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Very early one summer morning, Lassair slips out of her Fenland village on a deeply personal mission and discovers the body of a young woman, hidden where it has no place to be. The girl's identity is quickly discovered but, as she wonders who killed her and why, Lassair swiftly becomes mystified and frightened. Why did a sweet-natured seamstress have to die? Suspicion soo Very early one summer morning, Lassair slips out of her Fenland village on a deeply personal mission and discovers the body of a young woman, hidden where it has no place to be. The girl's identity is quickly discovered but, as she wonders who killed her and why, Lassair swiftly becomes mystified and frightened. Why did a sweet-natured seamstress have to die? Suspicion soon creeps uncomfortably close to home; then another body is found . . .


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Very early one summer morning, Lassair slips out of her Fenland village on a deeply personal mission and discovers the body of a young woman, hidden where it has no place to be. The girl's identity is quickly discovered but, as she wonders who killed her and why, Lassair swiftly becomes mystified and frightened. Why did a sweet-natured seamstress have to die? Suspicion soo Very early one summer morning, Lassair slips out of her Fenland village on a deeply personal mission and discovers the body of a young woman, hidden where it has no place to be. The girl's identity is quickly discovered but, as she wonders who killed her and why, Lassair swiftly becomes mystified and frightened. Why did a sweet-natured seamstress have to die? Suspicion soon creeps uncomfortably close to home; then another body is found . . .

30 review for Music of the Distant Stars

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shar

    Although I usually like historical murder mysteries with a female character, I found it very hard to get through this novel. This story takes place in the marshy Fens, during the Norman period, maybe 100 years after the invasion. Alys Clare is an experienced author, having written many books, and several in this series. However, throughout the novel, I kept having that feeling that this was her first novel. The main problems for me was genre, bringing modern attitudes into the story, and shallow Although I usually like historical murder mysteries with a female character, I found it very hard to get through this novel. This story takes place in the marshy Fens, during the Norman period, maybe 100 years after the invasion. Alys Clare is an experienced author, having written many books, and several in this series. However, throughout the novel, I kept having that feeling that this was her first novel. The main problems for me was genre, bringing modern attitudes into the story, and shallow characters. The main character is Lassair, a teenaged girl who is learning the healing arts from her aunt (a witch); both of them are pagans living in a Christian world. Lassair is very young and, therefore, lacks the wisdom of a more experienced woman. The author describes the other characters through Lassair's eyes. When we are told that someone is nothing but good (or bad), I am not sure if this shallow description is due to Lassair's youth or if the author has deliberately written the character to be the way Lassair has described. For example, Lassair dislikes Claude even before she meets her. Throughout the novel, she maintains her dislike for Claude. Is Claude really so utterly unpleasant, or does she have some redeeming qualities that Lassair doesn't see due to her uncompromising youth? Genre: This is a mixture of historical mystery (where you expect some details about daily life, a few historical facts, a realistic world-building) and fantasy (people have special "powers" such as thought transference; being able to go into a trance and see traders from the east bringing opium to Europe; Lassair casts runes and they send her visions of the future). While I enjoy both genres, I do not expect a mixture of the two in one novel. That is just me. Also, Lassair makes use of this magic to help answer questions about the crime. She just "knows" someone is innocent; a voice inside her head tells her "the truth"; the warlock uses thought transference to find out what happened between a couple and then he sends that scene to her as if it were a video. This use of magic it is too convenient. Modern Attitudes: (1) Did a woman in that time period have a choice of marriage partner or did her family decide for her? Zarina, a peasant, explains that her father had chosen her husband. She ran away from home to flee being forced into marriage. Lassair agrees that a woman has no choice; the parents can force her to marry a criminal or an idiot; she has no agency. A noblewoman, Claude, wanted to be a nun. By starving and beating her (p. 39), her family got her to marry Alain. Later on, Lassair says that Claude would not marry Alain if she knew he had done such-and-such (p. 149; 160). However, this is inconsistent. The author has already shown us that the family can force their daughter into an arranged marriage. (2) Romanticism: we expect to fall in love before marriage and continue being in love during marriage; we also find physical beauty to be important; one wants to marry the person one loves. For example, we are told that if Alain knew how ugly Claude was, he would not have agreed to marry her. Lassair says (p. 53), "I wondered if he would have agreed to the match if he had set eyes on her beforehand, no matter how much his family needed her wealth." Throughout the novel, we are told that it is such a shame that Alain (nobleman) could not marry the woman he loved (servant). This concept is modern and does not belong in a novel set in the Dark Ages. The romantic ideas expressed by the author and/or Lassair kept taking me out of the story. (3) Physical Beauty: Man wants an attractive wife (p. 146, 148, 160). A woman wants to look beautiful to attract a husband (p. 53), "A woman with such a vocation [nun] would naturally not have wasted her...time making the best of herself while she searched for a husband." The nobleman Alain would be very unhappily married to the ugly and cold Claude (p. 146): "Did he add on a sum for each of her drawbacks?" In my opinion, Dark Ages noblemen married rich women for their breeding and dowry; whether she was beautiful was not important. I doubt they expected love in marriage (a modern ideal) and I am sure they commonly had affairs outside of marriage. Shallow Characters: There are two woman in supporting roles who are mirror images of each other. One is the personification of "good/desirable" and the other is "bad/undesirable". Both of these characters are unbelievable. Every person has good and bad in them; people are complicated. The first time we see Claude, a whole page is spent describing her unattractive physical features (p. 53). Later on, we are told she is "pale, skinny, unlovely, unloved, unlovable" (p. 146). We are constantly told she is ugly (and that Alain deserves a good-looking wife) and "chilly and distant" (p. 109). Lassair says (p. 148) that even Jesus would have been reluctant to accept Claude in his company. She even questions whether Claude is human (p. 109). Ida, on the other hand, is the personification of goodness. She is beautiful, full of life, lovely and loved, and popular. For example (p. 107): "She was young, cheerful, pretty, and people had liked her. LOVED her." Nothing negative is ever said of her throughout the novel. We are told that Alain the Good deserves Ida the Good and not Claude the Bad. Final Note (sorry this is a long post): I appreciate a bit of historical realism in historical fiction. The author did explain the harsh life of a servant or peasant. For example (p. 181): "In an uncertain age when starvation was always lying in wait for most of us, a good job where the work was not too arduous and, above all, was indoors, was not to be sniffed at." But such comments were few and when present, seemed out-of-place to me somehow. Possible Spoilers below Overused Trope: the "madwoman" who is repelled by sex has been done too many times (The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry comes to mind.) In this novel, there is not one but TWO such women. During the Dark Ages, I believe, women had realistic views about married life. Particularly, noblewomen would know that they were expected to produce heirs for their husbands. I knew ahead of time what would happen as it is stated very early (p. 78) that "she might even be slightly mad." Throughout the novel, we are told she was "fanatical" and "there was something not right about her." I was not satisfied by the story due this heavy foreshadowing and the overuse of this trope.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Suburbangardener

    Not many surprises here. I figured out all the mysteries & twists early on. Not many surprises here. I figured out all the mysteries & twists early on.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hariasa

    Pretty much guessed who and why they did it at a third of the book

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Engaging story with interesting characters.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    Lassair is back! In this story she continues her studies of healing with her aunt and solves not one but two murders and one attempted murder. Again there is a lot of detail about the time period.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe

    Young apprentice healer Lassair is distraught with grief over the death of her beloved grandmother. She goes to the grave to invoke spiritual attention and discovers the slab ajar and not one but two bodies there. The second body belongs to Ida, seamstress for Lady Claude, a visitor at the castle. Lassair and her aunt Edild begin to investigate the death, puzzled since everyone loved Ida and wished her no harm. Readers who like historical fiction and a medieval atmosphere will enjoy this second Young apprentice healer Lassair is distraught with grief over the death of her beloved grandmother. She goes to the grave to invoke spiritual attention and discovers the slab ajar and not one but two bodies there. The second body belongs to Ida, seamstress for Lady Claude, a visitor at the castle. Lassair and her aunt Edild begin to investigate the death, puzzled since everyone loved Ida and wished her no harm. Readers who like historical fiction and a medieval atmosphere will enjoy this second in the Aelf Fen mystery series, even though the whodunit aspect is not very mysterious--readers should cotton onto the murderer fairly quickly. Also, the author's habit of changing voices unexpectedly and rather randomly is bothersome and clumsy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Lee

    When I first saw the cover, I thought that the book was going to be about a new detective to me called Aelf Fen. I am not sure that I would have chosen this book if I had known what it was about and even as I started I wasnt sure , what with the strange names and a bit of difficulty grasping what was happening and where. It soon started coming into focus and became a most enjoyable tale. Set a couple of generations before Cadfael I am sure that this novel will appeal to his devotees. I am looking When I first saw the cover, I thought that the book was going to be about a new detective to me called Aelf Fen. I am not sure that I would have chosen this book if I had known what it was about and even as I started I wasnt sure , what with the strange names and a bit of difficulty grasping what was happening and where. It soon started coming into focus and became a most enjoyable tale. Set a couple of generations before Cadfael I am sure that this novel will appeal to his devotees. I am looking forward to others of this series. ( I will remember this authors name as it makes me think of the favourite phrase of the visiting German teacher in Royston Vasey !!)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Margareth8537

    Quite undemanding but interesting. Soon after Norman Conquest so we actually know very little about the period. This is very much ordinary people carrying on their own lives with changes starting to impinge on them

  9. 4 out of 5

    William

    Enjoyed this book more than the first two in the Aelf Fen series.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    This series is quite interesting from the standpoint of development of the main character.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Book #3 in the English Fen lands series. The author picked up her momentum in this tale and I was spellbound all through it as I tried to figure out the ending. And I was wrong! LOL!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Felicity Fozard

    The third Aelf Fen mystery - set back in the 11th century in Britain. I quite like them, but feel there's a bit of filler in getting to the end.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Martin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marie

  15. 5 out of 5

    mrs nessa walker

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dannie

  17. 4 out of 5

    AUDREY ERICKSON

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carey Dillinger

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura Johnson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Raleigh

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott L

  24. 5 out of 5

    Natarsha

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ms Loretta Humphreys

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid Morais

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