Jul 29 2006
Dear Mrs. Lancaster,
Thank you so much for submitting your book, An Endless Exile, for consideration in our July ebook contest. I’m always looking for a good historical novel and yours is excellent. I had heard of the name Hereward “the Wake” (Hereward the Watchful), the only Englishman to defy and defeat William the Conqueror, but didn’t know much more about him than that. After reading your novel, I’ll find it hard to ever forget him.
It must be difficult to have a folk hero for your hero and balance the adoration he must receive from his followers with enough flaws to make him human. When you add the fact that you must stick to known historical information about the Norman Conquest, its aftermath and the people involved as well as the few facts known or suspected about Hereward then make the tale told in first person by his wife, well, you’ve done a heck of a job.
While I was reading the story, I couldn’t help but think of Lymond and Phillipa from the pen of the late great Dorothy Dunnett. Hereward has the same indolent charm, natural charisma, intelligence, cunning, and problems with his family which hide his vulnerability. Torfrida’s tart intelligence, no nonsense behavior, late blooming beauty and ultimate devotion to a man who has hurt her severely end with her willing to risk everything to know the truth about him.
I like that you show both the good and bad in each character. Few books show how difficult it must be to live with a hero, to live on the run and to have to share so much of the man you love. And then just when I was ready to hit Hereward for putting Torfrida through so much, he’d do something to show just how much of a hold she had on his heart and soul. The story of their growing friendship, courtship and early love was even more poignant when juxtaposed with her investigation into his murder.
Your writing style is crisp and clean, with a neat sly humor that I love. The descriptions immediately placed me back in mid 11th century but didn’t gross me out with too much reality. You manage to convey the brutality and violence of the age without having the book drip in gore. I do have some words of caution for would be readers: don’t peek at the ending and read a little background information on the times to get your feet under you.
I already know of several people to whom I will recommend this book. A- for you.