An Ancient Evil is a charming historical fiction based loosely on the premise of The Canterbury Tales.
In the introduction, a knight tells a story to a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. “My tale begins hundreds of years ago, just after the great Conqueror came here. So, gentles all, your attention as I describe these horrors sprung from the very pit of Hell.” pg 6.
In the story within the story, a menacing prologue introduces the reader to Sir Hugo, who buries alive the leader of a group of evil magic doers and burns the rest of his order. The evil leader who is buried alive doesn’t seem that upset about the whole thing. Which is weird.
Fast forward a couple hundred years into the future.
Sir Godfrey and a clerk, Alexander, are tasked by the king of England to discover the truth behind a series of mysterious and grisly murders in Oxford.
They are assisted in their task by Dame Edith, a blind anchorite who is known for her exorcism talents. ‘Sir Godfrey, whoever the killers are, we are about to enter the Valley of Death, but,’ Alexander couldn’t resist gentle banter, ‘we have your sword, my brains and the prayers of Dame Edith.’ ‘I think we might need more than that.’ pg 64.
I enjoyed this medieval, just a bit too bloody to be called “cozy”, mystery.
The characters are layered. The author drops enough hints to lead the reader towards the bad guy without giving the game away.
It reads a bit like a Nicholas Cage movie. We’ve got a battle between good and evil with some paranormal stuff and swords thrown in.
“Dame Edith tapped the side of her head. ‘Sir Godfrey, you are a soldier. You, of all people, should realize that a man is what he thinks he is. What causes one man to be a coward and another to be a hero? After all, they may be the same flesh and blood. They may even be brothers from the same womb. It’s what they think.” pg 170.
I also enjoyed the details about medieval life that are sprinkled throughout.
Thanks for reading!