SONG AT DAWN by Jean Gill

Set in 1150, during the height of the troubadour era, this novel is about a young girl who calls herself Estela de Matin, who finds herself thrust into the service of the charismatic Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204), who at the time of this novel, was Queen of France. (She became Queen of England two years later with her marriage to Henry of Anjou aka Henry II of England.)


The best part about this novel is the beginning. Immediately, we are thrust into a mystery. What is a nicely brought-up girl like Estela doing in a ditch? Why is she dressed in servant’s clothes? How did she acquire her dog? What is her real name? And what is she doing with a valuable musical instrument?


This last question is answered almost immediately, as Estela opens her mouth and sings beautifully, accompanying herself on the instrument. In this way, she succeeds in avoiding punishment (having her hand cut off for stealing), and founds a welcome of sorts in Queen Eleanor’s court.


The reason for why she is lying in a ditch is not given until the end of the novel, and I have to say that I found the ending weak. Ms. Gill gave us a truly wonderful beginning to her novel. It is a pity that the end fizzled away. Four stars.

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