Barbara Henderson’s short novel about the [real] siege of the castle of Caerlaverock, near Dumfries in southern Scotland, is a fabulous adventure for any age. Once I’d started, I could barely put the book aside.
The year is 1300, and Ada, a 12-year-old laundress, is about to do something she shouldn’t. This act causes her to get to know the new Page boy Godfrey, and it brings both of them to the attention of the castle commander, who is not a nice man.
The Lord of the castle has gone away, looking for support, leaving his young Lady wife in charge. And then the English King turns up, with 3000 men, against the 60 or so left at Caerlaverock.
We learn much about how a castle like this was run, and how hard it was to be poor and powerless like Ada and her father. But this is a story about personal bravery and the fight both against the villainous commander and the King of England.
It gets very exciting, and it’s good to see female leadership and that eight-year-old page boys are first and foremost only eight years old, but with the courage to become a brave Knight one day.
And Kings, well, they never last long, do they?