Day 1257: The Last Hours

Cover for The Last HoursI have been following Minette Walters since her first thriller came out, and I think she is a superb plotter and suspense writer. So, I was intrigued when I learned she had written a historical novel, and I requested it from Netgalley.

The Last Hours follows two main characters in the year 1348. Lady Anne is the wife of Sir Richard of Develish, a stupid and cruel lord and husband who has turned their daughter, Eleanor, against her mother. With difficulty, Lady Anne has done her best to improve the life of the serfs, while Sir Richard and Eleanor treat them with disdain and cruelty. The other character is a young serf, Thaddeus, a bastard who has been mistreated by his family. Lady Anne has educated him, and he is resourceful and intelligent.

Sir Richard has arranged a marriage for Eleanor and seems to want to put it forward, so he goes to the home of the bridegroom to seal the deal. Eleanor does not want to marry the young man he selected and does not seem to realize that although she is beautiful, she comes with a small dowry so is not desirable as a wife. Nor does her personality make her so. Sir Richard has blamed the acceleration of the marriage on Lady Anne, who actually thinks they should wait.

On the visit to the bridegroom’s family, Gyles Startout, a serf who has been made a member of Sir Richard’s soldiery, notices that a lot of peasants in the nearby village are being buried at night. He tries to tell his commander about it, but the Norman commander is disdainful of a serf. Soon, though, they realize that a terrible disease has struck, and they flee.

Back at Develish, Lady Anne hears about the disease. Years ago, she instituted more sanitary measures within the demesne, and now she barricades her people within its walls, deserting the village. She has made Thaddeus her new steward, and the two do their best to protect the people. Unfortunately, Eleanor is doing her best to cause trouble.

link to NetgalleyThe time period and story idea for this novel are interesting, and the characters are well drawn. However, the novel has a big flaw, the plotting. It is all too obviously the first book of at least a trilogy. Whereas most first books have their own arc, even though they may end in suspense, this one is very unsatisfying, standing alone in no respect (something that is more common with a second book in a trilogy). It goes along very well until Thaddeus takes some boys out of the demesne to look for provisions. At that point, too much attention goes to the details of how they collect food and other needed goods, and the plot bogs down. The book also ends on a very flat note. Although the entire trilogy may provide exciting, this book is not a very satisfying read.

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5 thoughts on “Day 1257: The Last Hours

  1. Helen August 30, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    I had similar feelings about this book. I thought the setting and time period were interesting, but I was disappointed with the ending as I hadn’t known it was the first in a trilogy when I started to read it. I have a copy of the second book which is being released in the UK in October, so I’m hoping it will be more satisfying than the first one.

    • whatmeread August 30, 2018 / 6:04 pm

      Yes, and it is more usual to write a first book as if it were going to stand alone, although with the possibility of continuing.

  2. FictionFan August 30, 2018 / 8:11 pm

    This is one of the reasons I dislike trilogies unless all three are available when I start reading. I often wonder if I’d have loved The Lord of the Rings if I’d had to wait a year or two between volumes…

    • whatmeread August 30, 2018 / 11:46 pm

      I often make mistakes with series. Either I buy all of them and then find I really don’t want to read them all, or I buy one and then can’t find the others when I want to continue.

  3. The Paperback Princess August 31, 2018 / 5:24 pm

    I’ve been drawn to this one every time I see it in the bookstore. After reading your review, I think I’m better off looking for it at the library, if I still even want to read it. Thank you!

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