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Reviewed by Astrid M. Arzu for Readers' Favorite
The Forest and the Flames by G. Lawrence tells the story of Matilda of Flanders, the determined, intelligent, devoted and beautiful wife of William, Duke of Normandy. He conquers England, becoming its first Norman king, and Matilda is crowned queen some time after. William loves his wife dearly, admiring her leadership and diplomatic skills, so he gives her almost equal power as his. Matilda proficiently undertakes her royal duties. However, William faces ceaseless insurrections throughout the kingdom. Angered and tired of this, he savagely devastates the northern region. Matilda starts having nightmares about a forest engulfed in flames and people killed by war and famine. And most terrifying, her children are also in that forest, about to die as punishment for William’s actions and her own sins. Will these nightmares come true? Will her children start dying in strange circumstances? And could she do anything to prevent it?
Superbly written, The Forest and the Flames convincingly transports us to the historical era of the conquest of England by the Normans. Since it is told through the eyes, mind and heart of Queen Matilda, it is easy to sympathize with the character of this great historical figure. The story line is very well developed, believable and interesting, and the characters’ depths make them memorable. G. Lawrence’s extensive knowledge of this time period shows in the detailed passages depicting medieval life, especially of the nobility. As the narrative progresses, Matilda’s insight on life and human character shines through, so this story provides us also with pearls of wisdom. This is the kind of book that is so good you don’t want it to end. But when it does, you want to quietly shout 'Long live Queen Matilda' in your heart!
The Forest and the Flames is narrated by Marnye Young who does an outstanding job narrating in a clear and understandable voice. Her pace is perfect, not too slow nor too rushed. It is an added bonus that she probably knows several languages, since her pronunciation of words in languages other than English is very credible, especially of French words (as in location names). She gives the characters different voices too, which is really helpful to bring the story to life. Her choice of voices for the characters is very good. Other than differentiating voices, this audiobook does not have any other sound effects.