As the year 1349 approaches, the Black Death continues its devastating course across England. In Dorseteshire, the quarantined people of Develish question whether they are the only survivors.
Guided by their beloved young mistress, Lady Anne, they wait, knowing that when their dwindling stores are finally gone they will have no choice but to leave. But where will they find safety in the desolate wasteland outside?
One man has the courage to find out.
Thaddeus Thurkell, a free-thinking, educated serf, strikes out in search of supplies and news. A compelling leader, he and his companions quickly throw off the shackles of serfdom and set their minds to ensuring Develish’s future – and freedom for its people.
But what use is freedom that cannot be gained lawfully? When Lady Anne and Thaddeus conceive an audacious plan to secure her people’s independence, neither foresees the life-threatening struggle over power, money and religion that follows…
I can’t do justice to the beautiful writing style of Minette Walters, it’s not too often that I read a book of 470-odd pages and feel that is just isn’t long enough. I started slowing down near the end because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters yet.
The action scenes had me holding my breath and the sheer ballsiness of some of the characters left me speechless. Given that I rarely have any facial expressions while reading, my eyebrows were working overtime on this one.
Dorset has been ravaged by the Black Death and the dust is starting to settle, the survivors must now plan for the future. There’s no way that the social structure of England is going to remain the same after so many have died, it’s time to start forming a new one and battling those that want to keep it the same out of fear and duty. I can’t imagine many authors who could have me lapping up an entire book about sociology of the middle ages – this is a real gift.
This book is less about the visceral ickiness of the plague and more about the characters and politics. What impressed and delighted me the most was how the characters have changed since The Last Hours, it shows their capacity to learn from their experiences and keeps them unpredictable as they change over time.
Walters obviously has a keen understanding of human nature, both the positive and negative aspects, and channels this understanding into her characters to really bring them to life.
This book is the second in the Black Death series and really should be read in order, but I can say that this book is different to the first in terms of tone and content – I couldn’t possibly decide which one I like best.