Monday 16 February 2015

Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman


"An absorbing re-creation of the 12th Century . . . this is a fast-moving story of humbler folk caught up in cruel battles." (The Independent)

"A strongly flavoured tale, thoroughly researched and well imagined, and the siege itself is magnificently vivid and exciting" (Guardian)

"Told with colloquial vigour, a gripping narrative." (Sunday Times)


Run, run, girl. In the name of God, run.

1141. A mercenary watches from the icy reeds as a little girl with red hair is attacked by his own men. He is powerless to stop them.

But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Sheltering in a church, he finds the girl
freezing cold, close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment. And now he is certain of what he must do.

He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And he will protect her from the man who calls himself a monk, who lost a piece of parchment he will do anything to get back . . .

An epic account of the brutal winter when Stephen and Matilda tore England apart in their battle for its crown – when atrocities were inflicted on the innocent, but bravery found a home in an old solider and a young girl.


One child holds the key to peace. One man will stop at nothing to silence her . . .

It’s 1141, and in the harsh and dangerous world of medieval England, the war between Stephen and Matilda gathers momentum. The people of the Cambridgeshire fens eke out a lowly living surrounded by convoluted rivers and reed beds, and bring up their children amongst the tree branches of willow and alder. Raising the four thousand eels needed to pacify the Bishop of Ely, and keeping the protection of St Ethelreda is their greatest worry, until the construction of a new castle for Hugh Bigod, the new Earl of Norfolk, takes away their men folk. 

Em is a young fen lander, whose striking red hair puts her in the very path of danger and links her fate with that of the mercenary soldier Gwil, and also of Maude of Kenniford, the sixteen year old chatelaine of Kenniford Castle in Oxfordshire. On the surface this disparate trio have nothing in common but the events of winter 1141 binds them irrevocably together in a story which abounds with treachery, intrigue and overwhelming danger.

I have long been a fan of the historical fiction writing of Ariana Franklin and was saddened to hear of her death in 2011.  When the opportunity came around to read and review Winter Siege, Ariana’s last standalone historical narrative, completed by her daughter Samantha, I was interested to see how the book would work out with someone else’s hand at the helm. So, I started the story with some trepidation, but needn't have worried as Winter Siege drew me in from the beginning. There is no doubt that the unmistakable hand of Ariana is present in the heart and soul of the novel, but there is also an underlying freshness to the story which is evident in the lightest of touches and in the fine attention to emotional detail. 

I’m sure that Winter Siege will not only appeal to Ariana Franklin’s legions of fans but will also guarantee Samantha Norman a career in historical fiction should she choose to pursue it.

My thanks to Naomi Mantin at Penguin Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for my copy of this book.

Winter Siege is available in paperback from all good book stores.



  1. How sad to have died before she finished, but how lovely that her daughter could take up the book (and do it well). Will have to buy a copy - our church in Horley (North Oxfordshire) is called St Ethelreda's, and I write about it all the time!

    1. Hi mrscarlielee - How fascinating that you have a St Ethereda's of your own. Hope you enjoy the book - you must let me know what you think about it :)


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