Rating: A+ for narration; A for content
NB – This is the version of the audiobook available in the US. The UK edition uses a different narrator (Peter Wickham).
1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, not even Emma, an 11-year-old peasant, is safe. A depraved monk obsessed with redheads kidnaps the ginger-haired girl from her village and leaves her for dead. When an archer for hire named Gwyl finds her, she has no memory of her previous life. Unable to abandon her, Gwyl takes the girl with him, dressing her as a boy, giving her a new name – Penda – and teaching her to use a bow. But Gwyn knows that the man who hurt Penda roams free, and that a scrap of evidence she possesses could be very valuable.
Gwyl and Penda make their way to Kenniford, a small but strategically important fortress that belongs to 16-year-old Maud. Newly wedded to a boorish and much older husband after her father’s death, the fierce and determined young chatelaine tempts fate and Stephen’s murderous wrath when she gives shelter to the empress.
Aided by a garrison of mercenaries, including Gwyl and his odd red-headed apprentice, Maud will stave off Stephen’s siege for a long, brutal winter that will bring a host of visitors to Kenilworth – kings, soldiers… and a sinister monk with deadly business to finish.
The Siege Winter is a superbly written and thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical fiction set in twelfth-century England at a time of great uncertainty and upheaval. The country is being torn apart by what is, in essence, a civil war between the supporters of the Empress Matilda (daughter of the late King Henry) and those of her cousin and Henry’s successor, King Stephen. The bulk of the tale is set between 1141 and 1143, but the story is told in the form of a story-within-a-story, as the events of the 1140s are related by a dying abbot to his scribe almost forty years later
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