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The Summer Of The Danes (1992)

The Summer of the Danes (1992)

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3.99 of 5 Votes: 5
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0446400181 (ISBN13: 9780446400183)
mysterious press

About book The Summer Of The Danes (1992)

Yet another Brother Cadfael mystery; but this one is set mostly in Wales, which suits Brother Cadfael (born Cadfael ap Meilyr ap Dafydd, in the Welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd) just fine. This mystery also introduces Brother Mark, once the protegé of Brother Cadfael in the Abbey, and now deacon to Roger de Clinton, the Bishop of Coventry. Deacon Mark has been sent to Wales as an envoy to other bishops, and naturally invites Brother Cadfael to come along as companion and translator. Naturally, this gets the two involved in international relations, one murder, and young love blooming (once again). And naturally, I loved the book.Mark is taking gifts and greetings from Bishop de Clinton to Gilbert, the newly-enthroned Norman Bishop of St Asaph, and to Meurig, the Welsh Bishop of Bangor. Owain Gwynedd, the ruler of Gwynedd, does not trust Gilbert; and when Cadfael and Mark arrive at the bishop’s court, they find it quite augmented by the presence and retinue of Owain, who has come to see how this new Norman bishop deals with the Welsh. Among Bishop Gilbert’s priests is Canon Meirion, who is in disfavor because (being Welsh), he had been a married priest. His wife is now deceased; and he has made plans to marry off his inconvienent daughter Heledd to one of Owain’s landed men in an arranged marriage, which puts him in disfavor with his daughter; she agreed because her only alternative was an English nunnery. A haughty and arrogant man named Bledri ap Rhys is admitted to the hall where Owain and Gilbert are holding their joint feast, and makes a plea to Owain for Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd’s lands to be restored, clearly with Bishop Gilbert’s encouragement. (The younger brother of Owain, Cadwaladr was dispossessed and exiled by his brother for his part in the murder of Anarawd ap Gruffydd, the ruler of Deheubarth in west Wales.)The next day, Owain and his retinue, with Canon Meirion, Merion’s daughter Heledd, Bledri, and Cadfael and Mark, journey to Owain’s home court of Aber, near Bangor. At midnight, a messenger arrives from Caernarfon and arouses the court with the news that a Danish fleet from the Kingdom of Dublin has been sighted west of Abermenai and that Cadwaladr is with them, having enlisted their aid in restoring him to his lands. In short order, there is the discovery of a murder and of a disapparance; and Cadfael and Mark, after journeying to Bangor to deliver greetings and messages to Meurig, the Welsh Bishop of Bangor, decide that they should investigate the disappearance more carefully.By the end of the book, Cadfael has found out all that was previously not known, more by being at the right place at the right time than by any more definite measures; and the reader has learned a lot about Wales in the 12th century. (For the historical framework for this book, set in April of 1144, is quite accurate; Owain did exile his brother, who did then enlist the aid of the Danes in Dublin to help him get back his rank and lands.)All in all, this was a somewhat different Cadfael book, and one that was a pleasure to read.

Brother Mark, formerly of the Abbey of Saints Peter and Paul in Shrewsbury, comes to the Abbey seeking to speak with Abbot Radulfus. Mark has been sent on errands into Welsh territory and stops at the Abbey to seek permission to have Cadfael accompany him to help with translation. Permission is given and they set out. They deliver both messages and gifts as planned but are delayed in their return to England because of a brotherly feud over land. Mark and Cadfael have to work together in the search for a settlement. It took all the way to #18 of 20 in this series for me to find one I'm less than enthusiastic about. I had a hard time keeping all the Welsh names straight even before the Danish names were added to the mix. There is also a lot of background information at the beginning which I had a hard time following. Unfortunately, that is key to what happens later. I'm hoping the final two books in the series remain in familiar territory.

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Cadfael and his old assistant Mark, now a deacon, are called in to deliver messages to bishops in Wales. Cadfael has to go to translate the Welsh. At their first stop they find that the great house already has guests, Owain Gwynedd, the ruler of Gwynedd and his entire retinue is there to keep an eye on things. Historically he had an endless fight with Thomas Beckett about the appointment of bishops in Wales so he’d be interested in the Church’s doings.This probably should have been an Edith Pargeter novel, not an Ellis Peters one (Peters was her penname) because these men are the forebears of her Brothers Gwynedd series. Here it is 1144 and in those books it’s 1275 or so. So, if I have my Welsh genealogy right, Owain is the grandfather of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the main character in that series.Another visitor arrives, Bledri ap Rhys, a man of Cadwalader’s, the impetuous brother of Owain. They all assume he is there to spy, but he gives his word not to escape and he has guest rights that custom dictates he will not break.The men of the church are asked to accompany the canon’s daughter, Heledd. She is an obvious reminder of a period when priests were allowed to marry and her father has arranged a match for her, without her consent, as was standard for the time. Out of sight etcetera.They all travel together on the road to their next stop. Bledri flirts with Heledd the whole way. It works for them both; he annoyes everyone and she annoys her father.At the next stop, Bledri is found murdered in his room. News also arrives of a Danish fleet offshore and in the fuss Heledd grabs the opportunity to run away. They don’t get a chance to investigate the murder before Mark and Cadfael are on the road after her.Cadwalader has hired some Danish mercs to attack his brother and the first people they stumble upon, while they are out raiding for food, is Cadfael and Heledd. They are held to ransom.****The story deals with love, betrayal, loyalty (however poorly earned) and the conflict between brothers.So it is less of a normal Cadfael mystery. There is only one death and a lot of action happens outside of Cadfael’s pov but it is beautifully written as her stories always are.And I was so pleased for Heledd who took her destiny into her own hands.

I purchased this book back in September of 2010, but never got around to actually reading it until January of 2013. #shameonmeThe Story.When Brother Mark requests Brother Cadfael’s service as translator for an important ecclesiastical envoy which is journeying to Saint Asaph to honor the new Bishop there, Brother Cadfael joyfully accepts. He is relieved to have a change of scenery – the Benedictine Abbey at Shrewbury, while excellent for holy living, is not exciting. Not that Brother Cadfael expects anything cataclysmic to happen on his journey, but it will at least provide some variety to his retired lifestyle.Brother Cadfael may not have anticipated a catastrophe, but a catastrophe is what he gets! While still engaged in his official duties, Cadfael receives word that a band of marauding Danes have arrived on the Welsh coast. A day later, he is kidnapped by them!What’s a priest to do? Pray for peace and fight for freedom!Discussion.The Summer of the Danes was fun. Although dubbed a ‘Medieval Whodunnit’, I found that it read more like a historical novel. True, a person is murdered. True, nobody knows who did it. But the search for the murderer only occupies a score of pages. The real action involves the interaction between Danish and Welsh forces.Because I entered The Summer of the Danes expecting a mystery, I wasn’t really prepared for the path that the story took and did not feel as engaged by it as I might have, had I known the mystery was not the main focus.Conclusion. The Summer of the Danes was not as engaging as most of the mystery novels that I have read, but it was interesting enough to cause me to purchase several other books in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael series. I look forward to reading and reviewing them soon!Visit The Blithering Bookster to read more reviews!
—Laura Verret

This is one of my three most appreciated of the incredible Brother Cadfael series. The characterization of the young girl, wary of her father's forcing her into an arranged marriage, set in an era of invading Danes is fascinating. This is true both from the historical standpoint and the interactions of the various characters. The Welsh royalty comes into focus here as well, and characterizes two well-known princes of the time. The weaving of the different story lines into one, and the humane yet stark treatment of the ways of warfare of the time are amazing.
—Louise G

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