By far most of the historical fiction that I read is full of the twang of many bowstrings and ballista, the thrust of gladius and spear, the tromping of hobnailed caligae, however at the behest of my Twitterverse friend SJA Turney and after reading her blog posts I finally succumbed and decided to read Gisborne Book of Pawns by Prue Batten. A wise choice as it turned out.
The author has given us a wonderful re-telling of the story of Sir Guy Gisborne and the Lady Ysabel of Moncrief. The story is set during the beginning of Richard the Lionheart’s reign. It begins with the arrival of Gisborne in Aquitaine to escort Ysabel back to her home at Moncrief as her mother has died and her father is in dire straits. This sets up one of the main story lines; the tension between Sir Guy and Lady Ysabel. Other plots and sub plots are also evident bringing to the reader a sublime set of surprises and twists. The two main characters are beset with emotions, Gisborne’s arising from his past and his desire for his future and Ysabel’s awakening to reality.
The turmoil of Ysabel’s soul and the conflicts in her heart and mind are presented in such a way as to make it seem like Ysabel’s thoughts seep through the pages and enters the hearts and minds of the readers. This exquisitely compelling style of prose is what kept me entranced through the entire book. As an example I include this excerpt(no spoiler):
I dared him – so help me as I gazed at that severe face, I dared him. And it seemed as though we clashed close in our duel, our hilts jamming, our breath dragging in and out. He shook off my weapon and felled me with one blow. ‘Yes,’ he said.
The supporting cast of characters are also fascinating from the redoubtable Lady Cecilia, the various nuns and priests to the main antagonists, Halsham and de Courcey. I am now a fan of Prue Batten and heartily agree with another fan who once told me that she could write a phone book and make it compelling. I look forward with great anticipation to the rest of this saga. 5 stars indeed.