jump to navigation

Book Commentary/Review – THE BURNING CANDLE by Lisa Yarde February 16, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in book review, books, historical fiction, Lisa Yarde, medieval period.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

The Burning Candle by Lisa Yarde is a compelling historical novel recreating the life of Isabel de Vermandois, a young woman who finds herself thrust into the early days of Norman rule over newly conquered England—just before the era of Ken Follette’s Pillars of the Earth. Yarde brings accurate history and informed speculation together with a mastery of plot and dialogue to offer an entertaining and informative read.

The Burning Candle is historical fiction/biography. We follow Isabel de Vermandois’ life from pre-pubescence to middle age—every event is depicted from her point-of-view. This brings us deeply into her character. We feel her frustration with her parents’ abuse and her frustration as her life seems but a tool for others, with Isabel having no control over what her life will be. Here she is, with regal blood coursing through her veins, with talent and intelligence, but subject to the whims and desires of others, mainly older men. At first her marriage to a man her father’s age seems an improvement in her situation. But it is actually a descent into torment as her husband hides a life-affecting secret, and brutalizes her in ways that make her parents look benign in comparison.

Years later, after giving birth to a number of male heirs for older husband, she finds herself finally with a choice, a choice brought to her with a daring move made by a man she had reviled as nearly evil incarnate. Does Isabel finally make her own choice, or does she succumb to duty? This is the dramatic question at the climax of The Burning Candle.

Lisa Yarde demonstrates a command of her craft as she weaves an entertaining story out of a lesser-known bit of history. The depth of her research is evident in the detailed historical note at the end of The Burning Candle. If you are a reader looking for a slice of history presented in an entertaining way, every bit as worthy as a book by masters like Sharon Kay Penman or Elizabeth Chadwick, The Burning Candle will be a great choice for your next book to read.

Book Commentary/Review – On Falcon’s Wings by Lisa Yarde November 9, 2010

Posted by rwf1954 in Battle of Hastings, book review, books, historical fiction, Lisa Yarde, medieval period, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

On Falcon’s Wings is a wonderfully crafted historical novel set around the time of one of the most pivotal events in history—The Battle of Hastings in 1066. The time frame reaches back to 1048 and extends to 1072 with a brief denouement. But as we turn the pages, we become more conscious of that big October 1066 date approaching, and we wonder how the main characters will fare in the aftermath of this history-altering event.

The story revolves around the two main characters, Avicia and Edric. These two end up aligned with opposite forces in the upcoming battle. As teenagers, they find a chemistry and passion that gets Avicia into serious trouble, leading to a humiliating, brutal punishment in front of her people and Edric’s people, visiting Flanders from England. They move on to separate lives—Edric to a loveless marriage and Avicia to a marriage with a love that stems more from loyalty and respect than from anything approaching the passion and chemistry experienced by Avicia and Edric in their youth. When they come together again later in life, the consequences again affect Avicia significantly, threatening to ruin her life completely.

Yarde is meticulous about capturing the history of the period accurately. The conventional impression of William “the Conqueror’s” triumph in 1066 is that he was the first “English” king, founding a line of succession that now approaches a thousand years of English/British monarchs. But Yarde depicts accurately that William (known as “the Bastard,” not “the Conqueror,” during his times), was an invader, a French invader, a Norman invader, so actually a combination of French blood and the blood of Scandinavian Vikings who raided English towns for a few hundred years leading up to these events. Edric is one of the English, defending his land, defending his king, crowned pursuant to the deathbed succession pronouncement of the previous English king. Yarde’s story point-of-view for the clash is mainly from the Saxon/English point-of-view, offering a different perspective on these events. (Elements of this Norman/Saxon tension would remain evident generations later, creeping into the Robin legend and evident in the history pertaining to another famous English king, Richard the Lionheart, who spoke French, not English, and spent very little time in England.)

Yarde offers us the romance to tie the story togther, as the two main characters find each other more than once during the story. But though the conclusion of the Battle of Hastings is well-known, readers are cautioned not to assume they can predict how this epic moment in history will end up affecting the lives of the two main characters. As the battle moves to its devastating conclusion, told from the point-of-view of Edric, fighting for King Harold and the Saxons/English, we wonder who will survive, and what circumstances the survivors will face when the Normans complete their conquest of England.

Readers who like a good romance will enjoy the ups-and-downs of Avicia and Edric. Readers who like an excursion into the drama of a major historical event will enjoy the absorbing trip to The Battle of Hastings and surrounding events. On Falcon’s Wings is absorbing and entertaining historical fiction.

On Falcon's Wings

On Falcon's Wings