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Sixth Surrender

The Sixth Surrender
by Hana Samek Norton (Plume, July 2010)

In The Sixth Surrender, Norton as constructed a real page-turner with well-wrought historical accuracy, just enough romance, multi-dimensional characters and impossible-to-put down suspense.

The ageing queen-duchess Aliénor of Aquitaine works to protect the kingdom of her last surviving son, John Plantagenet, and thinks nothing of using her subjects as pawns in the monumental power struggle that is her daily life.  As part of her machinations, Aliénor convinces an unwilling novice, Juliana de Charnais, and the cynical landless warrior Guerin Lasalle to marry, dangling Juliana’s inheritance as the incentive for both of them.  The resulting sparks between the pious Juliana and the womanizing Lasalle don’t show any signs of melting the chill between the newlyweds, and ensuing events serve to drive the pair continually in different directions, providing a refreshing departure from the standard historical romance formula.  As their fates are manipulated by the big players like Aliénor, and the kings of England and France, Juliana and Lasalle are placed in ever greater peril, and we wonder if they will ever be able to set aside their differences and work to save not only their own lives, but the lives of their retainers and vassals.

Plenty of plot twists made The Sixth Surrender deliciously unpredictable, and though I might suggest a tad more explanation in some places, I was able to follow these twists to their ultimately satisfying conclusion – with the distinct feeling that the story of Juliana de Charnais and Guerin Lasalle has more chapters yet to come.  Good villains and villeins, great battle scenes (de rigeur in my opinion), and plenty of well-fleshed characters whose fallible humanity renders the story both exhilarating and sympathetic.

Reviewed by Annie Leonard
The Next Chapter, Knoxville, Iowa
March 2010

 

One response to “Sixth Surrender

  1. Martha Ellis

    April 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Hana is one of my closest friends of nearly 30 years. 11 years ago, while living in Arizona and undergoing chemo, she sent me the first iteration of this book to keep me occupied and make corrections. Over the years since returning to New Mexico, we have had many spirited discussions about the characters, changes, etc. And some pep talks for her to be patient, she’d get an agent. Be patient, she’d get a publisher. Finally, publication. I was surprised so many years ago how invested I became in her characters and, of course, I loved the attention to historical detail. (We met in grad school in the history dept.). For anyone who loves historical fiction set in medieval times this should be on your “must read” list.

     

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