Short Story Review: A Light on the Road to Woodstock by Ellis Peters

a rare benedictine front coverA Light on the Road to Woodstock is the first story in the prequel short story collection, A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters.

It is late autumn, 1120.  King Henry has successfully reunited England with Normandy once more and is preparing to return back across the channel.  Cadfael, a man-at-arms in the service of Roger Mauduit, along with a few other men, is asked to remain in their lord’s service for a few more days when they reach England.  Cadfael, with no other plans as to what to do with the rest of his life, readily agrees.

Cadfael’s role is to help escort Roger Mauduit to Woodstock, where the King will soon be holding court.  Mauduit has a case going before him, a dispute over a manor with the Benedictine monks of Shrewsbury.

But when the Prior of the abbey mysteriously goes missing on the road to Woodstock and Roger himself has an attempt made on his life, things suddenly turn very complicated.  Can Cadfael work out what is going on, without any further harm coming to those involved?

A Light on the Road to Woodstock is, chronologically, the earliest to feature Cadfael (not yet Brother Cadfael).  Having read all the full-length novels before I had managed to get my hands on A Rare Benedictine, it was enlightening to see how Cadfael become the sleuthing monk I feel I know so well.  This is the only story that shows Cadfael in his pre-monastic life, but it is clear that his sympathies and sentiments are already predisposed to towards his new calling, no doubt due to all he has done and all he has seen.  Also, his clear understanding of right and wrong, fairness and justice are also well-formed.  Even in his younger self, it is easy to relate to the man he will later become.

This is a great read and I can’t recommend it highly enough to those who are fans of Cadfael and would like to learn about how he came to be Brother Cadfael.

I have already read and reviewed the second story in the collection, The Price of Light, which you can read by clicking here.


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