The Heaven Tree Trilogy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the year 1200, fifteen-year-old Harry Talvace left his place as apprentice at Shrewsbury to return to his father’s estate. With him traveled his foster brother, Adam, son of a villein on that estate. Adam is little more than a bound servant in status, yet in Harry’s mind and heart he is his equal. When the two boys are accused of a crime they did not commit, the difference in rank becomes critical: Harry is remanded to his father for punishment, but Adam is sentenced to lose his right hand. The two boys escape and flee to France, setting in motion a sequence of events with unimaginable consequences.

The church-building frenzy in France provides a fertile school for Harry’s talent, which soon grows beyond his own comprehension. There he meets Ralf Isambard, the strangely single-minded Lord of Parfois, and the beautiful courtesan, Benedetta. The three are bound in an odd triangle, for Harry pledges himself to the creation of a cathedral for Isambard, while Benedetta agrees to become Isambard’s lover, though her heart will forever belong to Harry. For his part, Harry is in love with Gilleis and will have no other.

The triangle becomes a noose when Harry thwarts the execution of a young Welsh fosterling, knowing it will cause his own death. Benedetta arranges Gilleis’ flight to Wales, where Harry’s son becomes the sworn enemy of Ralf Isambard, and pledges his life to avenging his father’s death.

Pargeter is best known for her medieval novels about Brother Cadfael, written under the pen name of Ellis Peters. Pargeter weaves a wonderfully romantic tale of honor and intrigue, richly descriptive and accurately detailed.