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What's the story?
In 1300s England, the night after Crispin's mother dies, he overhears a conversation between John Aycliffe, steward of the manor, and a stranger. Suddenly he finds himself hunted, accused of theft. When the priest who tries to help him turns up dead, Crispin is also accused of murder. Fleeing the village in which he has spent his entire life, he takes up with a wandering juggler called Bear.
Still pursued by Aycliffe and his men, they try to lose themselves in a large town, Great Wexly, where Bear has secret plans to meet with the revolutionary, John Ball. Crispin is thrilled just to see such a big town. But there is more to his past than he knows, and a much bigger reason why Aycliffe is so determined to kill him.
Is it any good?
There's a lot here to keep young readers enthralled. The plot is an exciting adventure, with a gritty edge just violent enough to keep the pages turning. The details of the medieval setting are fascinating, and offer a picture of peasant life much more grim than most other books set in this time period.
Crispin is an appealing character, and Bear even more so, and Crispin's progress in learning from Bear to be a juggler and musician is very satisfying. There are mysteries and suspense and plot twists, though alert readers will solve the major mystery long before Crispin does. One odd omission is that there's no Author's Note to explain the historical background, and a map would have been nice as well.
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