The Bequest

Night in Eden

September Moon

The Last Knight by Candice Proctor
(Ivy, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-8041-1930-9
As an enormous fan of Candice Proctorís Australian historicals, I was thrilled to find her latest effort amongst the books I was assigned to review. The Last Knight is a medieval set in Brittany during the reign of Henry II and I was curious to see if I would enjoy this new setting as much as her Australian books. I was not disappointed. The Last Knight is the best medieval Iíve read this year.

While awaiting her arraigned marriage to 14 year old Fulk de Salers (better known as Fulk the Fat), Attica díAlerion learns of a plot against King Henry. Her only surviving brother Stephen is one of Henryís knights and Attica is terrified Stephen will be killed in the attack. She decides to disguise herself as a boy and ride to warn him.

Damion de Jarnac is known as a rogue knight, a mercenary who even murdered his own brother. Damion is presently in the King Henryís employ, trying to expose those who conspire against the king. While on the road, Damion saves a young lord, Atticus, from robbery and certain death. Damion is impressed with the young ladís courage and offers to travel with him to his destination.

Damion soon discovers the young lord is actually a beautiful and spirited young woman who is working toward the same end. They agree to travel together to warn Henry of the planned treachery and while on the road they fall deeply in love. But secrets from Damionís past, as well as Atticaís betrothal to Fulk the Fat, seem to make a future together an impossibility.

What I find so compelling about Candice Proctorís books is the delicious way she develops the relationship between the hero and heroine. Theirs isnít love at first sight. Their love grows as they face adversity and learn to appreciate the strengths of the other. I closed the cover of The Last Knight with the sure knowledge that this couple was meant to be together and will remain together.

The characters, including the secondary characters, are exceptionally well-developed. There are no cardboard villains here. The events that shaped their character are explained in detail, creating complex personalities that make believable choices.

There are touching moments in The Last Knight that had me hauling out the tissues, and a several surprises that made me gasp aloud. But the most impressive aspect of this book was the vivid writing. The story didnít merely come alive. I felt as if I were actually looking over the characterís shoulders, a part of the action myself.

My only complaint came in the middle of the book. Things seemed to sag a bit as Attica and Damion meandered in circles while trying to find King Henry. The action at the beginning and end is blistering and the sluggish middle suffers in comparison. But thatís a minor complaint in an overall exceptional book.

If you've been looking for a heartwrenching medieval romance with a strong heroine and truly heroic hero, I suggest you try The Last Knight. You'll be glad you did.

--Karen Lynch

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