Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Editorial Book Review: Their Castilian Orphan by Anna Belfrage #HistoricalFiction #MedievalFiction #EditorialReview #TheCoffeePotBookClub

*Editorial Book Review*

Their Castilian Orphan

The Castilian Saga

by Anna Belfrage

It is 1294 and Eustace de Lamont is back in England after five years in exile. He will stop at nothing to ruin Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor d’Outremer.

Robert’s half brother, Eustace de Lamont, has not mellowed during his absence. He is more ruthless than ever, and this time he targets Robert’s and Noor’s foster son, Lionel.

Lionel is serving King Edward as a page when Eustace appears at court. Not only does Lionel become the horrified witness to Eustace’s violent streak, Eustace also starts voicing his suspicions about Lionel’s parentage. The truth about Lionel’s heritage is explosive—should King Edward find out, all would be lost for Robert and Noor.

In October of 1294, Wales rises in rebellion. Robert must leave his family unprotected to fight the Welsh rebels on the king’s behalf, comforted only by the fact that Eustace too is called to fight.

Except that Eustace has no intention of allowing his duty to his king—or a mere rebellion—come between him and his desire to destroy Robert FitzStephan . . .

“…And God help the accursed Welsh now because I will burn and pillage, kill and maim, laying waste to every inch of this damned land if necessary. I am sick of being a rudderless ship tossed hither and thither by a restless ocean. I am sick of false Frenchmen and traitorous Welsh.” He turned to Robert. “I am Edward of England, and I will not stand for humiliation. Never again. The Welsh—and the French—will pay. On this, I swear.”

Robert FitzStephan has been at the beck and call of his king, Edward, all year. Despite numerous forays to Wales, he only just made it back home in time for his daughter’s birth. His daughter was in good health, as were his other children, and his beloved wife had made it through the delivery. All was well. If only Lionel was with them.

While Lionel enjoyed the privilege of serving as a page to the king, Robert yearned to be the one observing his foster son’s maturation. Robert was also concerned for his foster son, for there was always the added danger of what would happen if Edward were to discover the true identity of Lionel’s father.

Having spent five years in exile, Eustace de Lamont, Robert’s half-brother, is back. But this is no happy reunion. Like the last time the brothers met, Eustace has murderous intent. Nevertheless, this time he is unwavering in his determination to kill his brother. He will stop at nothing, and no one. Not even a king will stand in his way.

Anna Belfrage’s novel, Their Castilian Orphan (The Castilian Saga Book 4), delves into the concept of family, both through blood ties and strong connections. Prepare yourself for a story that’s packed with intrigue, drama, and the unwavering strength of love and family.

Belfrage has written a simply dazzling novel set during the era of King Edward I. The turbulent year of 1294 has been depicted with a great deal of care in the historical detail. In this newest book of The Castilian Saga, Belfrage once again showcases her skill at creating memorable characters and a highly engaging narrative. Their Castilian Orphan does not threaten to sweep the reader away to a time long past, it really does.

The 13th century has been masterfully portrayed, with attention to Edward’s reign, the troubles in France and, closer to home, in Wales. Edward had been extensively involved in the affairs of his own Gascony Duchy, but now King Philippe IV of France has started making demands. King Edward mobilizes his forces and brings together his most trusted men to exhibit England’s true capabilities in the face of adversity from France. However, France is not the only challenger to confront. The Welsh have witnessed the convergence of forces and comprehended England’s intentions, recognising that the king’s elite troops would soon be in France, leaving their lands less guarded. They see an opportunity to reclaim control of their nation and are determined not to miss it. With such uncertainty about the future, many of the characters in this novel find themselves bearing arms. The idea of brothers in arms is a theme that comes up again and again, but also is the theme of friends and family fighting in the opposing forces. For Robert, the fear that he could face Rhy in battle is a very sobering thought, and it leads to a truly devastating consequence for all involved. In Belfrage’s account, it is evident that war does not produce true winners, and the innocent are the ones who bear the deepest scars.

Belfrage is a novelist who is renowned for making memorable characters. The series primarily focuses on Noor and Robert’s marriage - a marriage that had rather a shaky start in book 1! As this series progressed, their relationship did also, and they are now happily married with children. They also have a foster son, Lionel. Noor and Robert took a huge gamble by becoming foster parents, as Lionel’s lineage could pose a threat to Edward’s hold in Wales. However, Noor and Robert have done their utmost to keep his true identity a secret. For the last few years, Lionel has been a page at Edward’s court. Lionel is portrayed as a young boy desperate to prove himself at court, and above all else he aspires to be like his foster father. He dreams of being an adviser to the king and hopes to be counted among Edward’s trusted knights as he grows older. Unlike the other pages, Lionel doesn’t flaunt prestigious titles or influential relatives because he doesn’t know who his real parents are. Despite being young, he displays a remarkable determination to achieve his goals, fully prepared to fight for his desires and beliefs. I was deeply moved by Lionel’s portrayal. He was a character that I really enjoyed reading about and one I came to care for deeply.

The return of Eustace de Lamont to court is cause for concern for more than just Robert and Noor. Lionel witnesses the extreme measures Eustace takes to reach his goals, and Lionel is cornered more than once by this monster of a man. The emotions in this novel are so powerful that I felt a strong compulsion to jump through into the story and rescue Lionel, if only! The novel’s up-close proximity to many beloved characters creates an intense and captivating reading experience. At no point could I put down this novel, as the desire to know the outcome and the ultimate winner was simply too irresistible. 

Although this novel can be enjoyed independently, reading the previous novels will enhance your understanding of the relationships and story. However, saying that, the novel’s emotional depth is so well-crafted that much of the backstory from the precious novels is unnecessary. Identifying the relationships between characters is effortless, and it’s clear when one character dislikes another! This novel will make you fall in love with some of the characters so much that you’ll want to revisit the first three books, if you have not done so already.

This is without a doubt a book about family, both loved ones and enemies, but a family nonetheless. The characters in this novel have strong connections to each other, whether through family ties or romantic relationships, resulting in a close-knit group. Having a half-brother as an enemy intensifies every decision, making it more personal and emotionally charged. Emotion is indeed the primary driving force behind all of the character's actions in this novel. Belfrage demonstrates through her characters that allowing your emotions to guide you can result in either great strength or immense vulnerability.

Anna Belfrage’s latest instalment in The Castilian Saga, Their Castilian Orphan, delves into a captivating story of love, hatred, rebellion, and treason. This is certainly a series not to be missed, it is a truly gripping read from start to finish.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club

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Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

More recently, Anna has been hard at work with her Castilian series. The first book, His Castilian Hawk, published in 2020, is set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales. His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, while the third, Her Castilian Heart, finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain! The fourth book, Their Castilian Orphan, now available.

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Readers’ Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website,

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