Here are five novels published in 2019 to take you back to the Middle Ages.
By Peter Fox
Setting: England and northwestern Europe, ninth century.
Opening lines: “Anuerin, come away from there. Quickly!”
The urgent command drew an instant response from the nine-year-old boy, who sprang from the prow and returned to his seat by the mast. He pulled his mist-dampened cloak around his shoulders and threw an anxious glance towards the shore. He could see nothing in this dense fog, nor could he make sense of the strange sounds, but he knew they marked danger. He had also noticed that their little boat was beginning to drift seaward with the turning of the tide. He looked down at the anchor at his feet, wondering whether they should use it soon. Lord Camus had been away for a very long time.
By Bernard Cornwell
This is the twelfth historical novel in The Saxon Stories series.
Setting: England in the tenth century.
Opening Lines: Gydene was missing.
She was not the first of my ships to vanish. The savage sea is vast and ships are small and Gydene, which simply meant “goddess,” was smaller than most. She had been built at Grimesbi on the Humbre and had been named Haligwæter. She had fished for a year before I bought her and, because I wanted no ship named Holy Water in my fleet, I paid a virgin one shilling to piss in her bilge, renamed her Gydene, and gave her to the fisherfolk of Bebbanburg.
By Crystal King
Setting: Italy in the sixteenth century
Opening Lines: Word traveled fast at the Vaticano, even during the darkness of night. Within an hour of Bartolomeo Scappi’s passing, serving women from all over the palazzo had come to the chef’s bedside, crying for the man they had loved and respected. They keened and wept, tearing at their hair, their skin, and clothing, their wails filling the gilded halls. Francesco Reinoso, the Vaticano scalco, ordered the staff to bring candles, and soon they filled the room with their glow, lighting up the shadows and illuminating the faces of the mourners. As papal steward, Francesco always kept things in order, even when his best friend was before him on the bier.
By Linnea Hartsuyker
Setting: Scandinavia in the ninth century.
Opening Lines: Freydis Solvisdatter sat on a rowing bench near the ship’s stern, with the warp of her weaving tied to her belt, and the other end tied around a broken oar. She had chosen a simple pattern to work while sailing—the pitching of the ship and the yelling of the sailors were too distracting for anything more complicated.
By Robert Harris
Penguin Random House
Setting: England in the fifteenth century.
Opening Lines: Late on the afternoon of Tuesday the ninth of April in the Year of Our Risen Lord 1468, a solitary traveller was to be observed picking his way on horseback across the wild moorland of that ancient region of southwestern England known since Saxon times as Wessex. If this young man’s expression was troubled, we may grant he had good cause. More than an hour had elapsed since he had last seen a living soul. Soon it would be dusk, and if he was caught out of doors after curfew he risked a night in jail.