Barbara Erskine is so very good at what she does – open one of her books and you know you’ll be dipping into history, there will be strong characters and stories in all the time frames, there will be a touch of magic and supernatural, some romance, and that you’ll find it unputdownable and enjoy every page. This one was no exception – I’ve been travelling from modern Suffolk to Anglo Saxon and Victorian Britain for several days now, and have just reached the wholly satisfying ending, not wanting to put it down.
Zoe and Ken move to a barn conversion in Suffolk, where Ken can indulge his love of sailing – a love Zoe doesn’t share, and she also has to give up a job she loved. The barn is one of three – one occupied by Rosemary (who has an obsession with reinstating rural footpaths, alienating the locals) and John, the other by the Watts family from hell. Nearby lives Leo, a former smith scarred in an accident, initially standoffish and remote, who has an interest in local history. The couple discover that the previous owners moved out because of ghostly echoes from the past, and Zoe soon hears the clinking of bridles, smells the hay and hears the movement of horses – followed by the repeated reappearance of a Viking ship in the river mist.
There are two story threads from the past. The first is set in Anglo Saxon times, one featuring Eric who makes a sword called Destiny Maker in a world torn between magic and Christianity. The other thread features Daniel the blacksmith, pursued by a wonderful boo-hiss villain called Lady Emily Crosby. The stories intertwine with the consummate ease brought about by a master storyteller.
The whole book is a really lovely read – excellent stories really well told, just unsettling enough with the echoes of ancient evil emerging in the present day, involving and exciting, and a wonderful way to escape from the real world for a while. I thoroughly enjoyed it.