Thursday, 15 February 2018


The King's Greatest Enemy #4 : 

 The Cold Light of Dawn

Anna Belfrage

The author of this book is kindly giving away a copy of an ebook so to enter, please leave a comment on the blog below or on my Facebook Page

Will be drawn on Friday 23rd Feb 2018

This is the fourth book in The King's Greatest Enemy and the final instalment of the series in which Roger Mortimer, who has earned the moniker which entitles the series, continues to forge a deadly reputation, one that brings danger to those who love him and owe him allegiance. 
Adam and Kit de Guirande have been there throughout the troubles that started with King Edward, II of that name, and through their eyes we are plunged into a medieval world of intrigue, where danger lurks in every shadow, under every cloud and on every corner of this labyrinth of schemes, plots, and secret machinations.
When The Cold Light of Dawn opens, it is 1329, Edward II is now a mere sir Edward of Caernarvon, and his corpse has been buried, or so we think... A new king sits on the throne, and this new Edward is a youth of 17, a husband to a 15 year old tree-climbing queen and son to the 'she-wolf', Queen Isabella, whose illicit relationship with the Earl of March, Roger de Mortimer, is now brazenly and openly displayed.
In the midst of it all, are Kit and Adam, not just mere observers in this historical game of thrones, but players who  live on their wits to stay alive - for there are enemies everywhere; and jealousy, envy and hatred.

The story of Kit and Adam is so vividly told, that I was drawn into their minds, their very beings, every time I viewed a particular scene through their eyes. The story is written very closely in third person, and the author's ability to engage the reader within the context of her characters is a skill that few can master. She makes you think, feel, and act like her characters, and I found myself at once relating to them in the deepest of senses. 
There were times when I felt dread, in the same way that Kit might have, when her man was in danger. My veins flowed with emotion as Adam, comforting Mortimer in his time of need, realises there is nothing he can do for him, but just that, comfort him, nothing more. 

The most appealing thing about this installment and all the books is the manner in which the author applies the relationship between the main protagonists as a device in which to convey the story of Edward III, his mother, Queen Isabella, and her paramour, Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. We are in actuality, witnessing two distinctive threads, that are intertwined within themselves, and the dynamic of this quintet proves to be both mesmerising and enthralling. 
The pace of this fourth installment is much slower than its predecessors, however, that did not mean that I was not up late at night, my head sagging, desperately trying to keep awake so I could turn one more page - just one more - and just one more, so I could find out what happened next. Such is the nature of the author's style and talent as a writer, that she will keep the reader hooked at all times, no matter the pace of the narrative.
Historically, the facts are true to the time and events, except for one occasional liberty, which Belfrage writes in her Author's note. Of course we know that writers of historical fiction approach l research looking for reasons, not just facts, and somehow they try to justify actions with plausible accounts of what, why, when, and where. The author of this book, has filled in the grey areas with distinction, in my view, using well thought out plots to create the bits that Historians cannot, when dealing with facts only. 

Within the relationship with Kit and Adam, we are given insight into the machinations of a thirteenth century court. The reader gets a feel for the love that the couple have for one another, and how their love has formed their characters, their morals and their own inner workings and how they interact with their environment. Within this context we see how the stories of those around them play out; thus we view the actions of the young king, his mother the dowager queen, his own little Queen Phillipa, and the scheming Lord Roger, and are able to nod our heads when Kit, or Adam, express a viewpoint. Essentially, we are Kit and Adam, and we empathise with their emotions, their feelings toward one another, and their feelings toward their supporting players. When Adam is angry or disgusted with the king, we feel annoyance and are desperate to challenge.The prose compels us to remain firmly in the mind of our knightly Adam, who, in all the years he has had to wrestle with his own inner turmoil, still manages to assuage the degree of conflict that others cause within himself. If he didn't, he would surely go insane, so it is his strength of mind that we find so reassuring, that whatever happens, we know that Adam will always be the most knightly of knights, caring for those he loves, whatever they do, but at the same time rejecting their wrongs, even standing against them on the side of right. 

Even when the king threatens two very unlike-able suspects with torture and gives them a Hobson-style choice, do we, like Adam feel a sense of abhorrence:

They stood holding hands as the king informed them of their future destinations. Not a word, not as much as a sound of protest.
"I will give you one last night to spend as man and wife," the king finished. "Come the morrow, your ways will part, so make the most of it."
Adam was horrified by his callousness. From the look on Thomas' face, so was he, but at the king's orders they escorted their stunned prisoners to the little room the king had procured for them. No windows through which to escape, and the door could be barred from the outside, but at least there was a bed and a fire, a pitcher of wine, and some food. 
If Adam is, at times, like a soul, torn between his loyalty for one man, and his love for another, Kit is like sunshine after rain. She is the life that is breathed into Adam whenever he has need of it; when all has been sucked out of him by those who want a piece of him constantly, she is there to warm his spirit and restore him back to being. When we are Kit, we are Adam's love, his best friend, his spirit guide, his hope, and his life. Without her, Adam is only half, and vice versa. In the days when men dominated most dominions of life, Kit is a striving force to make sure that when other's refer to Adam, they are also referring to her, for they are as one. Over the years they have grown together, from a difficult start, through some rocky roads, they have come to trust and love one another with all their being. Tis a rare, but beautiful love, indeed, and we share with them this remarkable relationship which is played out tastefully and with skill, and see and feel the envy in the eyes of those around them. I still stand by my claim, that Ms Belfrage writes the best sex in a historical novel. They are breathtaking, emotional, and evocative. And I often found myself wiping away a tear from the corner of my eye. Oh, to be loved like that.
Edward III

Of course there are other aspects to the book; courtly intrigue, late night kidnapping, wonderful character interaction and dialogue. One of my favourite secondary characters is Thomas of Brotherton who had an interesting entry into the world after his mother went into labour after a hunt. Seeing as he was King Edward's second son, he was, for a while, heir presumptive until Edward the III came along. He was made Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshall in 1316, and when his brother was away fighting in Scotland, he was named Keeper of England. He was a victim of his brother's favourite, Hugh Despenser's who'd stolen some of his lands. In this tale, we see him as an affable man and a bit of a rogue, but with goodness within him. I enjoyed Ms Belfrage's portrayal. Little was known of his personal life, and there doesn't seem to have been a lot written about him in contemporary terms which meant that the author was given pretty much a blank canvas on which to draw him. His interactions with the de Guirandes is believable and well written, and his desperate attempts to flirt with Kit had me smiling, reminding me of someone I know. When he is filled with remorse at his treatment of his wife, through the eyes of Kit, we feel sorry for him and we nod, knowing how it feels when we lose a loved one. When he begs for his brother's life, like Adam, we want to embrace him and let him know he is not alone in his grief. Such are these powerful scenes that our story-teller is able to create. It is clear, that the author gets right into the minds of her characters.

Ms Belfrage is an experienced author having published thirteen books of her own and has contributed to others. She knows her craft and knows how to use her skills as a writer and a researcher of history, to create believable situations for her fictional and non-fictional characters. She is also very adept at using as little as possible to say so much. She creates an environment that immediately takes us into the past without making us read reams of information and description. such as her portrayal of Woodstock.
A heavy gate set in an old wall allowed access to the palace itself, the original stone buildings expanded with upper storeys in wood. A hall, a chapel, the king's apartments on one side, tables and mews - the buildings followed the circumference of the walls, creating a large open courtyard bustling with people. Nowhere did Kit see the distinctive shape of her husband - or the King - and one of the old grooms who came to take their horses told her the men were out hunting and not back for hours yet.
Already, in my mind, I have a vision of this place, and it is not lost in what follows, but clearly embedded in my head. And one of the most moving scenes in the book arrives at the end, and I realise now, why the author has not laboured the deaths of the other characters in her books, because to have done so would have watered down the ending which is designed to make us wring our hands with despair, wipe the tears from our eyes, hope for a better ending that we know will not come, and when the end does come, we are, like Adam, bereft. 

But as always, with sadness, some happiness will follow and as we reach the final denouement of this tale, we can sigh with relief that the worst is over, but also, a sigh of sadness that we shall not see our Kit and Adam again... or will we?

 Ms Belfrage has managed to write a magnificent, epic novel - a Tour de Force of a story that most writers today can only dream of matching. Breathtaking in its richness, Kit and Adam's story will leave you exhausted by the emotion it will evoke in you; and wanting more, you will have to wait and see if Ms Belfrage will continue with their tale. I certainly hope she will. I don't think that Kit and Adam's story is finished yet... but perhaps that is my wishful thinking.

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