This is the story of Cressida, who is seen in the year 1297 at large in England. She is a warrior, a weapon trained from childhood in the arts of war. This historical novel is in the genre of romance, and much of it concerns the relationship between Cressida and Eldric, a knight. This book is a powerful tale of two lives intertwined by faith and an attraction that goes beyond the usual expectations. As they explore the past, the events that they know of and some that they can only guess at, they exchange stories of brutality and worse; this is in no way a courtship of delicate manners but a physical narrative of several differences. Revealing events over a few days with implications from the past, this is a book of intensity in its descriptions of a woman and a man in close proximity. The writing is lively and vivid, with such clever descriptions that it is easy to visualise the woman and man and their intimate setting. Their situation, it soon transpires, has far reaching implications not only for their own lives, but also the fate of many others. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual historical romance.
The book opens with Cressida seeking a sight of her employer who she identifies as her father. She is a younger woman who has talents best suited to the role of warrior, and it soon appears that she has a great deal of battle experience, not in set piece conflicts but in the picking off of specified targets for assasination. She is determined to find and contact her father, who has made her “The Archer”, a sophisticated killing machine. She is an expert in every weapon except the sword; she can keep watch for extended periods and kill men to order. She can hide in high places, and picks a tree which overlooks the port with its coming and going of boats. A few hours later she feels herself pulled out from the tree by rough hands, and despite her desperate attempts to free herself which include inflicting injuries on her captor, she is taken up to a boarding house and secured as a prisoner. Eldric of Hawksmoor is a man who she has watched for years, a huge and powerful warrior with great responsibility to King Edward himself. For complex reasons her father has in the past instructed her, as part of her role, to kill Eldric and others, but she has instead chosen to observe him, discovering an attraction for him that she cannot explain. Eldric meanwhile is torn between the unexpected discovery that his long term adversary who he has sworn to kill in revenge for his friends is female, and his sworn duty to take the Archer to London and the King. He feels a powerful attraction to her, especially when he discovers her past history, but he soon realises that she will fight him with every ounce of her strength.
This is a strongly written tale of mutual attraction in nearly impossible circumstances. It seems to be one of a sequence of books which feature some of the characters alluded to in this story, but it certainly stands alone as a complete novel in its own right. It is a skillfully written novel of character and setting, with two unusual but fascinating main characters.