The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
Published by Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette
This prequel to Kathleen Kent’s debut “The Heretic’s Daughter” follows the story of incredibly strong-willed Martha Allen during the years when she has essentially become an old maid, a woman uncourted and beginning to be a bit of an embarrassment to members of her extended family. They are not, however, above having her come and stay with a cousin having a difficult pregnancy whose husband is often away. Martha can be helpful in a case like this because she is not only a strong, good worker, but also accomplished as a midwife. It is at this cousin’s house that Martha is introduced to two men working her cousin’s land in order that they might be given parcels of land themselves the following year. One of them, Thomas Carrier, a man twice her age, begins to catch Martha’s interest after he saves her from a pair of wolves.
An incredibly tall man, Thomas Carrier may not be what he seems. Gossip around Billerica, Massachusetts suggests that Thomas Carrier might actually be Thomas Morgan, the Welshman who, on the orders of Oliver Cromwell, executed King Charles I during the English Civil War. Now that King Charles II has returned to the throne, he is determined to find those whose deeds took the life of his father the anointed King. The Puritans in the colonies are said to be hiding these men and Charles particularly wants the head of the man who struck off his father’s, preferably brought back in one piece so that Charles I’s executioner can be made a public example of. To this end a very shady character sends five men from England to the colonies to hunt down Thomas Morgan and bring him back in what ever form he might take.
Unlike “The Heretic’s Daughter,” it took me quite awhile to get into “The Wolves of Andover,” I was perhaps halfway through the book before I felt compelled to pick it back up again after putting it down. It seemed to lack some of the focus of “The Heretic’s Daughter,” which was given focus and structure just by virtue of the premise of the book. The reader knew what “The Heretic’s Daughter” was building towards from the beginning, but it was more difficult to find that same drive in “The Wolves of Andover” early on.
This may sound contradictory to what I just wrote, but I also wish the stories of the men hunting Thomas down had not begun quite so early in the story. It was perhaps meant to provide some of the direction I was lamenting, but instead it meant I took longer to get to know Martha as a character and figure out what was going on so again contributed to it taking longer to get into the story in general.
I do not want to give the impression that I did not enjoy “The Wolves of Andover,” I simply think the beginning could have been constructed in a way that would have pulled me in more quickly, instead of the relatively slow start it got in comparison with Kent’s first book. I also wish suspense had been built a bit more and a stronger sense of danger created later on in the book. All that being said, delving into the heart of Thomas Carrier’s story was absolutely fascinating. I loved the perspective he was able to share on the English Civil War and the rules of King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.
Ultimately I can recommend “The Wolves of Andover” to those with an interest in this historical period, but I do not believe it is as strongly plotted as “The Heretic’s Daughter.”
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