All the ingredients of a Greek tragedy are in this very good historical novel set in fifteenth-century England where Anna, who is 14 and known as the Flower of Hollylaw, gives herself in marriage to Hawk Jankin to save her family’s castle and its inhabitants from more bloodshed. Her maid Thomasin is tasked to kill Hawk but fails and there follows a bloody massacre of the castle’s inhabitants in which Anna is presumed killed. Instead she is badly burned and saved by the nuns believing all the while that her beloved Thomasin is dead too. But Thomasin who thinks Anna is dead has been saved by Jankin’s henchman Falcon, and is taken in by a farming family. Jankin himself is so overcome by the thought of what he has done that he throws himself down High Crag Linn but survives badly hurt. The scene is set then for Jankin’s working towards the discovery of Anna’s survival, her discovery that Thomasin too has survived, and Jankin being forgiven at the end.
The historical background is easily pictured throughout the story, as is the strength of religion at the time with its strong moral teaching seen in Jankin’s inability to live with what he had done, and in Anna’s forgiveness. The one person who acts more or less honourably, Falcon, who saves Thomasin, does not survive. It is Thomasin who stays in the mind after finishing this story. Girls of 12 and up will gain much from this book.