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Brother Cadfael's Penance (Brother Cadfael Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Brother Cadfael's 20th chronicle, Peters deftly binds the medieval monk's new adventure with family ties, moving from issues intensely public to problems determinedly private. Olivier de Bretagne, who (unknown to himself) is Brother Cadfael's son, has been taken prisoner during England's dynastic war between two grandchildren of William the Conqueror. Cadfael is determined to find Olivier, although to do so he must leave the monastery without his abbot's "leave or... blessing." The search begins badly when, at an unsuccessful peace conference, Yves Hugonin, Olivier's hot-headed brother-in-law, picks a fight with Brien de Soulis, a commander who may know where Olivier is held-but won't say. When Brien is found murdered, Yves is abducted by one who holds him responsible for the killing, and then Cadfael has two men to find. In the process, he delicately explores puzzles related to Brien's death and to shadowy deeds in the larger political scene. While Cadfael does his usual excellent sleuthing, Peters succeeds at an equally subtle game, demonstrating how personal devotion can turn to enmity-and how such enmity can be forestalled by justice and mercy. Mystery Guild selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Peters's last Brother Cadfael mystery, The Holy Thief (Mysterious Pr., 1993), sold nearly a third more than its predecessor, so Peters is clearly on a roll. In his 20th outing, Brother Cadfael decides to break his monastic vows in order to save his long-lost son.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Brother Cadfael Mysteries (Book 20)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press; 1st PAPERBACK edition (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446404535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446404532
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on April 16, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Alas and alack! There will be no more Brother Cadfael mysteries. Ellis Peters is gone, but she has left a rich estate for all her readers, especially in the well-known Brother Cadfael series.
Cadfael's conflict in the book is between his monastic vows and what he perceives to be his natural duties as a father. His son Olivier has been captured and none know where he is. Cadfael looks for Olivier though he knows the search may cost him his home in Shrewesbury Abbey.
Later parts of the book deal with the issue that an honorable man may do that which seems most dishonorable if it helps end a destructive war.
Ellis Peter's characters are far more realistic and human than most. They are sympathetic, mostly good characters torn by events, doing wrong in reaction to being trapped in unpitying reality. Her characters are consistent and believable with a few possible exceptions. Olivier, for example, seems all perfection -- yet is this not how his loving father would see him?
As a whole, the Cadfael series is an excellent blend of plot, character, and setting. Brother Cadfael's Penance, the last written in the series, is one of the best. The insights are richer and deeper, the characters more engaging, the conflicts of a bigger yet always very human scale.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on January 26, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This final installment of the mysteries of Brother Cadfael finds Ellis Peters in outstanding form- what prose this Englishwoman conjures! Of all the Cadfael mysteries, this is one of the finest! The writing is typically adroit - wise, full and redeeming, and the passages found toward the last third of the book, describing the interior heart of Brother Cadfael towards Olivier, his 'unknown' son, are as beautifully trenchant as anything one will find in popular prose writing. In this series of books, the mysteries themselves are always well-placed and fascinating, authentic and without tricks, but again, it is the superlative writing of Ellis Peters, the warmth of the language and the architecture of its comeliness, that captivates; indeed, she has permanently raised the genre of mystery novel to a new plateau of genuine literary interest. P.D. James, eat your heart out! All 20 Cadfael mysteries highly recommended - an addiction to treasure!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ellis Peters did a wonderful job with the last book in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael. Cadfael gets word that his secret son, Olivier de Breatgne, has been taken prisoner in the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, and has not been offered for ransom. Born in the far East of a Syrian mother, and choosing his unknown father's religion to join the English, Olivier does not know that Brother Cadfael is his father. By chance Cadfael met him he when looking for two missing children, and the monk realised that the young man was the son that he never knew he had. Now Olivier is prisoner, his whereabouts and imprisoner unknown. Although Cadfael has broken the Rule of the Benedictine Order before, he has never broken his monastic vows. But as he said, "Knowing or unknowing, before I was a brother I was a father." Cadfael is torn between the monastic life he loves so dearly and the duty he feels to find his son and set him free. A wonderfully moving and exciting book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE on June 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
...it should come as no surprise that BrotherCadfael feels he must pay penance for his, as well. And in this20th--and final--chronicle of Brother Cadfael, Ellis Peters takes us a giant step forward in her characterization of the good Benedictine monk, a man once a member of the Crusades and now wrestling against sin behind the cloth.
In "Brother Cadfael's Penance," Peters permits Cadfael to come face to face with another aspect of his life--a time before his monastic vows. It is 1145 and the great civil war rages on between King Stephen and Empress Maud. However, there is hope. A meeting between the two factions is scheduled for Coventry and Brother Cadfael secures permission from the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Shrewsbury to attend. Known widely for his skills in diplomacy, as well as crime solving abilities, Cadfael, however, wishes to attend for a very personal reason. He is seeking news of a young knight, Olivier de Bretagne. Olivier is Cadfael's son, from his days fighting in the Holy Land as a crusader. His holy vows aside, he feels he must do all within his power to save his son.
Peters, as always, presents Cadfael as more than human--she gives us a man for all seasons, as it were. In addition, she presents the good brother in a realistic but incredibly humane manner. He is a man whom we can love, respect, yes, even
cherish. Peters' ability to draw out these characteristics is perhaps what makes the series so fascinating. Hers is a series not to be missed. One probably should read them in the order they were written; or at least, read earlier ones before this one, as the poignancy of the meeting between father and son is so much more dramatized when the reader has the background to appreciate such a climactic episode. I cannot imagine a reader being disappointed!
(Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Judith Brower (admin@camasnet.com) on April 18, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Had Ellis Peters know this would be her final "Brother Cadfael" book before her death, she couldn't have written a better one. Returning to the fascinating plot line of Cadfael's long-lost son, Olivier, she does an excellent job of balancing Cadfael's love for his monastery and his monastic profession with his love and devotion to the son he has only begun to know. Almost everyone in life has experienced the tension of two loves that nearly tears them apart and destroys them. Ms. Peters again does a wonderful job of keeping her characters true to themselves, to their times, and to the interplay developed in the long line of Cadfael mysteries. I very much enjoyed the book!
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