Priscilla Royal: Sorrow Without End


As the autumn storms of 1271 ravage the East Anglian coast, Crowner Ralf finds the corpse of a brutally murdered soldier in the woods near Tyndal Priory. The dagger in the man’s chest is engraved with a strange cursive design, and the body is wrapped in a crusader’s cloak. Was this the act of a member of the Assassin sect, or was the weapon meant to mislead? Ralf’s decision to take the corpse to the priory for advice may be reasonable, but he is soon caught up in a maelstrom of conflict, both personal and political.

The priory is deeply divided over whether to purchase a relic — a decision that endangers both Prioress Eleanor’s leadership and the future of the hospital. Brother Thomas becomes a suspect in the murder, and Ralf must choose between loyalty to a friend and the demands of his brother, the sheriff. Meanwhile, the murderer watches and waits …

Ouf. Forget I ever loftily called Royal’s books “feel-good candy” … this book is nothing of the sort. In fact, it’s a veritable gut punch, more reminiscent of the works of Michael Jecks than Ellis Peters, with a no-holds-barred depiction of war experience-induced insanity and the bloodshed engendered by medieval warfare and the crusading soldiers’ poisoned minds, not only on but also off the battlefield and, in consequence, sometimes even long after their return to England. Sorrow Without End indeed.

The writerly execution of the whole thing is superb — including, by and large, the foray into Brother Thomas’s personal (non-Crusade-related) demons and backstory; and if Thomas, for all his understandable internal conflict, had taken maybe half a mental turn less make up his mind to do the right thing, and if one particular aspect of the plot had not been resolved quite as conveniently in the end, I’d have given this book an even higher rating. Even as it is, though, it feels like it has kicked the series into a higher gear in one single go. I just hope Royal is going to be able to maintain this standard; in many respects, it’s really first class.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Literature Reviews Uncategorized

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit – Performed by Andy Serkis

Like its magnificent sequel, The Hobbit is, I think, many things to many people: the first exposition of the universe that would become Middle-earth; prelude to The Lord of the Rings; a bite-sized visit to Middle-earth whenever you don’t feel up to the full blow of the War of the Ring(s); one of the most […]

Read More
Literature Reviews

Karen Wynn Fonstad: The Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth

Blurb: “Find your way through every part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s great creation, from the Middle-earth of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to the undying lands of the West … The Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle-earth is an essential guide to the geography of Middle-earth, from its founding in the Elder Days – as […]

Read More
Literature Reviews

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings – Performed by Andy Serkis

In another online community, we recently talked about the new Andy Serkis Lord of the Rings recordings.  Well, it turns out that the pull of The Ring is still mighty strong, for however much it may have been destroyed in Mount Doom. I had barely gotten my hands on these audios and I found I […]

Read More