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The Enchanter’s Forest
Hawkenlye, book 10

by Alys Clare

      Abbess Helewise is dismayed when pilgrims and invalids stop coming to her abbey; if this situation continues the place will cease to have a purpose and have to close. But people love a novelty, and they are all flocking to come and see the skeleton of Merlin that has been found in the forest. She suspects that the bones’ custodian, Florian of Southfrith, is merely running it as a lucrative business, and the tales of miraculous cures are either tall stories or instances of mind-over-matter. But how can she prove the bones do not belong to the magician? Sir Josse D’Acquin is willing to go to Brittany to see the real tomb, as it means he can snatch a few weeks with his lover, Joanna, and his child, Meggie.

Ms Clare writes a good story around the characters of Helewise and Josse, with the abbey and its loveable inhabitants solving mysteries on the edge of the great forest. Alongside (and threaded through) this more usual historical mystery is another, stranger story of wise pagan folk and their magical history, a man who can turn into a bear and ancient guardians. I don’t profess to know much about pagan practices in the late 12th century, but there is a strong New Age feel about Joanna and her people, with their free love and hodgepodge of mystical beliefs. The two do not sit well together, and I found myself reading rather a different type of novel to the one I thought I had chosen. I think the author needs to make up her mind whether she wants to write historical mystery or historical fantasy, as I have always enjoyed her whodunits very much. This new direction is for a rather different reader, and it will be interesting to see in which direction subsequent books lean.

The Book

Hodder & Stoughton
November 2007
Historical Mystery / 1195 Kent and Brittany
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008