Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 6th February 2020 from Hodder & Stoughton
After the death of his mother, young Alwin of Whittaker leaves the only home he has ever known to seek answers about his unknown father through a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
On the journey, Alwin falls in with a band of violent and marauding soldiers and is witness to their terrible crimes. When Alwin later joins up with a group of pilgrims, he must hide his identity . . . but he is not the only one with secrets to keep. Rosamund, a young woman travelling the same path, has much to conceal too.
The journey to discovering who he really is will lead Alwin into great danger and great passion. These are dark times, and through them, Alwin must shine a light.
Will the revelations to come destroy everything that came before?
Requiem for a Knave takes us to 14th Century Derbyshire where Alwin, a young farmer is tending to his dying mother. Her last wish, alongside an apology he does not understand, is that he go on a quest for knowledge of his father by embarking on a pilgrimage to Walsingham, after first seeking the help of the local Priest, Father Oswald.
For Alwin this will be a physical and mental journey that will help him to discover who he really is and along the way will challenge and change everything he thought he knew about himself and the world around him.
Laura Purcell writes beautifully and the medieval setting works brilliantly with the lyrical prose she adopts. Alwin is an innocent young lad, not wildly experienced in the ways of the world and Purcell makes his voice loud and clear drawing you in to the manners and mores of the time without hesitation.
I was carried along by the writing and by Alwin’s literal voyage of discovery as he unwittingly becomes the enabler of horrific violence and meets two people who will change his life. It’s not always clear to Alwin who is on his side and who may be plotting against him, as he somewhat stumbles his way towards the goal of his pilgrimage, but he is fortunate to meet Rosamund, a healer, who helps to keep him focussed.
With a nicely thought through take on gender politics in the Middle Ages, Requiem for a Knave is a gentle story with occasional flashes of extreme violence, and rather reminded me, in tone, of an Ellis Peters Cadfael story.
Verdict: A fine medieval voyage of discovery for a teenager searching for the truth of his ancestry. Well-written and researched, it is Alwin’s voice that carries the story and wraps the reader in a bygone age whilst simultaneously playing out some surprisingly modern sexual politics. I was engaged by it and enjoyed it.
Laura Carlin’s first novel was The Wicked Cometh. Having left school at 16, she turned to writing after 28 years of working for a local bank. She lives in Derbyshire with her civil partner, two children and a Siamese cat called Antigone.