GISBORNE started for fun, in instalments on her blog, Mesmered's Blog, and after a long work of research and editing, has now become a very interesting debut historical novel for Australian author Prue Batten. Mind you, this is not Ms Batten's first publication, but her debut in the historical fiction genre. Today GISBORNE has been released and it is available for Kindle at amazon.com (HERE).
I've had the pleasure and honour to read it before its publication and - do I need to say it? - I loved it! This is my review. No major spoiler, don't worry. And by the way, there is a giveaway contest linked to this post. Read the details below if you want to get a chance to win your copy of GISBORNE!
‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.’
Julian of Norwich
|Richard Armitage as Gisborne (BBC Robin Hood 2006)|
When you first meet him astride his steed and with his proud demeanour, he feels compassion, not pity, for Lady Ysabel. He is Gisborne, her father’s steward come to escort her home from Aquitaine after her mother’s death. With his black hair, his blue eyes and his visceral voice, he immediately fascinates you and, like Ysabel of Moncrieff, you want to know more about this man.
It is not Guy of Gisborne from Child Ballad (#118), the big man “clad in his capull-hyde topp and tayll and mayne” who Robin Hood easily dispatches, but a rewritten gripping hero. The author was inspired by the character from the BBC Robin Hood (2006/2009) and with the sensitive contribution of Richard Armitage but there the similarity ends.
No Robin Hood nor merry men exist in Prue Batten’s tale set in the final years of the 12th century, the years of Henry II’s sons, Prince Richard and Prince John, both aspiring to the throne of England. And Gisborne is not the Sheriff’s second-in-command. A dark character, maybe. A complex round figure definitely. You can find echoes of the Gisborne you’ve seen in the BBC series, fighting for status and power, with his conflicting attempts to redeem himself for love, with a temptestous temper and a troubled soul, vulnerable but strongly proud at the same time. But he lives again in the pages of a totally new story with a different background and an utterly new heroine to love – Ysabel of Moncrieff.
|New look for BBC Gisborne (2009)|
Gisborne and Ysabel will be side by side in a long journey, an unfolding ride through Aquitaine and England, filled with unwanted self discovery and unwilling bonding with each other. Theirs is not a smooth, easy relationship. It will be taunted by her prejudices and lack of trust in him and his unwillingness to open to her. However, they will not be able to loose that strong, instinctive tie made of lust, passion and empathy. She will have to face her mother’s death, her father’s financial ruin, the marriage to a brutal man, and she must grow up while trying to drown her memories of Gisborne in a sea of misunderstanding, rage and mistrust. She is sure he sold her to Benedict De Courcey, the man who ruined her father. She should only hate Gisborne but it will not be as simple as that.
If a flaw is to be found, I have one: Ysabel is more than once hosted by nuns in her journey. They help her, protect her, sympathize with her in a profusion of loving care and solidarity. Their monasteries are idyllic places and they are the perfect embodiment of Christian love. The idea I have of medieval monasteries is much influenced by my previous readings (18th century Gothic novels, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose or Alessandro Manzoni's Nun of Monza; a historical character he included in his Betrothed). The idyllic picture Batten paints doesn't correspond with anything I've read in historical fiction.
Nuns apart, GISBORNE is a new page-turner by Australian author Prue Batten. No mesmers this time, nor Færan living in Eirie, no companies of djinns, afrits and siofras as we met in A Thousand Glass Flowers. Stepping far from fantasy, she is launching her first historical fiction/historical romance.
But she can really create magic with words. Her rich, refined prose creates an embroidered picture full of little delightful details, stitch after stitch. This is not any fan-fiction attempt, but a historical novel, carefully and thoroughly researched (medieval legend, poetry, ancient Irish myths, historical figures like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard and John Plantagenet, detailed description of medieval life) as well as preciously crafted.
If it is to be called fan-fiction at all, it is front-rank, de luxe.
Leaving a comment + your e-mail address you can win an e- book copy of Prue Batten's brand new GISBORNE! Open worldwide, this giveaway contest ends on March 5th.