This is the second book to feature Brind, a rough waif whelped amongst dogs and adopted as a huntsman by a feudal lord in 14th-century England. The story opens in 1348 with Sir Edmund’s beloved wife messily succumbing to the Black Death just as a fanatical friar, obsessed with Satan, but enamoured of worldly luxuries, appears at the Hall. This loathsome figure persuades the kindly Lord that Brind and his fellow outsider and adoptee Aurelie, a French orphan, are the spawn of the Devil and have killed his wife. They are forced to flee, and the rest of the story depicts their grim passage through blasted landscapes and sordid towns in which human and baccillic vermin vie to wreak most havoc.
Russell’s writing is admirably vivid and concise. He is unflinching about the squalor and danger of the period, and convincing enough in his sketches of the motley cast. I read the book at a single sitting and resolved to find the first instalment immediately. I recommend it very highly for sharing aloud and for readers in need of incessant, cliff-hanging action embedded in historical events.