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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims - Toby Clements

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims is a unique look at the Wars of the Roses among a large supply of novels focused on this era. Rather than following the addled King Henry VI, ambitious earl of Warwick, or the illustrious earl of March, our main characters are the accidentally paired Brother Thomas and Sister Katherine.

The opening scene of the book places these two together through life threatening circumstances thanks to the lawlessness of Henry VI's England. Though they have been living at the same Priory, they have had much different experiences. Katherine has lived with the nuns of St Mary for as long as she can remember, the abused and neglected servant of the prioress. Brother Thomas has enjoyed the monastic life and never considered leaving until he had no choice. He loves the quiet life of the scriptorium where he demonstrates skill as an illuminator.

Katherine and Thomas wind up on a twisting adventure together as they struggle to redefine themselves, survive, and extract revenge upon the man that has caused their upheaval. Thomas continues to long for a return to his life as a monk, while Katherine has no intentions of ever being a nun again. I appreciated the diverse and balanced look at religious life. When they wind up in the service of Sir John Fakenham, their lives take turns they never could have expected.

What was different about this novel was the details on little things: regular camp life, medieval surgery, the difficulties of travel, and crime that went on with war as a cover. Some readers will find these descriptions too long, but I appreciated the level of historical research required to write some of the detailed scenes that Clements includes in his writing. The Battle of Towton serves as the drama for the final chapters of the book with detail that is gory, realistic, and heartbreaking.

Several hints are dropped regarding a continuing story and the final scene leaves the reader wondering about many things, so I look forward to reading Kingmaker: Broken Faith.