The story of The Lion and the Rose and the Norman Conquest continues in this spellbinding new historical fiction series from author Hilary Rhodes, pulling back the curtain on the lives of two remarkable women connected across centuries: Aislinn, a seventeen-year-old English girl caught up in the advancing army of the “outlander king,” the man who will become known to history as William the Conqueror. Thrust into the center of the new Norman court and a dizzying web of political intrigue and plotting princes, she must choose her alliances carefully in a game of thrones where the stakes are unimaginably high. Embroiled in rebellions and betrayals, Aislinn learns the price of loyalty, struggles to find her home, and save those she loves – and, perhaps, her own soul as well.
Almost nine hundred years later in 1987, Selma Murray, an American graduate student at Oxford University, is researching the mysterious “Aethelinga” manuscript, as Aislinn’s chronicle has come to be known. Trying to work out the riddles of someone else’s past is a way for Selma to dodge her own troubling ghosts – yet the two are becoming inextricably intertwined. She must face her own demons, answer Aislinn’s questions, and find forgiveness – for herself and others – in this epically scaled but intimately examined, extensively researched look at the creation of history, the universality of humanity, and the many faces it has worn no matter the century: loss, grief, guilt, redemption, and love.
I did not set out to write a book about William the Conqueror. (Much less several.)
I did not, in fact, intend to be studying medieval history, let alone at such a level that I am returning to the UK to start my doctorate in less than two weeks, or expect that my life for the last seven years would be so greatly defined by my involvement with the story that began with The Outlander King and its soon-to-be-released sequel, The Conqueror’s Bane (originally written as one book). And that, I suppose, was the best part.
But first, some background. Indeed, the origins of this exercise can be precisely dated: Friday, October 24, 2008, around five o’clock in the afternoon. What was happening on that day? For a start, I had recently achieved one of my life’s goals, which was to spend my junior year abroad at Oxford University, and I had joined my home college’s tutoring program for underprivileged London schoolchildren. Myself and two other students were putting on a workshop for them, and this workshop just so happened to cover the Normans. While this was something I had been interested in before, my knowledge of matters 1066 had gone lacking. So I scuffed up a few relevant facts and sallied forth.