Promise of the Black Monks: Robert E Hirsch

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Promise of the Black Monks: An excellent read.

Asta from Scandinavia was only twelve when she was married off to a French nobleman. In those days (the eleventh century) this was quite normal. By the time she was twenty she had presented her husband with two sons, Tristan and Guillaume.

She was trapped in a loveless marriage but was living well, despite the wars that were taking place throughout Europe. And at least she was sure that her two boys were having a good start in life. But this was to change when her husband was executed for treason.

With her home and lands now confiscated she had nothing, no future and no way to bring up her precious sons.


Her sons were very young when their father was executed. Asta had a marriage proposal almost immediately – from an older man that she didn’t care for – and her suitor offered her his protection and a safe home in England but he had one proviso.

He would not accept her sons

Asta had no alternative. She made the heartbreaking decision to send her sons to the Black Monks at their monastery in Cluny – there they would be given a good home and be well-educated. They would be brought up by the monks to be good Christians and, hopefully, excellent scholars. Cluny had an excellent reputation and it was where noblemen sent their own sons to be educated.

Tristan and Guillaume

Thus the adventures of Tristan and Guillaume commence. Throughout the book we follow them to young adulthood and meet many fascinating characters along the way. Their lives are not as straightforward as their mother had expected. Neither is she given the life of ease that she expected.

Wars, intrigues, mysteries and revenge are just a few of the themes in this fascinating book. The story is set in the reality of eleventh century history and as we read the adventures of the boys, the monks, the Danes and so many other characters, we are unwittingly learning a great deal about live in those far-off times.

In many ways, they are very different times to our own but as the book demonstrates, human emotions, loyalties — and frailties haven’t changed.

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Tristan and Guillaume, although brothers, are very different. Tristan is scholarly to be point of being a prodigy and soon his talents are being used for political and power reasons between warring factions. He becomes known as the Promise of the Black Monks.

Guillaume is not as academic as his brother but is strong and fearless. He too has a part to play in the intrigues that envelope the two boys as they grow to manhood in an atmosphere of mystery, turmoil and murder.

Highly recommended.

Footnote: Once you’ve read the book, you’ll be delighted to know that there’s a sequel in the works entitled Hammer of God. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.


Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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