medieval times -- fiction

The Nightingale Gallery: Being the First of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan by P.C. Doherty

The Nightingale Gallery: Being the First of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother A

There are graphic novels that literally paint then print images onto the page. The Brother Athelstan books are another kind of graphic novel. They have a very visual feel to them, only it’s done with words. Some medieval mysteries are as stuffy as a centuries-old cupboard. P.C. Doherty’s The Nightingale Gallery isn’t like that. Its characters breathe and move and love and murder with a striking vivacity.

Great Maria by Cecelia Holland

Great Maria by Cecelia Holland

As Cecilia Holland’s historical romance Great Maria opens, our young and pretty heroine is doing what any well-bred medieval girl might be about on a blustery afternoon: visiting a religious shrine some miles from home and contemplating a life in the convent. Guarded as she is by a handful of her father’s knights, she cannot help noticing that one of them is extremely young and handsome... and that he has noticed her. But when a sudden vicious attack leaves her in dire peril, it is an older knight with cool gray eyes who defends her and brings her back to her father’s castle.

Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

In 1972, Richard Adams’ classic fantasy novel Watership Down was first published. This exciting adventure follows the travels of a group of rabbits seeking a new home after the destruction of their warren.  Evocatively written and imaginatively plotted, this novel excelled in portraying the world we humans perceive as mundane as a place filled with danger and mystery, and also excelled in its depiction of the primitive religion and folklore the rabbits created to explain the natural environment.  After I finished reading Watership Down a couple of months ago, I searched for a similar fantasy told from the perspective of animals, but finding a novel of its caliber proved difficult.  Many of the other animal-centered fantasy stories I found were either too deliberately whimsical or too childish to live up to Adams’ novel. Eventually I found David Clement-Davies’ Fire Bringer and decided to give it a try based on the recommendation by Adams on the back cover.  Filled with adventure, suspense, and gripping depictions of the natural world, this novel lived up to my lofty expectations.

Crowfield Curse

By Pat Walsh

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In 1347, when fourteen-year-old orphan William Paynel, an impoverished servant at Crowfield Abbey, goes into the forest to gather wood and finds a magical creature caught in a trap, he discovers he has the ability to see fays and becomes embroiled in a strange mystery involving Old Magic, a bitter feud, and ancient secrets.

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The Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson

The Tears of the Salamander, by Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson’s The Tears of the Salamander begins with a simple gift and ends with a magical legacy. When his seldom-seen, rich Uncle Giorgio gives young Alfredo a strange present on his name day, his parents aren’t sure they want him to have it. The golden chain doesn’t have the expected cross on it—from it dangles the golden image of a strange animal—a little lizard with splayed feet and other peculiar features. Alfredo’s older brother is very jealous. He sees nothing special in Alfredo. Sure, he can sing like an angel, but that’s not much use to a baker’s boy, is it?

The local priests see Alfredo’s gift differently. They want him in their boys’ choir, and he is happy to be there for he loves to sing—but he also loves baking and hopes to follow his father into the trade. When catastrophe strikes leaving Alfredo alone and friendless, the priests urge him to join the choir permanently, and he would have done so even though it would have meant giving up a normal life. But just at the crucial moment, his Uncle Giorgio comes to take him away to reclaim his birthright—the birthright his father refused by choosing instead to become a simple village baker.

The Canterbury Tales

By Geoffrey Chaucer, translated into modern English by Nevill Coghill

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"A retelling of the medieval poem about a group of travelers on a pilgrimage to Canterbury and the tales they tell each other. With their astonishing diversity of tone and subject matter, The Canterbury Tales have become one of the touchstones of medieval literature. Translated here into modern English, these tales of a motley crowd of pilgrims drawn from all walks of life-from knight to nun, miller to monk-reveal a picture of English life in the fourteenth century that is as robust as it is representative."

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The Name of the Rose

By Umberto Eco

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In 1327, finding his sensitive mission at an Italian abbey further complicated by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William of Baskerville turns detective, penetrating the cunning labyrinth of the abbey and deciphering coded manuscripts for clues.

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Lara and the Gray Mare

By Kathleen Duey

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"Nine-year-old Lara is the daughter of the leader of her cattle-raising clan. While she spends her days tending to the cattle, her heart lies with her beloved gray mare. When Lara goes to the highlands to set the cattle out to graze, she finds the mare in the process of a difficult birth. Lara vows to take care of the foal as a dying promise to the gray mare, and with the help of a childless milk-cow, she cares for the spindly-legged filly.
But just when she is confident that the foal can survive, a rival clan captures them both and throws Lara's life into turmoil. When the filly is eventually given to a titled baron in the castle town of Athenry, Lara, determined to stay with the horse no matter what, goes along. Together, she and her beloved horse face seemingly insurmountable challenges, but all along Lara keeps two things in mind. One day, she will manage to flee, and will set off in search of the family that she was taken from. And she will not leave without her silver mare."
First of a series.

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The Weaver's Tale: A Medieval Mystery

Wracked with sickness on a frozen day in 1473, Roger the Chapman collapses on the road in the city of Bristol. Strong as he usually was, he had overestimated his ability to lug his pack of goods the many miles in such gruesome weather. Most of the townspeople want to leave him to die—just such a one might be a plague-bearer—but a weaver’s widow and her young daughter decide to shelter him anyway in Kate Sedley’s The Weaver’s Tale.

Margaret Walker and her daughter Lillis were already regarded with suspicion by their neighbors because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Margaret’s father. The town feels guilty for the part it played in the affair, and they have taken to bullying the Walker women. The bullying is bad now, but it seems to be getting worse—perhaps fatally so. Roger agrees to stay in the Walker cottage for several weeks until winter has passed. He can help them with their chores and perhaps, too, help in solving the mystery surrounding the weaver’s death.