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REVIEW: King of the Last Days by Diana Norman

Back blurb:

“The cowled figures which stood around the open grave in the moonlight at Glastonbury in the year 1189 were used to mystery but even they were overawed by what was in the coffin.

Their great and ancient monastery was in trouble and if this sword was what they thought it was, if those bones were really Arthur’s, then they had a great relic for which their king would be properly grateful.

But their king was in France, fighting his son, Richard Coeur de Lion, and getting the sword to him would be a perilous business. A lot of people wanted that sword for a lot of reasons.

The young monk who takes it for them is unobtrusive enough but, as rumour of what he is carrying spreads, he is in danger. The companions he picks up on the way, a formidable Prioress, a Crusader haunted by the massacre in the Holy Land, may be trustworthy, or they may not.

The king they are seeking, Henry II, is sick so they are not only evading enemies, they are also in a race against time.

KING OF THE LAST DAYS makes a story full of sharp medieval detail, and lively wit and variety of mood. A very satisfying and immensely readable successor to Diana Norman’s first novel, Fitzempress’ Law.”

Dear Mrs. Norman,

Why, oh why are most of your books not still in print? Trees die daily for Cassie Edwards and Connie Mason but not for an author who truly deserves to be read by more people. Life sucks, ‘eh? The only way I knew this book existed was because it was listed at Amazon.co.uk as out of print. I knew nothing else about it as there was no back blurb or reviews. So when I found it listed by an English bookseller, I took the plunge, crossed my fingers, whipped out my credit card and hoped for the best.

King of the Last Days by Diana NormanSince most of the books we review here are romance, let me say up front, this is not a romance. All of the your other books I’ve read so far have romances in them but not this one. What readers do get is a great view of medieval life, especially from the POV of the religious community and the peasants. All three main characters have deep feelings about Henry II and, especially for the Prioress and monk, the law he instituted (which serves as the backbone of English Common Law). There is enough period detail to set it firmly in medieval times but not enough truly gross details to ick me out.

You refrain from inventing over melodramatic backstories or forcing nonessential subplots into the story so it’s short (189 pages) but still rich in the tale you’re trying to tell. I still blush and/or shudder to think what I paid for this book but I have to say that it was worth it. “King of the Last Days” is yet another reason I’m thankful you’re an author.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

24 Comments

  1. Maili
    Nov 15, 2006 @ 11:43:28

    Give Sonia Overall’s ‘A Likeness’ a try. OK, it’s in Elizabethan dialect, but it’s easy to get used to it and to be honest, the story makes it worthwhile. Hm, maybe I should do a review. I didn’t like her next book, which sets in a Victorian-era seaside town, though. The narrator is a child, but the author makes the girl’s voice far too mature.

    I did hear that she’s currently writing another historical novel that revolves around a puppet master who falls for a wealthy man’s mistress. It sounds good, so I look forward to this one. :D Anyway, do give Sonia Overall’s A Likeness a try if you can. I’ll send a copy to you if it’s HTF in the US.

  2. Jayne
    Nov 15, 2006 @ 12:35:28

    Maili! Good to hear from you again. I’ve already ordered “A Likeness.” Love, love, love online shopping! Thanks for the rec. I see you’re reading The Alchemist’s Daughter which is on my ever growing TBR list. Post a review when you’re done please. ;)

  3. Keishon
    Nov 15, 2006 @ 18:24:03

    Yep, I got this one, too. (King of the Last Days). Can’t. Wait. To. Read it. Right now, I’m kinda hoarding it like her new book. Have you read that one yet, Jayne, dear?

    Maili, yes, please do a review. I have that one, too.(Alchemist Daughter)

  4. Jayne
    Nov 15, 2006 @ 20:26:50

    No, I haven’t read her newest one yet either. Like you said, gotta save and savor them for a while.

  5. Michelle
    Nov 15, 2006 @ 23:42:54

    Ooh, more out of print books to find. Seriously it sounds good. I agree that life doesn’t seem fair when there seems to be drivel that keeps getting published and good authors just don’t get the publicity.

  6. Jayne
    Nov 16, 2006 @ 08:25:13

    I should warn people interested in this book that it’s seriously very hard to find. I think libraries might be the best option. People living in the UK will probably have the best luck finding it.

  7. stacey eldridge
    Nov 23, 2006 @ 10:22:05

    i love her books and very rarely buy, i belong to my library and just reserve any book for a mear 75p if they cant get it from other libraries they get it laser printed, so maybe if you have trouble finding books, try your library….best invention ever

  8. Strop
    Aug 19, 2007 @ 12:30:48

    The prices for Diana Norman books are pretty high, but I’ve got lucky twice in secondhand bookshops. Daughter of Lir was £5 in Barter Books in Alnwick, and The Morning Gift cost me all of £2 from a secondhand shop in Holmfirth.

    Still looking for a reasonably priced copy of Fitzempress’ Law, which is possibly the best book ever. I’ve only read it because a very kind friend lent me her (very pricey) Amazon copy.

  9. Jayne
    Aug 19, 2007 @ 12:46:17

    Strop, I was lucky in that I started to collect DN books after reading “A Catch of Consequence” a few years ago. Since then, the prices have gone through the roof. This is one author who could cash in on ebooks but I’ve yet to see any of her OOP books be reissued. Bummer. I did luck into a copy of Fitzempress’ Law through Half.com for about $4.00. Yep, that’d be about £2. WOOT! was I excited. :)

  10. Strop
    Aug 20, 2007 @ 14:26:03

    Oohhhhhh! You must be the luckiest reader on the planet.

  11. Strop
    Aug 20, 2007 @ 15:24:48

    The DN book I reread most often, either fully or partially, is The Vizard Mask.

  12. Jayne
    Aug 20, 2007 @ 17:25:38

    Now that’s one I’ve not read yet. The pressure to hoarde reading her books is eased a little bit since discovering her books written as Ariana Franklin but she still hasn’t published enough that I can zip through them with abandon.

  13. cinta
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 04:04:28

    I’ve read everything – EXCEPT King of the Last Days. I love her work – imagine how I felt when I discovered that Ariana Franklin had written three I hadn’t read. Bliss. Still, knowing her realtionship to Henry II – always a bit of a hero of mine – I’d give my eye teeth for a copy. Unfortunately, can’t find one under £120.00 YIKES!!

  14. Jayne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 07:15:44

    cinta, I still remember when Rosalie blogged about AF being DN. Happy was not the word. Ecstatic more like. And she’s got a third book in the Aguilar series already written (due out early next year).

    I’ve never even seen another copy of KofLD offered anywhere and doubt it would be available from most, if any, US libraries. I’m glad I decided to get it as it would be one of those things I’d kick myself for later if I hadn’t.

  15. cinta
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 07:24:39

    I’m Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo jealous!! OUt of all the rubbish you can read on line, why can’t we have KofLD? I read and re-read her books, especially when I’m laid up. I love Children of Lyr. Think this is my favourite, but The Vizard Mask and Taking Liberties come in on the line for a photo finish. I love the way she makes every one of her characters seem so alive. Reading through her books is like diving into them and being an invisible observer of every moment. I’ve felt angry, uplifted, I’ve felt rage and deep sorrow – but I’ve also LOL. What I really want to know, is how come this lady isn’t sitting atop of the best sellers lists? Or is it that she’s just too clever?

  16. Jayne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:42:11

    I just found the copy you must be speaking of – for sale in Northumberland? Ouch, the price!

    I like that her characters aren’t perfect people. They make mistakes, they’re human. I don’t recall a Mary Sue in any of the ones I’ve read.

    Why isn’t she a bestseller? Hmmm, not enough sex? Not emo, angsty enough for the Literature crowd?

    She did a question and answer session at Sara Donati’s blog and said she’d talk with her publisher about rereleasing her OOP books.

  17. Jayne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:50:25

    Hmm, I just went to the links provided from the Donati site and found these libraries listing it in the UK and Ireland.

    Trinity College, Dublin Dublin, 2 Ireland

    Book
    Services: Library Information

    Cambridge University Cambridge, CB3 9DR United Kingdom

    Book
    Services: Library Information

    University of Oxford Oxford, OX1 3LU United Kingdom

    Book
    Services: Library Information Ask a librarian

  18. Elsey
    Sep 21, 2009 @ 20:09:05

    I just found this net service looking for Diana Norman books. I’ve read the 3 AF books, and got Fitzempress’ Law through ILL in NC, US. Anymore word on reprinting her books? Also I saw someone mention her “new book” and wondered if it is Grave Goods (AF)? Still waiting to see if they get Morning Gift. Any more info on her books would be wonderful, or any other authors who come close. I love medieval English history (especially mysteries)!

  19. Jayne
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 05:54:32

    Elsey, there are now 4 AF books. Three in the Mistress of the Art of Death series and one about early 20th Berlin called “City of Shadows.” I understand that a 4th MotAoD book should be due next year.

    I haven’t heard any more about her books being reprinted but hope springs eternal.

  20. Elsey
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 18:32:00

    Thanks! I picked up “City of Shadows” but got involved with her others. Will get it again. What other authors are similar in relation to medieval mysteries? I also enjoy the WW1 to WW2 British period.

  21. Jayne
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 18:35:55

    Check out this website “Crime Thru Time.” It has books arranged by time line.

  22. Elsey
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 19:16:18

    I’ve seen some sites that are cool, but this is the BEST!! Thanks so much.

  23. Liz
    May 19, 2013 @ 13:11:13

    After being a historical fiction fan for years I stumbled across a catch of consequence a few months back in a charity shop, and fell n love with a new author. I quickly scoured amazon and picked up the two other books in the makepeace trilogy, read the and was eager for more. Luckily I found blood royal, the vizard mask, daughters do lir and morning gift for a mere 1p each, yes that is correct, with only a 2.80p postage, again on amazon, so have these to read. Of course I now need to find those others I do not yet have, but relish the search!

  24. Jayne
    May 19, 2013 @ 18:39:16

    @Liz: Did you know that Diana Norman also published under the pen name Ariana Franklin? There are 4 books in a series that you need to check into as well which start with “Mistress of the Art of Death.” Unfortunately, the last one ended on a bit of a cliffhanger note with the promise of upcoming changes all around for the various characters which it seems we won’t ever know since we lost Mrs. Norman before she could write the next book.

    Recently I discovered that 2 of her older books have been released as ebooks – “Vizard Mask” and “Blood Royal” so there is hope that more of her backlist might become readily available soon.

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