Winter Siege is the final novel from an author I adore, Ariana Franklin also known as Diana Norman. This book has been completed by Diana's daughter Samantha and the transition from one writer to another is seamless so I do hope that Samantha will continue to write historical fiction.
The book is the story of a large cast of characters but the main focus is on eleven year old Em, brutally attacked in the bleak winter fens and rescued by big hearted mercenary Gwil. Together they form an unbreakable bond of friendship and Gwil teaches this tough and tenacious young girl how to fight as they try to track down a sadistic killer and prevent him killing again. It also deals with the siege of Kenniford Castle and we find another heroine here in sixteen year old Maud, the castle's young chatelaine. All of the characters are small players caught up in the war between Stephen and Matilda. the historical detail is fantastic and clearly the research has been meticulously carried out. Maud puts the welfare of her staff and villagers above her own needs and the interactions between her and those in her charge give the reader a fascinating insight into the period.
The England of the twelth century is beautifully recreated in this wonderful book, The atmosphere, the characters are all riveting and it bears the trademark storytelling we expect from an Ariana Franklin novel. At times brutal and harsh I was nonetheless captivated from the first page. I cannot recommend this book highly enough it is mystery, crime and historical fiction all at once and above all that it is a thumping good read. Perfect for fans of CJ Sansom, Giles Kristian and Hilary Mantel.