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The Siege Winter: A Novel

The Siege Winter: A Novel

4.1 9
by Ariana Franklin

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A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England’s devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as


A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England’s devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, not even Emma, an eleven-year-old peasant, is safe. A depraved monk obsessed with redheads kidnaps the ginger-haired girl from her village and leaves her for dead. When an archer for hire named Gwyl finds her, she has no memory of her previous life. Unable to abandon her, Gwyl takes the girl with him, dressing her as a boy, giving her a new name—Penda—and teaching her to use a bow. But Gwyn knows that the man who hurt Penda roams free, and that a scrap of evidence she possesses could be very valuable.

Gwyl and Penda make their way to Kenilworth, a small but strategically important fortress that belongs to fifteen-year-old Maud. Newly wedded to a boorish and much older husband after her father’s death, the fierce and determined young chatelaine tempts fate and Stephen’s murderous wrath when she gives shelter to the empress.

Aided by a garrison of mercenaries, including Gwyl and his odd red-headed apprentice, Maud will stave off Stephen’s siege for a long, brutal winter that will bring a host of visitors to Kenilworth—kings, soldiers . . . and a sinister monk with deadly business to finish.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Though she wrote fiction under her own name, Diana Norman, Franklin won everyone's attention (and a clutch of Crime Writers' Association daggers) for her series featuring medieval medical examiner Adelia Aguilar. This work, completed after Franklin's death by her writer/critic daughter, returns to 12th-century England but has no Adelia in sight. As King Stephen and the Empress Matilda play tug-of-war with the crown, peasant girl Emma is abducted by a crazed monk and left for dead, then rescued by archer-for-hire Gwyl. Soon, Emma is dressed as a boy and serving as an apprentice to Gwyl. But what about that monk?
Diana Gabaldon
“Vivid and engaging...succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime thriller. [A] terrific book...with a dozen twists.”
New York Times bestselling author Sharon Kay Penman (on Mistress of the Art of Death)
“One of the most compelling, suspenseful mysteries I’ve read in years.”
Marilyn Stasio
Praise for Grave Goods: “Richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling.”
New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen (on A Murderous Procession)
“An exhilarating whodunit and my favorite book of the year. I’d like to crown Ariana Franklin Queen of the Historical Mystery.”
Historical Novels Review
“Readers will note Franklin’s hand in the storytelling and see the freshness Norman brings to the tale, filled with fascinating characters who drive the plot as much as the tempestuous backdrop. With its bit of intrigue, historical setting and lovely characters, readers will be captivated by this compelling tale.”
NY Daily News
“Medieval-mystery writing at its best.”
Nancy Bilyeau
” Both harsh and lovely, this novel seizes you from the first page, heart and soul, and doesn’t let go!”
Kirkus Reviews
Franklin (A Murderous Procession, 2010, etc.) and Norman draw a tale of intrigue and violence from the Anarchy, the 12th-century struggle over the right to rule England between Stephen of Blois and Empress Matilda. In 1135, Henry I, king of England and Normandy, dies, leaving his kingdom to his daughter, Empress Matilda, the Holy Roman Emperor's widow. His nephew Stephen objects, claiming the crown, and England becomes "a land devoid of loyalty," where "plunder, pillage...devastation, starvation" haunt its people. The authors use Em, an 11-year-old peasant girl from the Cambridgeshire fens, and mercenary Gwilherm de Vannes, an arbalist—crossbowman—to follow the story. Gwilherm escapes a battlefield rout only to be attacked by his companions, rogues who then rape and beat little Em. Gwilherm nurses her to health, but she's lost her memory and despises her femininity—"They'd sent her mad, and small wonder." Gwilherm dresses her as a boy, dubs her Penda and teaches her archery. Penda in tow, Gwilherm vows revenge on the rapist, Thancmar, a monk who led an attack on Ely Cathedral as part of a scheme to secure appointment as an archbishop. Highlighted by solid characterization of historical and fictional figures alike, the authors' research on day-to-day medieval life shines. Gwilherm and Penda rescue Empress Matilda and two knights during a blizzard and repair to Kenniford castle, a strategic redoubt along the Thames. There, young Maud rules as chatelaine; her boorish and cruel husband, Sir John of Tewing, to whom she's been married on Stephen's orders, lies silent after a stroke. Maud switches her support to Matilda, and the siege begins. This thoroughly captivating tale was begun by celebrated historical novelist Franklin, who died before its completion, and completed seamlessly by her journalist daughter, Norman.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Ariana Franklin was the award-winning author of Mistress of the Art of Death and the critically acclaimed, bestselling medieval thriller series of the same name, as well as the twentieth-century thriller City of Shadows. She died in 2011, while writing The Siege Winter.

Samantha Norman is Ariana Franklin’s daughter. A successful feature writer, columnist, and film critic, she lives in London.

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The Siege Winter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
The Siege Winter is a delightful historical fiction novel written by the late Ariana Franklin and completed by Samantha Norman, her daughter. It is set in the 12th century and begins with an abbot who lies on his death bed. Despite his frail health, he is clinging to life to reveal a murderous tale to a scribe before he dies. Through his narrative, we are taken from his death bed to scenes of his past. The voice is compelling, the story engrossing!  It is the tale of Matilda and her cousin Stephen and their long, drawn out battle for the crown of England. Well researched, gripping, and historically accurate, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel from start to finish. There is plenty to laud within its pages - strong women, battle scenes, treachery, greed, love, and even a touch of humor. Easy to read, it moves along at a good clip. The authors take us on a journey through 12th century England with all its dangers, treachery, murders. A wonderfully told story! Definitely recommended. 
Avidel More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Lots of twists, turns and intrigue.
ABookishGirlBlog More than 1 year ago
Historical Fiction is one of a few genres that I truly enjoy to review and Ariana Franklin is up there as one of my all time favorite authors. She wrote the Mistress of the Art of Death series which I consumed one right after the other, I was addicted really! So when I saw this one at the library I automatically was drawn to pick it up and bring it home with me, "Even if she wrote it with someone else", I thought. Little did I know that Franklin died while working on this book and her daughter, the other author, who's influence on the book I was dreading is in fact Franklin's daughter, Samantha Norman, who finished the book after her mom died. I also soon discovered that Samantha inherited her mom's writing genes because I couldn't tell where Franklin's writing ended and Norman's started it was very seamless in its flow, which is not an easy task to accomplish. Wonderful characters and settings with everything researched well, as all good historical fiction is, so everything was very authentic! There is a lot of heartbreak in this book but all so a great deal of strength and love, all ingredients to a spectacular read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first Ariana Franklin book and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I will definitely check out her others. I didn't want it to end. Is there any indication that the series with continue with Samantha Norman?
Ariana_EJR More than 1 year ago
Siege Winter is not an easy read, but it is good King Stephen's reign bore the epitaph, "when God and his saints slept." That is what this book shows, the brutality that a civil war engenders. For those like me who have read the Cadfael books, set during the same time, this would be a shock as it is darker than those, or maybe not. The book focuses on two women: Emma or Penda, and Maud. Both are young when the book starts: 10 and 15 and grow up in a hurry. Emma is raped and battered by a monk riding with mercenaries, and Maud, an heiress, is married to an oaf. They come together by chance at Maud's castle, which is then besieged by Stephen's troops, and betrayed. The story is framed by an abbot relating it to a younger monk. I thought it an effective device since the focus shifts between three people: Maud, Gwil, and Penda. It's billed as a mystery and indeed Ariana Franklin wrote the Mistress of the art of death series about a female coroner. However, there is little of the mystery to it. It is how two women and two men. The women survive, well, but one of the men dies, and the is scalded by it. I would recommend this to anyone interesting in the period or the human condition and think it would be a great book club book. My grumble would be the portrayal of Maud's husband, and the monk are almost caricatures. Still very worth the reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book to read, even if the subject matter is hard to deal with.