The woods were tangled, lush with summer. Poor going, but if she rode across open land, Alexa would have to comply with her father’s dreary order not to gallop. Somebody would see her. There’d be a lecture. Maybe even an order not to ride at all.
Here, beyond the fields, there was no one to carry tales. What Papa said about low branches and treacherous going was the greatest nonsense. Alexa had used the bridle path only the previous week. It was perfectly safe.
Alexa is the teenage daughter of a landowning family in 475 England. Although her life is comfortable, it is built on a fragile stability. She soon discovers just how fragile. It now seems very unlikely that she will be ever be able to follow her heart. She wants to breed fine horses, but her mother has other plans. But Alexa is her mother’s daughter, determined and headstrong. She meets Artorius, a boy of her age who has a vision for fighting from horseback, not the ponies that are native to England. Like Alexa’s mother, Artorius’ father gives his child’s ideas very little attention. Alexa needs all her skills, and support from others, to extricate herself from her mother’s plans without putting herself in undue danger.
L. S. Lawrence says he was inspired by the legend of King Arthur and some surprising archaeological finds to create this story. England, and Europe, of the time (475) were lawless and unstable places, where battles were constant and safety and peace were fleeting. Women were not much more than possessions and/or servants to their husband/masters. Into this era, he introduces a feisty girl who loves horses and is definitely not interested in being someone’s chattel. Though intelligent, she has been sheltered and must learn quickly if she is to survive. From her secure early existence, she is thrust into an uncertain and bloodthirsty world where life has little value when measured against power and wealth. Trust is not given easily. This is a grand adventure in an uncertain time, full of mystery and intrigue. Recommended for secondary readers, particularly girls who want to be free to create their own destiny.
Horses for King Arthur L. S. Lawrence
Omnibus Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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She had meant to let the tears come at last, now, but found they would not. And if they came at all, she thought, they would not be the sort of tears ladies were allowed, a careful covering of the eyes with the hands, a gentle sobbing. No, she could not manage that. If she gave way now, she would scream until her throat was raw.
From living the quiet, privileged life of a senator’s daughter in Carthage, Sara faces a wildly different life at sea. Carthage has been overthrown by the Romans and her only brother killed. As her father deals with his grief, Sara must organise their escape. With a hastily collected cargo, she and her father board their ship, heading out to sea to preserve their freedom and build a new life.
But life on the sea is also dangerous. Roman ships give chase, pirates threaten their lives and livelihoods, and Sara must learn to make decisions and to take on a vastly different role than that for which she was raised.
Escape by Sea is gripping historical fiction. Set in a time period and in a setting which will be unfamiliar to most young readers, it paints a vivid picture of the dangers of the oceans and the political tensions of the time. The use of a strong female character caused by circumstances to dwell outside of her normal realm, yet still conscious of the mores of her society, is thought-provoking.
Escape by Sea, by L.S. Lawrence
It was a sword. Three hand spans of fine steel. Ardavan half-drew it, and the hilt fitted into his hand as if moulded for it. Credit was earned, for a Roman. And using this sword, he could earn it.
In ancient Parthia the battle of Carrhae has had disastrous results for the Roman army, with over forty thousand soldiers lying dead. Only a group of one thousand men have survived, kept safe by their leader, Pontus. Forced to surrender, Pontus and his men swear allegiance to the Parthians. Now Ardavan, the Parthian son of a Roman slave, has been assigned as a translator, living with the Romans as they march across the country to protect the Eastern boundaries. But it might not be just the Romans who are at risk from the Parthians, and Ardavan is in a unique position to uncover the plot.
Eagle of the East is a historical novel which explores a part of ancient history which most children (and adult readers, too) would be unaware of. This in itself makes it an interesting read – and the story is well told, with the insights of the viewpoint character, Ardavan, adding a very human perspective of events.
With battles, murder and plenty of intrigue, this is an offering most likely to appeal to male readers, especially those with an interest in history.
Eagle of the East, by L. S. Lawrence