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The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter

Postby Misfit » Tue August 26th, 2008, 3:15 pm

The Heaven Tree Trilogy is heavenly to read. The first book in the trilogy, The Heaven Tree, tells the story of master stonemason Harry Talvace as he is hired by Ralf Isambard to build him a great cathedral at Parfois along the Welsh Marches. Isambard also brings courtesan Benedetta along with him as mistress, although he is unaware that Benedetta bears a lifelong unrequited love for Harry. Harry makes a desperate choice to save a child from hanging that has dire consequences for himself, his wife and Benedetta, although Harry returns to his commitment to complete the cathedral despite the sentence of a traitor's death hanging over him.

The Green Branch, the second book in the trilogy takes up the story of Master Harry's son (also called Harry) who has been raised in Wales as a foster son to Prince Llewellyn. Harry is unknowingly drawn into the adulterous affair between Llewellyn's wife Joan (also known as Joanna) and William de Braose, and as a result of the scandal Harry flees Llewellyn's court and heads to Parfois to enact his revenge against Isambard for his father's death, but fifteen year old Harry is no match for Isambard and is taken prisoner. Ralph refuses to ransom Harry back to his family, and eventually the hatred that first existed between the two sworn enemies develops into something very different and unexpected to both men.

In the final book, The Scarlet Seed, Harry continues to learn the masonry craft of his father whilst still being held prisoner by Isambard. Desperate to free Harry, Benedetta offers Isambard another hostage, one he cannot refuse, but a choice unacceptable to Benedetta's servant John the Fletcher. John makes an attempt on Ralph's life that takes a tragic turn, and as a consequence the jailer now becomes the prisoner in his own home. As the Marches explode into civil war, the Welsh storm the unassailable Parfois and the fates of Isambard, Madonna Benedetta and Master Harry are forever entwined through eternity.

While the start of The Heaven Tree may be a bit too slow paced for some readers, Pargeter's beautiful prose and lyrical writing is one to sit back and slowly savor like a fine red wine or chocolate (or both!!) and I highly recommend this for any lover of medieval fiction. It's not quite as perfect a read for me as Penman's Here Be Dragons, but pretty darn close, and that final scene in the cathedral between Isambard, Benedetta and Master Harry (I'm not telling!) was nothing short of perfection. Five stars.

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LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Tue August 26th, 2008, 5:26 pm

Ooooh, this reminds me! I still need to read the last book in the trilogy! Loved the first two. I think the first one, The Heaven Tree, is my fav though.

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Michelle2
Scribbler

Postby Michelle2 » Tue August 26th, 2008, 10:17 pm

This has finally come through on my wishlist on PaperbackSwap...I hope to get it in a week or so.

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Virgulina
Scribbler
Location: Portugal
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Postby Virgulina » Wed August 27th, 2008, 12:07 am

"1lila1" wrote:Ooooh, this reminds me! I still need to read the last book in the trilogy! Loved the first two. I think the first one, The Heaven Tree, is my fav though.


Same here, I read the first two and still have to pick up the third one, I thought the first volume was perfect and it reads as a stand alone, the story of Harry's son wasn't so compelling.

Ana

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed August 27th, 2008, 12:26 am

I agree the second book had some slow moments. The end of the third book is awesome, Pargeter ties all three together in a stunning ending.

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Sat August 30th, 2008, 12:32 am

Thanks for a delightful review that reminded me which events took place in which volume. Time for a reread. I believe Heaven Tree is Pargeter's best novel (and the sequels are good, too). It's certainly one of my all-time favorites!
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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ellenjane
Reader

Postby ellenjane » Tue December 1st, 2009, 3:11 am

I finished all three books a little before Thanksgiving - what a read! I really liked the interplay between the younger Harry and Isembard, as well as the resolution between the two. It was dramatic and powerful and real, and totally not what one would expect from a novel of this sort. I agree that it was a bit slower going in the middle than I expected, but well worth the effort. It was really wonderful to see so many of the hallmarks of Edith Pargeter's Cadfael style without the predictable formula. I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for a copy of this to keep for my own.

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zsigandr
Avid Reader
Location: Ontario, Canada

Postby zsigandr » Tue December 1st, 2009, 5:37 pm

Thank you all for sharing! I had seen this trilogy in a used book store, but was unsure of what Pargeter's writing was like. After reading Misfit's review along with the rest of your comments, it is a must read for me and I will be buying this trilogy.
Andrea


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