This is an excellent historical novel set in an interesting period, the time of the first major English dynastic war about 150 years after the Norman conquest of England. Henry I has gotten his supporting nobles to agree to support his daughter Matilda as ruler of England and its French provinces. Upon Henry’s death a cadre of these nobles back out of the deal to support a woman and instead support her cousin Stephen as King. Thus begins one of the darker periods of English history, a civil war that is fought by not only knights supporting each candidate but also by mercenaries supporting the highest bidder. These competing forces wreak havoc on the countryside.
The key character in this story is a pre-adolescent girl who is raped by a priest associated with one of the marauding mercenary bands. She is found by a mercenary archer from the other side, but has lost all memory of who she is. He adopts her and passes her off as a boy who is his nephew, teaching her to become an outstanding archer. The story follows their travels as they try to find the priest and become associated with Matilda and her supporters. This is not a battle novel, full of gore and clashing shields, though there is a lot of action. It is also not a romance, though there is a bit of that. What was appealing to me was the description of the times and people who suffered through them. As in any tale of war there are characters who are noble and some who are despicable. It is their interplay that drives the story and makes this an appealing historical novel.