Fiction Review: Nectar From a Stone

Nectar From a Stone
By Jane Guill
Paperback $15.00; ISBN 0743264797; 464 pp.Touchstone; March 2005
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Book Review by Kathleen Cunningham Guler

Jane Guill’s debut novel, Nectar From a Stone, tells the intertwining stories of a young widow seeking redemption and a noblemen’s quest for revenge. In 1351, the plague has devastated Europe, Wales is a country subjugated by English oppression, superstition runs rampant, and the medieval church blames women for just about anything it perceives as sinful.

Elise, a half-Welsh, half-English woman plagued by strange visions, is forced to stab her brutal husband in self-defense. Believing him dead, she flees with her servant, Annora, for Conwy, hoping to find work and peace. Gwydion, also half-Welsh, half-English, is a brooding nobleman on his way to Conwy as well, seeking vengeance against those who murdered his family and seized his estate. He and Elise cross paths on the road north and against better judgment, are inexorably drawn to each. As each reaches their destination, a dark and cruel shadow from Elise’s past begins to catch up, sweeping her and Gwydion into a terrifying confrontation with their enemies.

Nectar From a Stone is a fascinating window into medieval Welsh life. Impeccable research and lively characters bring both the place and time alive, illustrating the depth to which war, illness, the church and superstition played in everyday life. Elise and Gwydion are endearing, and Annora is a delight with her wry humor—a nice balance against the cruelty of Elise’s evil husband Maelgwn and Gwydion’s conspiratorial foes. Jane Guill’s intelligent, rich portrayal of medieval Wales is told with charm, wit, and masterful storytelling.

Highly recommended.

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