Cover image for The Siege Winter
The Siege Winter
Ariana Franklin

Samantha Norman
Historical Fiction
Suspense Thriller
Literary Fiction
A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue,...
HarperCollins Publishers
Digital Format:
Windows Media Audio




A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England's devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, not even Emma, an eleven-year-old peasant, is safe. A depraved monk obsessed with redheads kidnaps the ginger-haired girl from her village and leaves her for dead. When an archer for hire named Gwyl finds her, she has no memory of her previous life. Unable to abandon her, Gwyl takes the girl with him, dressing her as a boy, giving her a new name--Penda--and teaching her to use a bow. But Gwyn knows that the man who hurt Penda roams free, and that a scrap of evidence she possesses could be very valuable.

Gwyl and Penda make their way to Kenilworth, a small but strategically important fortress that belongs to fifteen-year-old Maud. Newly wedded to a boorish and much older husband after her father's death, the fierce and determined young chatelaine tempts fate and Stephen's murderous wrath when she gives shelter to the empress.

Aided by a garrison of mercenaries, including Gwyl and his odd red-headed apprentice, Maud will stave off Stephen's siege for a long, brutal winter that will bring a host of visitors to Kenilworth--kings, soldiers . . . and a sinister monk with deadly business to finish.

Author Notes

Ariana Franklin is a pen name used by Diana Norman. She is a British author and journalist writing historical fiction and non-fiction. She was born in Devon, England. She is married to the film critic Barry Norman. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Kirkus Review

Franklin (A Murderous Procession, 2010, etc.) and Norman draw a tale of intrigue and violence from the Anarchy, the 12th-century struggle over the right to rule England between Stephen of Blois and Empress Matilda. In 1135, Henry I, king of England and Normandy, dies, leaving his kingdom to his daughter, Empress Matilda, the Holy Roman Emperor's widow. His nephew Stephen objects, claiming the crown, and England becomes "a land devoid of loyalty," where "plunder, pillage...devastation, starvation" haunt its people. The authors use Em, an 11-year-old peasant girl from the Cambridgeshire fens, and mercenary Gwilherm de Vannes, an arbalistcrossbowmanto follow the story. Gwilherm escapes a battlefield rout only to be attacked by his companions, rogues who then rape and beat little Em. Gwilherm nurses her to health, but she's lost her memory and despises her femininity"They'd sent her mad, and small wonder." Gwilherm dresses her as a boy, dubs her Penda and teaches her archery. Penda in tow, Gwilherm vows revenge on the rapist, Thancmar, a monk who led an attack on Ely Cathedral as part of a scheme to secure appointment as an archbishop. Highlighted by solid characterization of historical and fictional figures alike, the authors' research on day-to-day medieval life shines. Gwilherm and Penda rescue Empress Matilda and two knights during a blizzard and repair to Kenniford castle, a strategic redoubt along the Thames. There, young Maud rules as chatelaine; her boorish and cruel husband, Sir John of Tewing, to whom she's been married on Stephen's orders, lies silent after a stroke. Maud switches her support to Matilda, and the siege begins. This thoroughly captivating tale was begun by celebrated historical novelist Franklin, who died before its completion, and completed seamlessly by her journalist daughter, Norman. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Franklin's final novel, skillfully completed by her daughter after her death, recounts two young women's courage during a dark, chaotic era. As civil war devastates mid-twelfth century England, Maud, the 16-year-old chatelaine of Kenniford, weds a boorish older man to save her people. Raped and discarded, Em, a peasant girl from the Cambridgeshire fens, is rescued by an aging mercenary and becomes an expert archer under his tutelage. Their stories converge as Matilda, the previous king's heir, escapes her rival, King Stephen, and seeks shelter at Kenniford. The event-filled plotline includes themes of vengeance and coming-of-age, a hint of romance, and a mystery about a piece of parchment that Em's attacker will kill to repossess. Her slow recovery from emotional trauma is especially touching. The cheeky wit and precise descriptions that were Franklin's hallmarks are as sharp as ever, and the major characters are delightfully human. The book also has a genuine feel for medieval life and times. This unique collaboration is a worthy conclusion to one remarkable career and a promising beginning to another.--Johnson, Sarah Copyright 2015 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

THE CAREER CRIMINALS in genre novels don't have money problems. If they need some, they just go out and steal it. But such financial transactions can backfire, which is what happened back in 2004 when the Texas gang in Michael Robotham's LIFE OR DEATH (Mulholland/Little, Brown, $26) robbed $7 million from an armored truck. That ill-fated enterprise ended with four people dead. One robber was shot and captured alive, but the surviving gang member was never seen again and the money was never recovered. Audie Palmer survived the bullets that led to his capture, but he's had to fight for his life every day of the 10 years he's spent in prison. According to the inmate who befriended him, Moss Webster (a convicted killer but a prince of a guy), "that boy was stabbed, strangled, beaten, glassed and burned" by guards and inmates alike, thinking they could force him to reveal what became of the money and his brother, Carl, who presumably fled with it. These attacks intensify as Audie's release date nears, but on the morning of his discharge he's nowhere to be found. "What sort of idiot escapes the day before his release?" wonders Special Agent Desiree Furness of the F.B.I., who's smarter than most of the other characters looking for Audie. But not as shrewd as the shady individuals who arrange a furlough for Moss and the promise of freedom if he finds his friend before the rest of the mob. Although Audie is entirely too composed for someone looking into the teeth of this wolf pack, he's a man with hidden depths and horrific secrets. Moss is your real boon companion on this manhunt. A big bruiser, he may not be as subtle a thinker as Agent Furness or as complicated a character as Audie, but he's emotionally involved in Audie's fate and morally conflicted about his own role in determining it. Besides, his warm voice, thick with country honey, is the one you want to hear. Robotham, who's from Australia, isn't entirely at ease with the Texas vernacular, but he's responsive enough to the idiosyncrasies of the culture that he can thrill to a piece of American Gothic like this sign on a church in Houston: "If you really love God, show Him your money." ARIANA FRANKLIN died before she could finish the siege winter (Morrow/HarperCollins, $25.99). But her daughter, Samantha Norman, picked up the narrative and has delivered a rousing but unsparingly harsh account of medieval life as experienced by ordinary people. England is engulfed in civil war in A.D. 1141 when the fighting reaches the small fenland village from which 11-year-old Emma is kidnapped, savagely abused and left for dead by a vile monk traveling with marauding mercenaries on their way to sack Ely Cathedral. A kinder, more principled mercenary named Gwilherm de Vannes saves the girl's life and helps her disguise herself as his apprentice - no more a weak girl but a brave boy named Penda. In a parallel narrative featuring another resourceful female, 16-year-old Maud of Kenniford takes over the management of her ancestral castle and becomes a political force in negotiations with the warring monarchs, King Stephen and Empress Matilda. "I am the chatelaine," she asserts, in swearing allegiance to the empress, who takes refuge at Kenniford, triggering the siege that becomes the heart of the book. The intricate narrative design of the novel works a murderous subplot involving that fiendish monk into a broader view of how feudal law broke down under the anarchy of civil war. Those thrilling battles do look different when seen by women like Maud, Emma and the empress. IN THE MOUNTAINS of North Carolina, the setting of David Joy's remarkable first novel, WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO (Putnam, $26.95), "outlawing was just as much a matter of blood as hair color and height." Jacob McNeely, the 18-year-old son of the regional drug lord, has no illusions about who he is or where he came from. ("Mama snorted crystal, Daddy sold it to her.") But his love for the smartest girl in town makes him think he might yet determine who he becomes. No such luck, as long as Daddy needs him to help move product, launder money or dump bodies in the reservoir. That last incident entirely upsets Jacob's equilibrium, dragging him deeper into his father's affairs and further away from the future he wants for himself. This isn't your ordinary coming-of-age novel, but with his bone-cutting insights into these men and the region that bred them, Joy makes it an extraordinarily intimate experience. MAISIE DOBBS is getting paranoid - or else everyone she meets is spying on her in A DANGEROUS PLACE (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99), the latest installment of Jacqueline Winspear's consistently interesting series about a trained psychologist turned private investigator. Maisie is still in shock from the personal losses she has suffered in the four years since we've last seen her. She's sailing home to England from India when she stops off in Gibraltar, which is not a healthy place to be in 1937, with civil war raging across the border in Spain, German bombers headed for Guernica and foreign operatives skulking around every corner. Try as she might to concentrate on a murder case, she's drawn into a climate of political intrigue that repels her - but keeps the rest of us avidly reading.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Norman ably fills the hole in historical fiction left by the death of her late mother, Franklin ("Mistress of the Art of Death" series), by bringing the author's final manuscript to fruition with aplomb. During the Anarchy, the 12th-century civil war of succession between King Stephen and Empress Matilda over the English throne, a young girl falls victim to a roving horde of mercenaries led by a degenerate monk. Left for dead, she is rescued by a lone archer who teaches her to shoot and dresses her as a boy for protection. As they travel the countryside seeking justice, they find themselves at the heart of the war in which both their futures and that of the country are at stake. VERDICT The rigidity of status in feudal society rightly permeates every scene, but Norman and Franklin excel at showing how the war impacts everyone in this richly researched, female-driven historical mystery. [See Prepub Alert, 8/11/14.]-Liza Oldham, Beverly, MA (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.