Monday 29 May 2023

Heart of Ice

Finished May 23
Heart of Ice by Alys Clare

This is the ninth book in the series set around Hawkenlye Abbey, but the first one that I've read. An interesting inclusion at the beginning of the novel is a map of Mediterranean trade routes which also includes arrows to the far east along the Silk Road, to to Congo basin, and up the coast to England.
The time is February 1194, and the book begins with people journeying from further away. Along with the people travels a disease and the book details its transmission from person to person. Thus we see the significance of the map right away. From here the story stays in England, and we see how the disease has taken hold of a small number of people near the Abbey, which is known for its healing spring and the nuns and monks who look after the ill that are drawn there. 
Besides those at the abbey itself, we see some of the local people. From the abbess Helewise and the local knight, Sir Josse d'Acquin to the local sheriff, Gervase de Gifford, down to the servant and laboring class, many people have a role to play here.
There is also an interesting element of the paranormal through both a piece of jewelry, and a local woman who has been recognized as having certain skills, many of them associated with healing, and we see her take a journey of learning amongst her people, the ancient Celts, and return to her home with greater knowledge and power, just in time to find her skills useful in the current health crisis.
I really enjoyed this book, both the intellectual investigations of the various characters as they look for the source of the disease to try to mitigate its spread, and the clues they follow regarding the young man killed for a reason they aren't aware of. We see how the story links to larger regional issues, with struggles for leadership in England and France. A very interesting and engrossing read. 

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