The family of English serfs whose saga began in The Proud Villeins remains in bondage as Anand continues the series into the latter part of the 13th century. In the village of Rushley, Isabel of Northfield, young wife of Alfred Plowman, envies her beautiful cousin Rohese, who marries a freeman. When Alfred dies in an accident, Isabel seeks to raise her station by entering a nearby abbey, illegally offering as dowry the land to which she is tied. She is accepted for the land, which the venal abbess wrests from its rightful owner, but is turned into a kitchen drudge. An attempt at revenge fails, as does her bid for happiness through a love affair with a freeman. In her old age, she passes on to young kinswoman Nicola a talisman of their family's free ancestor, who was unjustly made a serf before the time of William the Conqueror. The unhappily wed Nicola and her brutal but talented craftsman husband, Thomas Woodcarver, escape bondage through deceit and build the possibility of a better future for their descendants. With a thoroughgoing knowledge of medieval life and customs, Anand weaves a moving tale of courageous men and women who, though brutalized by their surroundings, nurture the spark of hope. (Mar . )
Picking up where The Proud Villeins ( LJ 9/1/92) left off, in 1271, Anand traces the fortunes of several generations of villeins in their quest for freedom. The author paints a vivid picture of tumultuous medieval times with depictions of the battle with the French at Crecy, the Black Death, ruinous poll taxes, and Wat Tyler's rebellion. With a few deft strokes, Anand manages to create a large cast of complex and sympathetic characters. Though part of a series, the novel stands well entirely on its own. Recommended to general readers.-- Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
YA-- This sequel to The Proud Villeins (St. Martin, 1992) is well written, intriguing, and stands on its own. Anand draws readers right into a novel about generations of women serving a manor lord. Their husbands are selected for them and they, and their children, are forced into lifetimes of toil and travail. One woman's life leads to another as the story flows along a stream of early English history. Readers will worry about Isabel of Northfield who flees to a convent to avoid marriage, only to find an abbess who is far worse than anyone she has known. Isabel tells her story to Nicola, a child who grows and marries Thomas, the craftsman of the title. Their daughter runs from her abusive father to begin another life and another story. Through Anand's series, readers see the dull and often futile existence of the villeins. The author has created characters that are strong and difficult to leave behind. It's hard to stop reading this book.-- Linda Vretos, West Springfield High School, Springfield, VA