Recent Reads: Bisclavret and To Love a Traitor

As I both write and read historical stories, I’m rather self-indulgently reviewing two wonderful historicals this week, although they are a contrasting pair!

The first is Bisclavret by K.L. Noone, an exquisite Medieval fantasy tale set amongst the wild forests of Brittany which has a wonderful Celtic myth atmosphere. Bisclavret is based on the 12th-century story by Marie de France but Kristin puts her own distinctive spin on the tale. I’m sure Kristin is getting sick of being featured on this blog, but it’s entirely her fault for writing such a wide variety of wonderful stories!

This tale is written from the point of view of Lord Bisclavret, who transitions to a werewolf at full moon. He is encouraged by his husband, scholarly, absent-minded King Andreas to write his memoirs regarding his painful betrayal by his former wife Elaine, which trapped him in his wolf state.

Although Lord Bisclavret’s story is a sad one, the contrast between his difficult past memories and the joy of the present with a man who loves him dearly is a delicate counterpoint. I loved this interpretation of a medieval tale and the distinct magical world the author has created. The language and descriptions were exquisite, as always, and the central love story was warmly human and endearing, and beautifully nuanced.

We move across the English Channel and several centuries forward for To Love a Traitor by JL Merrow, who is another writer I read everything by! The main character is George Johnson, a conscientious objector in WW1 and now a lawyer’s clerk. As a cryptographer in the Admiralty in wartime, he is adjusting to post-war life while taking on his own investigation of his brother’s death at Ypres during the war.

Slowly but surely, George starts to fall for the main suspect, Matthew Connaught. This makes the low-key, slow-burn story all the more compelling as the emotional stakes increase. I found myself reading compulsively, hoping beyond hope for a happy ending for George and Matthew. The historical setting of post-WW1 England was beautifully drawn from the language and involved social context to the behaviour of the characters. To Love a Traitor is a note-perfect and utterly absorbing story.

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