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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 104.14 x 175.26 x 17.78mm | 158.76g
  • Random House Children's Publishers UK
  • Corgi Childrens
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0552082910
  • 9780552082914

Review Text

Madselin is a 17-year-old widow in 1066 England: her much-older, little-loved husband Eitel, lord of Bradwald, has been killed by a small contingent of William the Conqueror's invaders ("the dregs of the sour Norman barrel"). And, with servant Hild, Madselin has taken refuge in the Abbey of Wyck, seine distance from Bradwald. But, "with her hatred of the cold, her love of comfort, her liking for food, she would be better off dead than living a drawn-out death in life at Wyck . . . ." So Madselin boldly sets off for Bradwald, vowing to confront the enemy and demand proper burial for Eitel's battlefield corpse. She appears at the impromptu court of the local Norman tyrant-Rolf the Armourer, who has been given the area by William. He immediately views her as wife material; Madselin knows a good thing when she sees it, becoming the enemy's bride. (An unloving one - till a surprisingly exciting wedding night: "A Norman! How could this be?") And se, while Rolf begins to set up his court and build the first allstone castle in England, Madselin occupies a difficult position - translating for the Normans, giving their orders, eliciting hatred from many of her compatriots, but doing her very best to get fair treatment for the conquered peasants. (There is "none of the 'Just to please you, sweetheart,' about Rolf, " however.) But then, in file novel's weaker second half, Madselin risks all - when she learns that her adored childhood sweetheart, Stigand of Bemid, is being imprisoned, starved, and tortured by the Normans in a neighboring dungeon. With help from one of Rolf's new knights-for-hire, she cornes up with a series of doomed rescue plans. And when she at last worms and storms her way to Stigand, she finds an over-interrogated prisoner in hopeless, agonizing shape - "so she did the one thing left to de, helped by her memory of seeing a wounded deer dispatched." Still, Madselin ends up looking ahead - "with his blood on my skirt, my sleeves, my hands, thinking of the future" - and, as in other Lofts historicals, the tough, practical, unweepy heroine is a major asset here. Reliable, too, are the stripped-down Lofts prose and her unpretty view of medieval times. So, though the second hall of this short novel is a disappointing, thinly melodramatic follow-up to the fascinating opening chapters, those who like their period stories sharp and wiry will continue to find Lofts the best her around. (Kirkus Reviews)show more