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LeapinLena reviewed Brother Cadfael's Penance: The Twentieth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael (Brother Cadfael Mysteries (Audio)) on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The author, before her death, wrapped up the series and I'm sorry to say, this is the last. I read them in order and enjoyed every one, growing more attached to the characters as their personalities were fleshed out over the years.
No map of Shrewsbury and environs in this edition.
This is the last in the 20-volume Brother Cadfael series, and the second in the series that I've read. (I previously read #11).
I'd sort of expect any writer to be getting a bit weary of a scenario or character after 20 installments, however nothing of the kind came through for me. I thought this was a quite well-written book, not too bogged down by tropes of the mystery genre, with a nice mix of politicking and family drama. I found it to be more convincing and believable than many medieval mysteries, as well.
For Brother Cadfael in the autumn of his life, the mild November of our Lord's year 1145 may bring a bitter - and deadly - harvest. England is torn between supporters of the Empress Maud and those of her cousin Stephen. The civil strife is about to jeopardize not only Cadfael's life, but his hopes of Heaven.
While Cadfael has sometimes bent the Abbey's rules, he has never broken his monastic vows - until now. Word has come to Shrewsbury of a treacherous act that has left thirty of Maud's knights imprisoned. All have been ransomed except Cadfael's secret son, Olivier de Bretagne. Conceived in Cadfael's soldiering youth and unaware of his father's identity, Olivier wil die if he is not freed. Like never before, Cadfael must boldly defy the abbot. The good brother forsakes the order to follow his heart - but what he finds will challenge his soul.
I feel rather sad to come to the last of the Brother Cadfael Chronicles, published the year before Ellis Peters died. It's a fitting but frustrating end, as one feels there could be so much more ground to explore beyond this. Cadfael breaks his monastic vows of obedience to rescue his captive son, who we met a few volumes back. It's been so long since I visited this world, it took me awhile to get my bearings around the 12th century politics, but once the good brother takes off to find his son the story trots along on a good pace. Cadfael's son finally comes to know his father by the end, but although the story reaches a satisying conclusion, fans of the series can't help but feel saddened that there will be no further exploration of that relationship.