Margaret Redfern,
(Honno, 2009)

Flint is a tale of love and loyalty set in that dangerous period in British history when Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, defied Edward I, who launched a powerful army in retaliation.

The novel is not so much about the political situation and the war as it is about its effect on ordinary people caught up in the wake of events. Among those people are Will, a lad not yet 12, and his older brother Ned, a mute with talents as a musician, horse whisperer and herbalist, who are recruited with others from their village to serve in digging the foundations for Flint, one of the castles Edward built as forward bases for his garrisons.

In lyrical, mesmerizing prose, author Margaret Redfern describes the hardships of the long march to Flint, the homesickness of the recruits and the cruelty of their overseers. The real story begins to unfold amidst the mud, the stench of the privation of the one solid spit of land surrounded by empty marshland where the castle is to be built.

The boys soon find themselves suspect and besieged with doubts about their allegiance to the English king known as Longshanks and the Leopard, particularly in view of Ned's desire to reunite with the exiled Welsh bard who taught him music. Despite his youth, Will long had been charged by his mother with responsibility for looking after Ned. There are surprises ahead for the boys and the reader.

Redfern has a knack for transporting the reader back to the harsh time of which she writes. It's a short novel but one with a broad palette and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

review by
John R. Lindermuth

26 September 2009

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