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Friday, March 28, 2014

Two More Medieval Mysteries

Girl in the Ice by Jason Vail features Stephen Attebrook, a knight who lost half his foot during the crusades.  His military career over and his prospects considerably dimmer, he takes a job as a deputy coroner.  (I'm finding that coroners are frequent characters in medieval mysteries.  I mentioned some of the background of the crowner, coronarius, coroner, Keeper of the Pleas here. )

The winter of 1262 has been brutal, frequent snow storms all but burying the village.  On Christmas Day, the frozen body of a young girl is discovered buried in a drift of snow.  She is very young and very beautiful and captures the imagination of the villagers.

Stephen must discover her identity, and no one in the village or its immediate surroundings knows who she is.  His investigation leads to some political complications that are dangerous.  

I liked the book, but didn't love it.  Stephen, Gilbert, and Harry are interesting characters and the plot has some historical aspects concerning the Welsh March and the Simon de Montfort rebellion.  I like that the ebook was 99 cents, and I was able to experience another medieval author.  Would I read another in this series?  Yes, but I'm also interested in trying other new authors.

Medieval Mystery.  2013.  Print version:  270 pages.

The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury is the first in a series featuring Gwen, daughter of a famous bard, and Gareth, a knight in service to Prince Hywel of Wales.  Set in 1143, the novel is based on an actual murder of Anarawd, a minor Welsh king who was murdered on his way to marry the daughter of King Owain Gwynedd.

Despite the title, the main protagonist is the scrappy Gwyn, whose travels with her curmudgeonly father enable her to gather information for Prince Hywel.  

Prince Hywel, a complicated and somewhat secretive man, is my favorite character.  In real life, Hywel was interesting, but Woodbury makes his fictional version compelling.

While the basic tale is true, and the relationships of the historic characters fascinating, some of the dialogue seems too modern.  It is, perhaps, less of a mystery than a political conundrum.  The man who orders the murders of Anarawd and his men has great clout and his efforts to avoid being discovered as responsible involve scapegoating another.

I enjoyed this book, and I will read more because I want more of Prince Hywel and Prince Rhun, and I want to know more about Christin.  In other words, although I liked the redoubtable Gwen and the honorable Gareth, my favorite characters are those who lived and were involved with the events of the time.

Medieval Mystery.  2011.  Print version:  339 pages.


  1. You are on a roll discovering so many medieval mysteries! The Girl in the Ice sounds interesting to me.

  2. I'm really enjoying these medieval mysteries, and I'm learning some interesting facts, as well.

    I've read the first two in the series now and have the reviews scheduled. I liked them even better than the The Girl in the Ice.

  3. Sarah Woodbury's name sounds so familiar to me. I don't think I have read anything by her though.

    Both books sound interesting to me. I like scrapy characters (The Good Knight).

    And it's good to know the next too books in Vail's series are even better than the first. That's promising!

  4. Wendy - The Girl in Ice is the 4th in the series. I've picked up The Wayward Apprentice (1st) and Baynard's List (2nd) and have the reviews scheduled, but have to get the 3rd one now.