear has many secrets that she must protect. I felt an instant bond to Mear’s character and protective instinct. Since Mear does not speak through most of the story, the writing is mostly through Mear’s inner-dialogue and conversations that she hears. This is done in a wonderful and lyrical way. The mystery unfolds slowly and we unravel stories little-by-little. Ned Hayes has definitely woven a gripping tale that will keep you intrigued the whole way through. “