I know I'm in the minority of the rest of the reading public, but this is truly one of the worst books I have ever read. I came so close to throwing the book across the room on several occasions, and ended up skipping through many pages just to get to the final and not too surprising finish.
The characters were flat and lifeless and seemed to have been transplanted from the 20th century into medieval England. The book was rife with unnecessary profanity that in no way enhanced the storyline and obscene gratuitous sex (I mean how many times did William have to rape someone to prove that he was a really really bad guy?). I noticed that at least one other reviewer commented that this book was required reading in his child's school, which if you are a parent I would recommend you take a good look at this book and perhaps take issue with your school district. As an adult I was shocked at the language and violence in this book, and find it totally inappropriate for a child and/or young adult.
I also noticed comments about the historical accuracy and research that must have been involved in writing this book. If that is so, it must only be in regards to the building of the cathedral and the civil war between Stephen and Maud. As for the rest, I must disagree, I have read many well written and researched books of medieval times (thank you Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick for such awesome reads), and I was infuriated on numerous discrepancies in this book. Examples and anyone may correct me if I'm mistaken as I am not a history major:
- Aliena is frequently described as having long, curling loose flowing hair. Women in those days wore their hair braided and covered, it being quite scandalous for any man other than her husband or lover to see it loose.
- After the attack on the castle, and the imprisonment of their father Aliena and Richard are allowed to live alone in the castle with only the steward? I doubt that the king would punish the children so for the sins of their fathers, and most likely would have been made wards of the king until they reached their majority. This was most desirable as the king could then skim the proceeds off the estates and funnel them to the crown's use. Sometimes a king would give ward ship to another party as a reward for service, etc.
- Young boys of the noble class were typically sent to another noble household to be raised and educated, first as squires and then trained in that household as a knight. What on earth was a teenaged Richard doing living at home?
- Much was made of William's warhorse. These were formidable beasts that were not easily handled by strangers. Yet Aliena and Richard were able to not only saddle the warhorse, but to get right on and ride it? I don't think so.
- The English nobility of that period were Norman French and did not speak the language of the peasant class. So how did Aliena manage to not only communicate with them, but could set up a successful business in that atmosphere?
I could go on with more examples if I had remembered to take notes, but there were many similar instances to this throughout the book. All I can say is that if you want to read a very well written and researched book on this period, please see Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept and Time and Chance or Elizabeth Chadwick's A Place Beyond Courage. Rating: Wall Banger.