Thyme For Trust… The final book in the Janna Mysteries…

January 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm (Book reviews, Favourite books, Interesting stories) (, , , )

A review of the final book in Felicity Pulman’s wonderful Janna Mysteries series… Definitely one of my favourites! They’re available in paperback in Aussie bookshops and from Amazon, and for Kindle and other eBook readers… xx

Thyme for Trust

The sixth and final instalment in the awesome Janna Mysteries.

I’m so sad that this is the last chapter of Janna’s story, but so happy that it was able to continue until its end, after a lengthy pause between books four and five. Thyme for Trust is a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series, with all the questions raised throughout Janna’s adventures answered in smart, satisfying and non-predictable ways. The book opens with the Empress Matilda – who Janna so admires, and has helped in the past – trapped in Oxeneford Castle and laid siege by her bitter rival (and cousin) King Stephen and his men. In her own way, Janna too is trapped. While she has found her father and he’s welcomed her into his family, she is hated by her cruel stepmother and mean half siblings, and her life is in as much danger as that of the Empress.

While she fights her own war at home, Janna is also fighting to bring her mother’s murderer to justice, prove the innocence of her beloved, convince her father not to marry her off to an old but “suitable” suitor, protect her friends and help Matilda escape to safety. It’s a suspenseful, action-filled page-turner that also retains depth and emotion – all the characters are complex and well written, and even those ranged against Janna have their own motivations for their actions, eliciting at least a little sympathy from the heroine, and the reader.

Alongside Janna’s personal story is woven the dramatic real-life history of twelfth century English royalty and the bitter battles for the throne, which creates a rich tapestry of medieval life and adds colour, tension and realism. Yet it is Janna and her challenging, eventful and life-changing journey that most captivates. The author has created a wonderful character, brave, independent and strong in an age that expected little from girls, feisty and far from perfect, but enchanting all the same.

I loved that her quest to avenge her mother’s death was finally so close to completion, and also that she realised in that moment the toll it had taken on her and those around her, what it had cost her in terms of friendships, and the consequences of her actions on people she loved yet still wounded. I loved that she encountered some of her old friends and could see how much she had helped them, as well as accepting that they had changed and made her a better person too. I loved that she really did grow up over the course of the series, and was able to see the mistakes she had made, and to recognise that she still had much to learn. And I loved that the ending was realistic rather than happy-ever-after, and that although she found great joy, it came with sacrifice, loss and bitter grief as well.

In all, I loved that this final book so satisfyingly brought all six together, and while I am sad to farewell Janna and her world, I am so glad for the richness of her story and the magical journey it takes readers on. Thank you Felicity Pulman for a wonderful series…

And if you haven’t read any of this great series, here are my reviews of all six books… They’re available in paperback in Aussie bookstores and on Amazon, and as eBooks for Kindle as well…

Rosemary for Remembrance

The beautiful first book in a wonderful series.

Young Janna lives in a tiny cottage on the edge of the forest with her mother Eadgyth, the village herbwife. But twelfth century England is a dangerous time to be a woman and a healer, and the oppressive influence of the new priest and the jealous male apothecary can be felt throughout. When Eadgyth dies suddenly, Janna suspects her mother has been poisoned, and vows to find the killer and avenge her death. But the villagers and the Church are set against her, superstition and fear has warped the small community, and several people have explosive secrets they’ll kill to protect. As Janna tries to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death and the identity of her mysterious father, she realises that her own life is in danger, and her quest becomes more desperate.

Although I had never considered these to be crime novels, Janna does have to solve a murder and several other mysteries, and reveals great detective skills. The writing is suspenseful and the plot twists intriguing, yet it is not limited to the crime genre – it is also a beautifully written story of Janna’s coming of age, and there are elements of romance, action and medieval English history woven in (some school teachers even use it as part of the curriculum). The characters are fascinating and represent powerful archetypes – the healer, the maiden, the crone, the protector, the innocent, the villain – as well as being totally engaging and true to life. I especially love the descriptions of English life in this period, the clash between the Old Ways and the Church, and the magical properties of the herbs that the wise woman and her daughter work with to heal people and protect their community. (Anyone who loves Juliet Marillier’s beautiful books will love the enchantment of these.)

And Janna is a wonderful heroine. Not perfect by any means – she’s hot headed and hot tempered, speaks before she thinks, and is so stubbornly independent that it’s often to her detriment. But she is kind too, and fiercely intelligent, with a thirst for knowledge and justice that compels her to leave all that she’s ever known and set off on the quest that will unfold over the next five books – to find her father, avenge her mother’s death, and discover her own heart… Each of the Janna Mysteries ends with the solving of an epic mystery – along with more questions, so you are left desperate to start reading the next one (even now, as I re-read them all)…

Although it’s many years since I was a “young adult”, this series will appeal to anyone who loves adventure stories with mystery, historical weight and a magical twist.

Rue for Repentance

The second book in a wonderful, mysterious series.

Felicity Pulman’s storytelling prowess continues in this epic story of love, revenge, mystery and adventure. Young Janna, who had to flee her home after her mother was poisoned, her cottage was burned down around her and the whole village turned against her, starts this book running for her life through the ominous forest. Disguised as a boy to protect her on many different levels, she finds herself teaming up with a fellow fugitive and being taken on as a worker in the fields of a manor. But there is mystery afoot, and she finds herself playing detective again as the scenes of several supposed accidents are each marked with a posy of rue. Can she find the culprit, and the motive, before the crimes escalate any further? What will she do when she discovers who owns the manor, and their relationship to her enemy? Can she make peace with the two men she cares about? And will she be able to save the life of an innocent child, or be blamed for the ultimate crime?

I first read the Janna Mysteries a few years ago, but on discovering that the final two books of the series have now been published, I’m re-reading the first four in preparation as I wait for them to arrive. And they’re just as involving, intriguing and suspenseful on a second read as a first. The author creates such a realistic world, filled with characters you care about, mysteries with many suspects, and a twist of enchantment that will draw you in to the lives and loves of these medieval country folk. Each of the books is unique, set in a totally different location and with many new (as well as old favourite) characters, and can be read on its own as a self-contained mystery. But as part of the series each has even more weight, and seeing Janna learn and grow through each adventure is a lot of fun.

Lilies for Love

The third book in the wonderful Janna Mysteries.

In this instalment young Janna, on the run from the ruthless man who plots to kill her to protect his secret, seeks sanctuary in the abbey. Despite her distrust of the Church and her dislike of the Abbess, she comes to like life among the nuns, and is surprised when she makes a friend, and finds a kindly old infirmarian who continues her education as a healer. While her main goal in being there – to learn to read so she can unravel the secrets of the letter her father sent her mother before she was born – seems thwarted, she finds a new sense of confidence and purpose in healing the sick and advising those around her, and she continues to learn much about herself and the world.

Janna is again faced with a murder and several other crimes to solve, and the pace is brisk and never dull, with much intrigue and mystery, and the introduction of a few shadowy, dangerous characters. Life behind the abbey walls is not quite as peaceful as you’d imagine, and there are a few sinister plots to unravel. The various nuns Janna comes to know are fleshed out with great depth – and the kindness, serenity and faith of some of them is well balanced with the petty jealousies and spiritual searchings of others in this group of women cut off from the world and dedicated, some more willingly than others, to God’s work. It’s a testament to the skill of the author that there are no caricatures amongst the characters, and that it never seems strange that a teenager is the one to seek justice, solve crimes and see to the truth of a situation.

Janna is also growing up, and in this adventure she comes to question her own religious beliefs, and those of her mother, and is shocked as she learns more about her parent’s past. She also comes into contact with the two men she cares most about, who she thought she’d never see again, and is torn between the longing in her heart for love and protection, and her determination to continue her quest to prosecute her mother’s killer and discover the identity of her father.

This is another beautifully written book, with so much research put into the historical narrative – as the Empress Matilda defends her claim to the English throne from her cousin Stephen of Blois – as well as the herbal medicaments and potions that Janna dispenses to the sick, and the flowers which are used to symbolise so much in convent life. Suspenseful and intriguing, it’s hard to put the book down, and the resolution at the end, while wonderfully played out, only brings more questions, and an eagerness to quickly begin number four…

Willows for Weeping

Book four in a magical six-book series.

I love this series – it’s so magical and fun, with a good dose of mystery and a teenage protagonist who has to solve a crime (or two) as she continues her quest to find her father and avenge her mother’s death. At the end of book three Janna was surprised to find herself enjoying life in the abbey, where she had found friendship, learning and a sense of purpose as a healer. But her quest remains more important to her than her own happiness, and so, having finally learnt to read and with some new clues to her father’s identity, she leaves the security of the abbey and heads out on the road to Winchestre with some pilgrims, determined to track down her remaining parent. They’re a rag tag bunch, each having their own intriguing story, beliefs and motives, and Janna isn’t sure who she can trust (and she learns some hard lessons when she reads a few people the wrong way). There’s plenty of action – early on they stumble across a dead man carrying a message that could change the fortunes of the king, one of the pilgrims is murdered inside the circle of Stonehenge, and as Janna gets closer to the truth of the culprit, danger swirls ever nearer. As in all the Janna books, the heroine is smart, kind and fearless, yet she is also flawed, with a quick temper and a naivety that frequently gets her into trouble, but makes her all the more endearing. All the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional, making you feel deeply for them, and the historical figures and true events combined with the imagined lives of others creates a captivating story. As in previous instalments, the author manages to have all the mysteries solved by the end of each book, while also opening up new questions that leave you desperate to read the next one! I first read this book more than two years ago, and was devastated to learn that number five and six were indefinitely delayed. When it was announced recently that the final two in the series were about to be published, I read the first four books again in preparation, and they were just as enchanting and satisfying the second time around.

Sage for Sanctuary

The long-awaited fifth book in the Janna Mysteries series.

There were a few years between this book and its predecessor, and many fans have been waiting anxiously to discover what Janna would do next, and whether her quest to find her father and avenge her mother’s death would be fulfilled. None should be disappointed, for this is another beautiful, intriguing story, and adds so much more to Janna’s character, her choices and her life. It opens in medieval Winchestre, where Janna is awaiting the return of her father from Normandy. He is a wealthy and influential man whose identity she has just discovered, but he knows nothing of her existence. It looks like she will meet him soon – but within the first few pages Janna’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. Her purse, containing proof of her identity, her link to her father and all her money, is stolen, and she ends up having to work in a tavern just to survive. As the story unfolds there are many mysteries, and many dangers, that plucky young Janna must face. She becomes swept up in a royal scandal, the assassin who tried to kill her some time ago returns and tries again, and she finally meets her father – and her new family, who hate her with a passion that looks like it could lead to murder.

I was swept up in the action from the first page, and was excited that not only does Janna find her father in this book, she also realises which of the two men she has loved for so long is the one she truly wants – it would have been too cruel if we’d had to wait for the next book for that one! Janna’s decision is slowly and gently arrived at, and the process she goes through to realise the truth of her heart reveals a new maturity on her part. Of course there are many obstacles put in her way (and she may not be able to marry him anyway – a dilemma that is left for the next book), but she has decided at last. I was surprised to read one Amazon review that said her decision between Hugh and Godric was sudden and unexplained, for it was not at all. Janna does much soul searching before she realises who she loves and why, and throughout the story she learns much about herself and others, while also solving several crimes, continuing her herbal medicine work and becoming clearer about what she wants to do with her life. I loved this book as much as I loved the previous four, and can’t wait for the final instalment!

Thyme for Trust

The sixth and final instalment in the awesome Janna Mysteries.

I’m so sad that this is the last chapter of Janna’s story, but so happy that it was able to continue until its end, after a lengthy pause between books four and five. Thyme for Trust is a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series, with all the questions raised throughout Janna’s adventures answered in smart, satisfying and non-predictable ways. The book opens with the Empress Matilda – who Janna so admires, and has helped in the past – trapped in Oxeneford Castle and laid siege by her bitter rival (and cousin) King Stephen and his men. In her own way, Janna too is trapped. While she has found her father and he’s welcomed her into his family, she is hated by her cruel stepmother and mean half siblings, and her life is in as much danger as that of the Empress.

While she fights her own war at home, Janna is also fighting to bring her mother’s murderer to justice, prove the innocence of her beloved, convince her father not to marry her off to an old but “suitable” suitor, protect her friends and help Matilda escape to safety. It’s a suspenseful, action-filled page-turner that also retains depth and emotion – all the characters are complex and well written, and even those ranged against Janna have their own motivations for their actions, eliciting at least a little sympathy from the heroine, and the reader.

Alongside Janna’s personal story is woven the dramatic real-life history of twelfth century English royalty and the bitter battles for the throne, which creates a rich tapestry of medieval life and adds colour, tension and realism. Yet it is Janna and her challenging, eventful and life-changing journey that most captivates. The author has created a wonderful character, brave, independent and strong in an age that expected little from girls, feisty and far from perfect, but enchanting all the same.

I loved that her quest to avenge her mother’s death was finally so close to completion, and also that she realised in that moment the toll it had taken on her and those around her, what it had cost her in terms of friendships, and the consequences of her actions on people she loved yet still wounded. I loved that she encountered some of her old friends and could see how much she had helped them, as well as accepting that they had changed and made her a better person too. I loved that she really did grow up over the course of the series, and was able to see the mistakes she had made, and to recognise that she still had much to learn. And I loved that the ending was realistic rather than happy-ever-after, and that although she found great joy, it came with sacrifice, loss and bitter grief as well.

In all, I loved that this final book so satisfyingly brought all six together, and while I am sad to farewell Janna and her world, I am so glad for the richness of her story and the magical journey it takes readers on. Thank you Felicity Pulman for a wonderful series.

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2 Comments

  1. Author Spotlight – Felicity Pulman | serenesblessedbee said,

    […] [Read my reviews of The Janna Mysteries…] […]

  2. Author Spotlight – Felicity Pulman – Serene Conneeley said,

    […] [Read my reviews of The Janna Mysteries…] […]

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