Local author’s second work an enjoyable journey
Book Review – By Anne Jardine
This book was a great choice for my covid-addled attention span. It kept me engaged from the beginning with short, eventful chapters of mostly no more than three pages each, that tumbled along with magic, time-travelling, and a sweeping geographic journey across 10th Century Russia to Byzantine Constantinople.
I was magically able to keep my fragmented train of thought completely on the rails because the story has a strong cast of sympathetic characters. Local Invermere author, Maureen Thorpe has created a team of human and feline personalities who are charming, loyal, and determined to restore justice. Her villains are interesting as well, some with magical powers, some with devious manipulative powers.
Protagonist Annie Thornton, a modern 21st Century Yorkshire midwife and herbalist, along with her amazing cat Rosamund, are summoned into time travel by Annie’s Aunt Meg, a medieval ancestor whose life was well-lived as a village midwife and wise woman in the Chaucerian times of the 1400s.
Meg and Annie met in Maureen Thorpe’s first novel, Tangled in Time, also a quest for justice. In that book, the mission was to unseat a corrupt municipal mayor and his nasty gang. After their success, Annie, with some witchy help from Aunt Meg, returned to her modern world, but not without regrets at having to leave her medieval sweetheart Will (love of her alternate life) and her beloved aunt back in their 13th Century world.
In this second book of this series, Sailing to Byzantium, Aunt Meg draws Annie and Rosamund back through time to ancient Jorvik, actually York in the time of the Viking occupation, 400 years prior to the time of their first adventure.
This story centres on an urgent quest to recover twin seven-year-old sisters who had been kidnapped by unscrupulous merchants suborned by a nasty queen and sold to a wealthy Byzantine collector of curios, who also happens to be a friend of King Constantine.
Aunt Meg helps the children’s outraged and grieving father to assemble a search-and-rescue party to bring back the twins to Jorvik. Aunt Meg mysteriously snatches Annie’s beloved Will out of the Middle Ages to help with the project. Will, who had served as a soldier in the King’s elite guard, is happy to oblige and happy to reunite with his time-torn true love Annie.
They all set off on a long journey in a trading convoy of Viking ships down the great Dnieper River system of Ukraine to Kiev and then into Russia and the Black Sea into the Empire of Byzantium and the great capital Constantinople. The geographic dangers of their voyage and various portages are further heightened by dangerous encounters with barbarian pirates and spell-set traps conjured by an evil Viking queen.
Annie serves as apprentice to Aunt Meg and develops her herbal skills as a healer and her newly discovered ability to communicate with animals and supernatural spirits. She learns to use calling, commanding, and protection spells to keep the team safe, and she learns to do battle with forces of evil by marshalling forces of love and loyalty. By the time they begin to close in on the captive twin girls, Annie has become a powerful witch in her own right. But she has yet to reckon with the diplomatic and political entanglements in the heart of the Byzantine Empire.
The novel is full of historical details and bits of lore around the practices of witchcraft. Its plot is an intriguing adventure that zips along at a quick clip and took me out of the house and into far away realms without having to leave my couch. I enjoyed the journey.
Congratulations to Maureen Thorpe on this, her second Annie and Rosamund time trek.