Title: The Herb of Grace (Chain of Charms #3)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Published: 10th November 2007
Synopsis: Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms. The queen gave each her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.
It is the fifth year of the Lord Protector’s rule, and not safe nor seemly to love bright colours, nor music, nor dancing, nor magic, nor any of the things that the gypsies most loved, and which made them who they were. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong – they have been thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms – then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…
15th-19th August, 1658:
Luka and Emilia must travel to the New Forest to find the Wood tribe, whose charm is a rue flower, the herb of grace. Its power is that of plants and herbs – which can both heal and poison.
On the way, the two children tangle with an impoverished widow, the thief-taker Coldham, a highwayman and a witch, and find themselves caught up in a Royalist plot to restore King Charles II to his throne.
Winner of Aurealis Awards for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007
Again we catch up with Luka and Emilia Finch as they travel the English countryside as they seek to reunite the magical charms of the six gypsy clans, and free their family from prison and their fate at the noose. Having left the Hearne tribe with the silver horse, Emilia has had to trade her beloved Alida for it, and they’ve left their bear, Sweetheart with Sebastien for safety – with only themselves, their dog, Rollo and monkey Zizi, they hope that it will be harder for Cromwell and his men, and in particular. Coldham, to find them. They must search for the elusive Wood family – with only the name of an inn owner, Gypsy Joe, to go off.
Again, they meet with Tom Whitehorse, the young boy whose home their family once worked in, who has mysteriously appeared wherever they have been since their family has been arrested, followed quickly by Coldham and the men of the Lord Protector. Emilia and Luka are convinced Tom’s presence has been what has tipped Coldham off about where to find Emilia and Luka. As Gypsy Joe hides them after they’ve stumbled across Lady Anne and her servant, who have helped them bathe, feed and have a decent rest, they discover the truth behind Tom’s constant appearances where they are, and what is really going on – and they then find themselves caught up not only in the quest to reunite the charms and save their family – but a Royalist plot to overthrow Cromwell and restore King Charles II to the throne.
The Herb of Grace marks the half-way point in this series, and the stakes are getting higher. As the month slinks towards closure, Emilia and Luka are sorely pressed for time as they travel on foot to find the rest of the charms that they hope will change their family’s luck and restore King Charles II to the throne. I’m just about to start The Cat’s Eye Shell, where Emilia and Luka, together with Tom Whitehouse, a Catholic Priest, a highwayman and a Royalist Duke – seeking the restore the throne are in search of the elusive gypsy family and tribe in possession of the cat’s eye shell.
Here, the children must track down a witch – who holds the charm and the sacrifice they must make is even more wrenching than the last ones – but it is something that has to be done to move along with their quest – lest she use her black, dark magic against them, and tamper with what they are trying to do – this character was creepy and someone I don’t think I would be keen to meet alone. she did bring an intrigue and shadow to the story that illustrated that it wasn’t only Cromwell’s side that had evil on it – that good and evil. good and bad can be found in many places, and the characters that show shades of grey and are willing to work together are going to be effective in the culmination of the entire story.
With each book, this series gets more intriguing, and now that Emilia and Luka seem to have a band of allies, I hope things will turn out well for them – we shall see what happens, and how the true history behind the fiction inevitably plays out by the end of the sixth book in the series. As the series appears to take place over a brief period of time, it has been moving rather quickly – a decent pace for what needs to happen and where it needs to happen. I’m loving this series – they are quick reads for me, as they are short but full of fun and action, and intrigue – where Emilia and Luka have to be cautious with who they trust.
The thread of each book has been pleasingly consistent with a plot line that is delightful and easy to follow, mixed in with a few off to the side events that have been slowly building since the first book – it keeps the reader’s interest and ensures that they are learning as they read.
Another excellent offering from the Master Storyteller, Kate Forsyth!