The Plot: 

The Present
In Nicola Cornick‘s The Last Daughter of York (Graydon House), Serena Warren’s life remains unsettled after her twin sister, Caitlin, disappeared eleven years before, when they were seventeen. The sisters were visiting their grandparents who’d restored the old manor house connected to the ruins of the medieval church, Minster Lovell. “When Caitlin had gone, she had taken a fragment of Serena’s soul with her.”

Serena can’t remember what happened the night of Caitlin’s disappearance — the trauma of losing her sister caused her to have dissociative amnesia. Now, the police have found Caitlin’s remains on the grounds at Minster Lovell, but all indications are that her body had been buried in the 18th century. Serena knows there must be some mistake — her sister had obviously disappeared in the 21st century. 

Serena visits Minster Lovell Manor, hoping that being at the place where Caitlin disappeared will cause her to remember enough bits and pieces to put the puzzle together. 

The Past
Valentine’s Day, 1465. Anne Neville of Ravensworth Castle, Yorkshire, is only five years old when she marries young Francis Lovell, who would later become King Richard III’s Lord Chamberlain. Anne knows that marriage is “an alliance of wealth and power.” Anne’s mother, Alice, is King Edward Plantagenet’s cousin, and Francis is squire and best friend of Richard of Gloucester (later King Richard III).

In a chance meeting with a woman Anne isn’t even sure is real, Anne takes possession of an arrowhead that has magical powers. The woman refers to it as a lodestar — a compass that “guides a man to his one true North.” People believed lodestars had the power to help one attract whatever they most desired. This lodestar had been entrusted to the Lovell family in the 13th century but was stolen by the Mistletoe Bride — a woman who’d married Francis’s ancestor, John Lovell, but disappeared with the magical arrowhead at the wedding feast during a game of hide-and-seek. Is the strange woman Anne meets the spirit of the Mistletoe Bride?

The woman insists the lodestar must be returned to Minster Lovell. Anne wears the stone on a chain around her neck; it is her talisman. As years pass, and allegiances twist and turn, Anne remains devoted to her husband, Francis. Little does she know that the lodestar will provide protection when her family needs it most.

The Present
As Serena walks the grounds of Minster Lovell Manor with her childhood friend, Jack, snippets of memory from the day Caitlin disappeared come back. It soon becomes clear that the unusual arrowhead her grandfather kept in a frame on his study wall is at the heart of both Caitlin’s disappearance and secrets her grandfather has kept for years. 

The Vibe and the Art of Storytelling:

This dual-timeline tale keeps the tension taut as we travel back and forth between the 15th and 21st centuries. The medieval past juxtaposed with the present provides a nice pace for the story until the revelation of what connects Anne and Serena through six centuries. Cornick deftly concocts the “time travel” scenes, making readers suspend disbelief to consider the impossible possible.

The Author:

English-born Cornick refers to her multi-century books as “timeslip mysteries,” which merge multiple genres into fast-paced tales of people connected throughout the ages. A historian of medieval history, she writes “dual time frame novels inspired by the history and legends of Wessex and The Vale of the White Horse.” 

What I Like Best:

I love how the medieval past entwines with the present to create a multigenerational mystery. Readers will consider how peoples’ lives in one generation can affect lives many generations later, and magical realism causes us to ask ourselves, “what if?” 

Opinion:

Fans of historical multi-timeline books, which merge multiple genres, such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, will love this immersive (and informative) reading experience.


This story appears through BookTrib’s partnership with Romo’s Reading Room.

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Nicola Cornick is a historian and author. She studied at the University of London and Ruskin College, Oxford, and works for the National Trust as a guide at the 17th-century hunting lodge Ashdown House in Oxfordshire. Her award-winning books are international bestsellers and have been translated into 26 languages.