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Title: Brother Cadfael’s Penance
Series: Brother Cadfael #20
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Format: Digital Edition
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.
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.