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Reviewed by Patricia Reding for Readers' Favorite
Prepare to enter the Middle Ages in Guillaume by Prue Batten. The tale opens as Guillaume is awakened to calls of “Fire!” He fights the flames with the assistance of his friendly neighbors, but the resulting damage to the de Clochard merchant business, which he runs along with Amee de Clochard and the Jewess, Ariella, is significant. The business, which brings the finest fabrics to royalty, the aristocracy, and even the church, is in for trying times. Since the fire appears to have been deliberately set, Guillaume must determine who is friend and who is foe — a feat made more difficult given that more than one power may be out to harm him and the business. Indeed, a traitor may exist in the midst of their own home.
But it is the sanctimonious Brother Crispianus who believes the house to harbor the enemy in the form of the Jewess Ariella, and who would see her burn at the stake, that seems to trouble Guillaume the most, as he has come to love the spirited young woman. Upon learning that Crispianus is convinced someone in the house possesses a copy of a heretical translation of the Bible, Guillaume’s troubles increase, as he must search for it as well. Throughout the tale, Guillaume revisits from time to time the deaths of his parents, how he treated those responsible, and events that occurred when he marched with the Crusades.
From Guillaume himself, who suffers from his difficult memories; to Ariella, who struggles to remain alive in a world out to harm her and those of her kind; to Luzio, Guillaume’s suave aristocrat friend who may be a bit too smooth; to Tobias the troubadour, Prue Batten delivers full-bodied, interesting characters in Guillaume. Moreover, it is clear she understands the world about which she writes, as she lends details of types of clothing worn, the manner in which injuries and illnesses are treated, the means of moving goods along the river, and of the difficulties people face if they seek to act against societal norms. But it is the little things the author included that lent such an air of authenticity to the tale, and those touches are clear from the opening pages. If you enjoy historical fiction, or are interested in learning more about this period, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Guillaume.