On Thursday, 11 November, at 6:00 pm PST, I will be in conversation with Patricia Bracewell on Facebook Live, sponsored by the Edmonds Bookshop. Here’s a link with all the information!
Pat & I are having fun planning a conversation & readings with an emphasis on the mystical aspects of our works (dragons, seers, ghosts, protected forest glades). You don’t want to miss this!
Of course, this is in celebration of the worldwide publication (in English) of The Riverwoman’s Dragon, in ebook & hardcover. If your local bookstore doesn’t have it, ask them why not!
Here’s a sampling of the accolades the book is receiving:
5 star review from Marlene Harris at Reading Reality! “…the burning heart – very nearly literally – of The Riverwoman’s Dragon is a witch hunt. So for this entry in the series the author has changed the point of view of the action from Owen Archer to the witch herself, the riverwoman Magda Digby. And what a fascinating story it is! … She’s a wisewoman who might just be a practitioner of real magic. Or might just be an old woman who has experienced a lot, shares the wisdom she has gathered in her long life, and just occasionally dreams that she is a dragon swimming in the river. That this particular question is never really answered feels like an integral part of her mystery. … And in the end, this one still manages to tie itself back into the long-simmering political crisis that is about to rear its ugly head, and to the events of the previous book in the series, A Choir of Crows. I enjoyed this entry in the series for the new insights it brought into a beloved character, its slightly different perspective on Owen Archer’s York, and for the way it echoed entirely too many 21st century crises by reflecting them into a past in which they fit just as well as they do today.” https://www.readingreality.net/2021/11/review-the-riverwomans-dragon-by-candace-robb/
Another 5 star on eyes.2c Reviews! “”Forever I’ve been fascinated by Magda Digby, the Riverwoman, her dedication, her wisdom, her insights… There’s movements within movements at work here. Greed, evil and death stalk the folk of York. A superb blend of mystery, pestilence and mysticism.” http://eyes2creviews.blogspot.com/2021/10/1375-medieval-mystery.html
Publishers Weekly called it “craftily plotted” and says “Robb effortlessly integrates details about the state of medical knowledge at the time through the characters of Magda and Owen’s apothecary wife. This is a highlight in a solid series.” https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-78029-136-9
And Kirkus Reviews acknowledges: “Magda, who’s appeared in many of Owen’s adventures, is the rightful star of this tale of murder, betrayal, and superstition.” https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/candace-robb/the-riverwomans-dragon-an-owen-archer-mystery-13/
I hope to see you Thursday!
Publication day for A FOX IN THE FOLD is just over a week away. I’m excited for you to read this book, which shines a light on a life-changing moment in Owen’s past. Returning to that momentous event after so many years moved me deeply. I hope you feel the same.
On publication day, 4 October, I will be talking about the book with Barbara Peters, Poisoned Pen Books, on Facebook and Youtube Live at 5:00 pm PDT/MST. It’s a free event. Below is the link to log on and also to order a signed copy–as you can see, they sent quite a pile for me to sign! https://calendar.time.ly/9plshfqx/posterboard;event=73606013;instance=20221004170000
If you’re in the Seattle area, come join me at Third Place Books, the Ravenna store, at 7:00 pm, 18 October. I’ll be in conversation with Alice Boatwright (the Ellie Kent mysteries), fellow member of the Medieval Women’s Choir and a gifted writer. It should be fun! AND I will be signing books. Here’s the link to save your space for this free event: https://www.thirdplacebooks.com/event/candace-robb-alice-boatwright
AND there’s a Goodreads Giveaway (US only)! From 26 September-24 October you can enter to win an ebook of A FOX IN THE FOLD –50 copies available from Severn House. Here’s the link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/353429-a-fox-in-the-fold
Finally, I am thrilled to share this starred review from Publishers Weekly:
“In Robb’s excellent 14th Owen Archer mystery featuring Capt. Owen Archer (after 2021’s The Riverwoman’s Dragon), Archer, an experienced soldier and a devoted family man, seeks to keep order in 14th-century York. The first sign that a new danger has come to York is the discovery of a dead man just outside the city gates, naked and covered with stab wounds. When Archer learns the murdered man was one of a party coming from far away Winchester to deliver special stones to a Benedictine convent, he suspects there are some serious agendas at work. One of the men Archer must now contend with is William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, who’s been “a catalyst for death in the city.” But even worse, other newcomers to York include an enemy from Archer’s past, from a time long before he became captain of the bailiffs. What makes this entry a standout are the supporting characters, all of them carefully nuanced, and the emotions boiling up in Archer, who must fight to protect his wife and children as they become targets of violence. This is a mystery with both high stakes and a layer of true feeling. Robb reinforces her place among the top writers of medieval historicals.”
Thank you for reading!
Early in my writing career, a fellow panelist at a book fair declared that the marriage of the main character meant death to a crime series. To her mind, sexual tension was essential, and once a couple married that was gone. Another panelist agreed. Three of us disagreed, though I was the only one whose sleuth (Owen Archer) had married between books 1 and 2. The others who disagreed felt the sexual tension was superfluous and could arise even with a married character—he or she will still encounter attractive people, after all. All three of us expressed tedium with the whole star-crossed lovers meme, particularly when it extended through many books, requiring increasingly absurd twists to keep the two apart.
But my main argument, that an ongoing tale of a love match provides character depth through all the issues that arise with the household, the in-laws, whether or not to have children, the children and their (mis)adventures, illnesses, the responsibilities of parenthood, the balancing act between work and family. Tush! said the marriage-means-death panelist, see how distracting all of that is? That’s women’s lit. She surprised me with that one. Owen Archer is women’s lit because his heart makes his vulnerable? I laughed at that.
I have never regretted my choices about Owen Archer. The members of his family have enriched the stories. His wife Lucie, her father and aunt, his children, including their foster son, have all played central roles in the books, and they were richer for it—Lucie’s first pregnancy in The Nun’s Tale, her father’s pilgrimage in A Gift of Sanctuary, Jasper’s first experience assisting Owen in The Guilt of Innocents—the books are richer for their involvement.
Owen’s fierce love for his family is central to the action in the 14th Owen Archer mystery, A Fox in the Fold. The second scene in the book begins with his paternal frustration:
“Autumn was in the air, a chilly undercurrent in the breeze. Owen welcomed the excuse to step out into it and away from his troubles. But he could not escape them. Captain of archers; spy, steward, and captain of guards for an archbishop; spy for a prince, now a princeling and his dam; captain of the bailiffs of the great city of York – Owen was, or had been, all of these and more, yet nothing in his experience challenged him as much as fatherhood. He stood in awe of all fathers before him, around him, and in times to come.
“He had of late tripped over his own best intentions, struggling to make sense of a rift between his son Jasper and his daughter Gwen. The young man – for he was almost twenty now, no longer a boy – had burdened his sister, a child of half his age, to keep a secret, and she had done so; yet because Owen had guessed what was afoot, Jasper wrongly accused his sister of betraying him, punishing her with stony silence. His attempts to convince his son of her innocence were of no avail. It was so unlike Jasper that Owen wondered whether he was expressing anger over something unrelated. He’d always been a perceptive young man with a kind heart. Surely he knew that his sister looked up to him, sought to be like him, and would never betray him.
“As a father, Owen could ignore neither his son’s stubborn cruelty nor the secret itself. The romance between Jasper and Alisoun had simmered for years; that their attraction had at last been set to boil was no surprise – if that is what had happened. If so, what should he do? Encourage them to plight their troth? Insist upon it? He was not so old he forgot his own sexual encounters at his son’s age. But as a father he could not condone Jasper’s secretiveness about what had happened in the early morning up in his room above the apothecary, the morning both he and, apparently, Gwen witnessed Alisoun slipping out at the first cock crow. Nor would he tolerate Jasper’s refusal to believe his sister’s loyalty. She had not told Owen of the incident; he had seen Alisoun from his bedroom window and guessed where she had been. When he had asked his son, he had exploded in anger at his sister. What to do? How could fatherhood be so difficult for a seasoned soldier?”
But this trouble is a nit compared with the far more dangerous threat to his entire family when the protagonist’s identity and motivation become clear to Owen. His fiercely protective instincts render him vulnerable; his fury threatens recklessness. He has everything to lose. Yes, the story would still be thrilling without his anguish about endangering his family, but it would be a lesser thing. I hope you agree.
In case you missed it, this time the English language hardcover and e-book will come out worldwide, not just in the UK, on 4 October. Thank you for preordering–it makes a huge difference.
Trade Paperback Release!
The trade paperback of THE RIVERWOMAN’S DRAGON is out now in the UK, and will be released in the US & Canada on 28 June (although you might want to check your local bookshop or favorite online store earlier in the month).
It’s received many 5 star reviews, many from readers on Goodreads:
“If possible, I loved this book even more than the earlier Owen Archer books. here the worldview shifts…to look more closely from the eyes of Magda, witch, healer, pagan…. Wonderful to see something of her magic & a little more of her family origins.” Susan Rowland
“I loved this 13th Owen Archer mystery. It’s another fascinating trip back to Medieval York, where the events and concerns of the past have remarkable echoes in our present: the pestilence is spreading, people are living in fear, seeking false cures, and turning on true healers and each other. When the wise woman, Magda Digby, is not only denounced but suspected of murder, Owen has to find the true solution.” Alice Boatwright
“Candace Robb manages to create real tension in this 13th book in Owen Archer series. She has created a series of characters true to their time and their humanity. Characters who live, and die, according to their place in history, John Thoresby (who I actually came to like) or their time in the story line, Lucie’s father (who also grew on me.) My favorite character, though, is Magda Digby, who has been an anchor to many of the characters through most of the books. This story gave me insight into Magda’s history and has strengthened my liking of the character.
“This tale takes place during a time of pestilence, a matter of coincidence according to Robb, who started the book pre-Coronavirus. Her portrayal of the response to the pestilence by the folks in [York], informed by reports of those times, collided with my observations of people’s response to the epidemic today, and confirmed my view that our technology may differ, but that people haven’t changed much.
“I recommend this book (and every other book in the series). I got so engrossed I had to fight the urge to skip to the end and make sure every one was all right. It’s a good story told well that makes you do that. (I didn’t cheat. )” Cea
Coming 4 October 2022, Owen Archer 14, A Fox in the Fold
I am delighted to announce that there will be no delay between the UK publication and the US & Canada publications of the next Owen Archer, A FOX IN THE FOLD! Severn House will publish it in the US, UK, & Canada in hardcover & ebook on the same day–4 October!
Cover copy: October, 1376. Owen Archer is summoned by sheriff Sir Ralph Hastings regarding a stripped and bloodied body discovered on the road north to York. Could it be connected to an attack on a carter and his laborers who were transporting stone destined for St Clement’s Priory? The carter fled, but his men stayed to fight and are now missing. Is the victim one of them?
At first Owen believes the catalyst for murder and menace in York is the arrival of the political pariah William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. But he soon suspects that a formidable and skillful adversary from his past has arrived in the city, thrusting him and his family into grave danger, and his investigation becomes a race to uncover the truth before his old nemesis destroys all he holds dear.
I am so excited for you to read this book, which is, in some ways, a return to the origin story. No, not a prequel. You’ll see what I mean.
It’s already available for preorder–check with your favorite bookstores!
In an interview on the weekend Olga Tokarczuk, whose novel The Books of Jacob was recently published in the US, and moderator and fellow novelists Rabih Alameddine ended with an exchange about something dear to my heart. Rabih was asking about a phenomenon Olga mentioned in an essay regarding how, in the process of writing, “the world comes to help” (Rabih’s translation of the original in Polish). Rabih described it as a spiritual, mystical phenomenon. Olga, who is not only a Nobel Prize winning author but a practicing psychologist, said she considered it a psychological experience, although she could also see the mystical aspect. She further commented (translation): “I do believe that this process sharpens our focus and extends our consciousness. We perceive details that would not be perceivable in normal states of reality. I’m a psychologist, and the process of writing a novel is not very well understood and researched.” Rabih added that it’s an addictive state. Things happen that in a normal state would not work. Things happen to solve the writing problem. Olga agreed. So do I.
I was thrilled to hear this exchange because it’s something that has fascinated me throughout my career. This “help” manifests in myriad ways, but most recently it was the magic I think of as my subconscious embedding an idea in my writing that swims up into my consciousness when I need it. I’ve just submitted the manuscript of Owen Archer #14, A Fox in the Fold, and, from the beginning with my choice of a title, my subconscious knew what the book was about long before I understood.
I chose the title as a continuation of my trend of animals in the titles–A Conspiracy of Wolves, A Choir of Crows, The Riverwoman’s Dragon, A Fox in the Fold. I was not yet sure who was going to be the fox, but I had several candidates. None of whom became the quite obvious fox. One day, as I was coming up with a name for a character in the book I felt a little thrill; yet I wasn’t quite on board. Not yet.
Another example: Very early in the book I have Owen’s daughter Gwenllian tell a young man with a facial injury the story about her father’s scar. I meant it to convey the 10-year-old’s kindness as well as her pride in her father. Yet as the story developed I realized it pointed to the very heart of the tale.
Which I’d yet to figure out–that happened well into the writing of the book, about 2/3rds of the way through a draft, when it struck me that the person who had become central to the mystery might be significant to Owen. Could it be? Was this that person? I sat down and asked Owen what this book was about. His response made so much sense that I immediately began to revise the existing draft. Which is when I realized the significance of Gwen’s story.
I’ve many more stories like this–the choice of reading a book of fiction that is worlds apart from what I’m writing but jogs something in my mind that leads to reconsidering something in the work in progress, which then clicks into place and solves the puzzle of just what it is I’m writing. Or the tone of a film I’m watching for relaxation inspiring me to rethink the voice in which I’ve been writing. And on and on.
It’s so true. The world comes to help. But how? It’s such a mystery!
Many thanks to Third Place Books for hosting the book event with Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft, moderated by Rabih Alameddine. I haven’t yet begun The Books of Jacob, but I anticipate being as absorbed in it as I was her earlier book, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.
Just before Christmas the fabulous Nancy Pearl invited me to be on her program Book Lust. I enjoyed our conversation immensely. Nancy asks the best questions.