Review: THE DRAGON OF HANDALE by Cassandra Clark

The Dragon of HandaleThe Dragon of Handale Cassandra Clark

Minotaur Books Historical Fiction/Mystery (Abbess Hildegard of Meaux series)

The fourth book in Clark’s Hildegard series is another dramatic look at 14th Century England, where nuns are sent for their sins to Handale Priory, a house of horrors purporting to be a house of spiritual correction. Hildegard, returning from a pilgrimage in Spain is sent to the isolated castle of sorts hidden in the north of England. Abbes Basilda runs the tightly held environment in the firm belief that she deserves all the good things life has to offer and her charges deserve none of them. She oversees an iron-fisted legion of acolytes, most of whom enjoy giving and receiving penance for their committed sins and any others they consider doing. This book offers an insight into hardships of the medieval period that exceeds ruthlessness, yet is so beautifully written, it keeps you reading, hoping someone will save these poor women.

This intense thriller moves from one dramatic moment to another, constantly leaving you on alert to determine who or what is haunting the priory, the grounds, and its people, clawing them to death so violently and how to help the battered nuns escape. Clark is not frivolous or weak-kneed in explaining the living conditions and the harshness of the environment – physical and emotional. And what is the strange tower Hildegard discovers in the woods, a secret tower that is locked tight and guarded by armed men? She befriends the troupe of builders, living and working close by and soon becomes suspect of their good will. Ulf, a former love interest, comes to her aid.

Good, clean writing with excellent character and plot development that keeps the tension taut and the possible criminals in a long list. I plan to read more about the enticing Hildegard.

This review was provided by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Book Reviews in the April 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

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