The Sixth Surrender by the (now) Czech Republic born historian, and author, Hana Samek Norton, is a 480 page novel set in thirteenth century France – “a time when chivalry reigned and treachery ruled“. The Sixth Surrender is a 2010 Finalist of the New Mexico Book Awards!
From the back cover:
” Sister Eustace, born Lady Juliana, the last of the Charnais line, is about to pledge body and soul to the cause of the queen duchess, Alienor of Aquitaine. Learned yet humble, passionate yet wholly innocent, Juliana has a single determination – to possess her rightful home, the viscounty of Tillieres.
Alienor’s young scribe must choose: husband or cloister. Juliana prays for a man who is honorable, kind, and literate. Instead she is promised to Guerin de Lesalle, a worldly though landless mercenary with a blackened soul. The couple enters the union with just one shared desire: to put an end to the marriage.
As the queen’s prophecy, “Honor, like love, comes in many guises.” echoes through Juliana’s first days as a wife, the race intensifies to safeguard the crowns of Normandy and England for John Plantagenet, Alienor’s last surviving son. Schemes by traitorous lords and the mystery of Lasalle’s past could cost John his thrones – and Juliana her life.”
What did I think? I am a historical fiction novel nut, now that doesn’t mean I know much (or anything) about historical events, because honestly, I don’t! However, I do LOVE to read authors’ versions of the distant past. I wanted to love this book from the moment I looked at the cover, it has that wonderful sepia tint to it that I like my historical fiction reads to have (hey, I’m a visual person!). I wasn’t so sure I would after reading the first half of it (not done yet!). I don’t dislike it, it’s just that halfway in I am just now starting to get into it. Historical fiction needs LOTS of detail for me to really be drawn into it. I want it to make me want to live in that time. So far, this book has been slow to do that for me. UPDATE: Now that I’ve read another 1/4 of the book, I wanted to say that I have finally really gotten into it, how do I know when I like a book? When I think about reading it while I’m doing other things. I am curious about what happens and wish I could sit and finish it now! Alas, i have things to do today so it will have to wait until tonight. The mystery is intriguing though!
I believe Ms. Norton has tried very hard to accurately show human nature in all it’s thirteenth century cruelty. She certainly has done her research and the story contains many many names and places I am unfamiliar with. This is probably why I have had a difficult time following all of the characters that were thrown at me, I’ve picked out a few to keep track of though and am getting better at recognizing who’s who when they pop up. The Sixth Surrender is full of treachery, lust, abuse and scandal. The sometimes too-fast-paced-for-me plot is thick with scheming and I imagine this is very likely the way things were at those tumultuous times. Does that mean I like how offhandedly Guérin de Lasalle (Ooh, how I do get mad when I hear his name!) treats the women around him? Or that I should excuse him for his behaviour because he’s a product of his surroundings? No No No! He seems to need a good swift kick in the arse if you ask me, but then I haven’t finished the book yet. I may change my mind before the end… I haven’t high hopes for growing to like him though.
On the other hand, I do always enjoy watching a character grow from a shy, meek young woman into a strong, capable and independent one, this, so far, is how Juliana, viscountess of Tillières, seems to be shaping up. Full of innocent intelligence, and a will to keep her family’s land, the girl is struggling to make friends among a book full of backstabbers, lecherous men, and a few surprise (and consequential) allies (Anne, countess de Valence, to name one). I do hope Juliana prevails and continues to grow her backbone! I plan on finishing this tonight. It has been a welcome reprieve from the 1400 page novels in the series I’ve been reading this month! I will certainly keep my eyes open for more of Ms. Norton’s works.
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