Brother Cadfael’s Penance (Brother Cadfael #20) ★★★★☆

cadfaelspenance (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Brother Cadfael’s Penance
Series: Brother Cadfael #20
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 292
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

King Stephen and Empress Maud, the 2 contending Monarchs for the English throne, have been brought together to see if there is anyway to stop the war or at least cease the hostilities. One of Maud’s cohorts recently turned coat and gave over several castles to Stephen so she’s not in the best of moods. The talks go as expected (no where) but King Stephen’s man, who helped engineer the turncoat’s plans is killed.

This leads to a young man, who knows Cadfael from a previous book, being accused and then spirited away to said castle of the turncoat. At the same time, Cadfael’s son, who is on Empress Maud’s side, was lost in the shuffle of the castles changing hands and while presumed captured, there has been no ransom put forth. Cadfael goes on a quest to find the missing young man and his son and to exonerate the young man and gain the freedom of his son.

Cadfael risks losing his place in the Abbey to rescue his son and at the end of the book is in full contrition in front of his Abbot waiting for his judgement, as he, Cadfael, left without leave to do his own thing.

 

My Thoughts:

Not really a murder mystery this time around. More of politics and Cadfael trying to rescue some young men. It allowed Peters to write on a slightly grander scale and it was pretty enjoyable.

My only issue is of Cadfael breaking his monastic vows. I don’t know his exact vows when he became a Benedictine monk, but I’m sure that severing all ties was part of it. And yes, he finds out about his son AFTER he took the vows, but it felt like he really weaseled his way around them and flat out broke them. As a Protestant, I don’t believe in monastic vows nor do I think that the Bible encourages such things, BUT, once you do make a vow, you need to stick with it. If there is any doubt about keeping such vows, don’t make them. But don’t vacillate and give me the old tear jerk fountain when you want to break those vows.

I think part of why I enjoyed this more was because of the action going on. When Maud finds out that the Turncoat is in the castle he turned over to Stephen, she immediately musters her army and lays siege to it. Cadfael has to deal with going through that and figure out a way to make sure Justice is done and not just revenge. He does an admirable job in that regards and it was so much fun watching him maneuvering everything around. Cadfael’s best friend Hugh Beringar is on Stephen’s side,but Cadfael’s son is on the Empress’s side and basically it is a really messy situation. Cadfael walks that line without tripping and helps all those who need it.

With this being the second to last book in the series, I feel like Peters has her second wind and is ending things on a good note. I was very concerned the opposite would happen, so I’m doubly glad to see things turning out as they are.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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The Holy Thief (Brother Cadfael #19) ★★★☆½

holythief (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Holy Thief
Series: Brother Cadfael #19
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Two fellow Benedictines from a neighboring enclave come in search of offerings of money, prayers, skilled labor and materials for help in rebuilding their plundered abbey. A great amount of all 4 are raised and sent on back to the abbey while the 2 brothers head to other abbey’s to keep on raising more support. The cart and its inhabitants are waylaid by bandits and while the men escape with their lives, all the materials and money is gone.

At this time, it is discovered that the reliquary supposedly containing the bones of the welsch Saintess has gone missing. Suspicion falls on the younger of the monks from the ruined abbey and a witness is called to prove he did take the reliquary. Said witness ends up dead and discovered by the younger monk. Lots of twistings and turnings later, it all comes out that it was done by the assistant to a travelling musician who had stolen the valuables and then murdered the witness to the stealing of the reliquary on the off chance he had seen the assistant take the gold and jewels.

Said young monk, who has a voice from heaven, runs off to Wales with the slave girl of the travelling musician who also has the gift of singing. The bones of the Saintess are returned safely to Shrewsbury, the murderer is taken and everything works out for the best, with the exception of the murdered shepherd, poor sap.

 

My Thoughts:

It is about phracking time that this series got back to having Cadfael as a main character again. I bumped this up at least half star just for that reason alone!

The other thing I really liked was that brother Jerome, that sniveler, that ass kisser and general sucker upper to Prior Robert, lost control and whacked the shepherd over the head. He thought he killed the guy but sadly, it turned out to be someone else put the finishing kabosh on the poor shepherd. I have to admit, I was hoping it WAS Jerome just so the sheriff, Hugh Beringar, could string him up and hang him dead. Jerome has been a worm since the first book and I want him dead. Oh well.

The whole young love thing is just such a trope in this series at this point that I just shrug my shoulders and think “oh well”. The problem I do have it is that it allows Peters to give voice to her rather ecumenical and unscriptural theology using a monk and so add weight to her thoughts.

I enjoyed this read from start to finish, which is a good change from the last couple of Cadfael books. I only have 2 more to go in this series and I’m really hoping they end strong and not with a whimper.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Summer of the Danes (Brother Cadfael #18) ★★☆☆½

summerofthedanes (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Summer of the Danes
Series: Brother Cadfael #18
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A new Bishop/Prelate/Priest/Authority Figure has been invested in an area long neglected along the Welsh border. Brother Mark has been sent with gifts from his boss to let the new guys know he fully supports them. Since Mark doesn’t speak Welsh, Cadfael goes along for the ride.

There are politics galore, as the New Boss isn’t Welsh and there are Welsh issues. Two brothers are fighting and one comes back with a bunch of Danes to take what he wants. The Danes end up with Mark, Cadfael and a young woman named Hellend as hostages. Thngs happen, some people die, money, power, blah, blah, blah.

The hostages are released, the Danes go back to Ireland and Hellend, who was to marry one of the men of the Good Brother, skips out of town to hook up with a big brawny Dane. Cadfael returns to his Abbey and realizes that he hasn’t really left the world behind. He still wants to travel.

 

My Thoughts:

It wasn’t that this was any worse than any of the previous books, but my goodness, I am getting thoroughly tired of these non-Cadfael adventures. Thank goodness there are only 3 more to go.

This book did convince me to NOT start another medieval mystery series when I finish up this one. I was contemplating the Sister Frevisse series but after barely making it through this book, I’ve realized I’ve reached my limit.

This was not bad by any means. It was just more of the same. Cadfael is a witness to the events, not an active participant. I am wondering about trying a completely different genre to replace these when I’m done. I’m already reading “Western” with L’Amours Sackets and I’ve got the SFF side of things more than adequately covered. Crime/Noir is not a genre I enjoy and while I’d like to get into some long running Action/Adventure/Thriller series, I’m not sure where to go. Eh, whatever. I’ll find something.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Potter’s Field (Brother Cadfael #17) ★★★☆☆

pottersfield (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Potter’s Field
Series: Brother Cadfael #17
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 248
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Cadfael’s Abbey trades a field with another Abbey and in the process of plowing it, turn up the remains of a woman.

A newly minted monk at Shrewsbury took the vows against his wife’s wishes and she disappeared, thought to have run off to Wales with a lover. Now the suspicion is on him. Until a novitiate turns up with a story about seeing the woman just a couple of weeks ago, with her ring to prove it. Then another woman is shown to have disappeared and her lover is arrested. The same novitiate proves that the woman is alive and sets the scoundrel free.

It all turns out that the woman was the monk’s wife but she died due to the novitiates father and mother. It wasn’t murder and there was no foul play. It was complicated enough that even Hugh Beringar says that God will sort out everyone’s motives.

 

My Thoughts:

I found this to be one of the more complicated mysteries, mainly because of the various motivations and lack of malice aforethought. And yet I certainly can’t agree with the author’s thoughts, presented through Cadfael, Hugh and the Father Abbot, that everything was ok in the end. There was no justice. The mother of the novitiate did cause the death of the wife of the monk, even if hatred wasn’t involved.

These last couple of Cadfael books I have found myself disagreeing with the author more and more about how justice gets carried out and just what is the law. If you cause someone else’s death, even if they agree to it, that is still killing someone. The price of a life is the life of the one who took it or, if there was no forethought and hatred, banishment for life. Someone who pre-meditates and then carries out a killing is not someone who deserves to live. That is a cancer that must be cut out, not a cold that gets treated with soft tissues and extra fluids.

Mercy misplaced or misapplied is as bad as no mercy at all.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

The Heretic’s Apprentice (Brother Cadfael #16) ★★★☆☆

hereticsapprentice (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Heretic’s Apprentice
Series: Brother Cadfael #16
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 256
Format: Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

A young man returns with his dead master from their journey to the Holy Land. There is some question about whether said master can be buried at the Abbey due to some of his statements said many years ago. All is resolved.

However, a jealous man then accuses the young man of heresy so as to get him out of the way of a job. When said jealous man turns up dead, things don’t look good for the young man. Throw in a young woman, a dowry, an Abbot that toes the Church line completely and you have a recipe for a mystery.

Cadfael and Hugh solve the murder mystery side of things and Ellis Peters gets to view her theological views using various Abbots, Bishops, whatevers. If we could only all get along, then it wouldn’t matter what we believe or the words we use to express said beliefs. (My synopsis of Peters’ views, which I vehemently disagree with)

 

My Thoughts:

Every once in a while I am reminded that I am reading about a Catholic monk in the 1100’s. As such, the views expressed by various characters can run very counter to my staunch Protestant beliefs. But it makes for a very interesting read instead of just a dull murder mystery. The biggest thing that I enjoyed seeing was how the characters referenced Scripture very rarely and various Church Fathers quite a lot. You can believe in almost anything if you just go with what men have written ABOUT the Bible instead of reading it for yourself. But even that idea goes against everything that the Catholic Church calls orthodoxy. Thank God I’m a protestant.

The whole mystery part was rather blasé to be honest. The man we’re supposed to think is the main culprit practically has neon signs pointing at him, so I knew it couldn’t possibly be him even while having no other options. I’m not the kind of reader that tries to figure the mystery out before the main character. Besides, arrogant jackasses like Poirot withhold information, so what’s the use? I’m just along for the ride.

On a completely non-review note, I’ve begun using “series” tags on WordPress. I have to admit, I never understood why people did that before, but now that I’m thinking of organizing my WP site to be more user/link/post friendly, I understand. I LOVE how my reviewing style keeps on changing to meet various wants and needs. Still not going to see me on twitter or facebook though.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

The Confession of Brother Haluin (Brother Cadfael #15) ★★☆☆ ½

haluin (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Confession of Brother Haluin
Series: Brother Cadfael #15
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 208
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brother Haluin almost dies and confesses to the head Priest and Cadfael. He had an encounter of the flesh with a young woman, who he got with child 18 years ago. Haluin gave the mother herbs from Cadfael’s herbariam to end the pregnancy but the mother told Haluin that it ended up killing the mother along with the child. And that was when Haluin entered the abbey, in despair.

He ends up surviving his ordeal, he gives himself the penance of walking to the dead woman’s tomb and keeping vigil for a night. Haluin’s feet being crippled due to the ordeal, Cadfael is tasked with helping him keep his vow.

In a string of coincidences that can only happen in a murder mystery, we find out that Haluin was lied to by the mother and that the young woman was married off and the child raised as that other man’s. Said young woman is now a nun as old as Haluin. Their daughter has love issues all of her own which are neatly resolved when it is revealed that she is NOT the blood daughter of the Old Duke. An old lady servant is killed by the nun’s mother to keep everything secret. Because the old mother did all of this because she wanted the young man back in the day and he wouldn’t commit adultery with her, as she was married. So she starts this whole chain of events.

Everyone except the old mother ends up being reasonably satisfied with how things turn out and Brother Haluin and Cadfael return to their abbey.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a typical Brother Cadfael mystery. He’s just an observer like he has been in the last several and has very little to do with the actual story. So that’s where I’d normally give this a 3star rating. But this time around a lot of the story is driven by ideas of absolution and atoning for you own sins, ie, working to get your sins forgiven. Haluin makes it a point that if he can’t fulfill his vow, he won’t be forgiven. And it is stated outright that he doesn’t feel like he’ll be forgiven if he doesn’t DO some sort of very hard penance.

Normally the catholic practices and theology are kept in the background of these books. This time around though, they played a much bigger part and cut right across everything the Bible actually says about forgiveness of sins. When I hear about earning forgiveness for your sins, well, that just sets my staunch Protestant soul ablaze. I won’t go into the details, as this is not a theology post. But it really took this book down a peg for me. I’ve actually been surprised this hasn’t happened before.

I’ve got 5 or 6 more Brother Cadfael books to go and I’m really hoping I can stick it out to the end. But to be honest, these are getting boring; that’s almost as bad as un-Biblical theology in my mind!

★★☆☆ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Hermit of Eyton Forest (Book 14)
  2. The Rose Rent (Book 13)
  3. Raven in the Foregate (Book 12)
  4. An Excellent Mystery (Book 11)
  5. The Pilgrim of Hate (Book 10)

 

The Hermit of Eyton Forest (Brother Cadfael #14) ★★★☆☆

eytonhermit (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Hermit of Eyton Forest
Series: Brother Cadfael #14
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 240
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A young novitiate’s father dies. His grandmother wants him to come home so he can marry a neighbor’s daughter so the grandmother can rule all. However, the father’s wishes were for him to stay at the Abbey and learn until he reached his majority.

At the same time, a saintly hermit and his young assistant move into an abandoned hermitage. A landowner comes looking for his runaway serf and is murdered. The young heir also goes missing. All of this is happening while the war between Stephen and Maude continues apace.

Cadfael must put the pieces of this puzzle together while making sure that justice is served and mercy has its place.

 

My Thoughts:

Cadfael was almost a background character here. It was more about the hermit’s assistant than anything else. And his story was all about “young love” conquering all. It kind of made me roll my eyes. I guess I’m getting too old and cynical.

I still enjoyed the overall story but I’m not sure that Cadfael tagging along while everyone else does the actual work makes this a Brother Cadfael Mystery. However nothing here is going to stop anyone from continuing this series. If you’ve stuck around this long, you’ll keep on sticking around. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain like a son of a monkey about the tenuous link.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

  1. The Pilgrim of Hate (Book 10)
  2. An Excellent Mystery (Book 11)
  3. Raven in the Foregate (Book 12)
  4. The Rose Rent (Book 13)