The British Isles in the 14thcentury, rife with superstition and plagued by more than rampant sickness, inspires a heroine’s quest in Lindsay Townsend’s The Dark Maiden. Yolande is duty bound for an enigmatic term, a ‘time of seven’ to rid the country of dark paranormal forces, the restless spirits who seek vengeance or pure evil that troubles clergy and villagers alike. Although uncertain about the length of her service or the destinations it will take her, Yolande commits herself to the undertaking. Early in the course of her journey, she meets Geraint the Welshman, a juggler and tumbler by trade with an innate understanding of the troubles his companion faces. Although he has little patience for the Church, which took him in as a little boy until one of its members forsook the duty, Geraint respects Yolande’s work. His admiration for her commitment almost rivals his budding feelings of intense passion. As her self-appointed protector and helpmate, he shares in her precarious adventures, which take them through medieval England and Wales.
They face more than malignant specters. Bigoted villagers mistrust Yolande based solely on her skin color. Each encounter tests of Yolande’s determination and skill. Some of her foes are not shadows lurking in the darkness, but frail and flawed people cloaked in self-righteousness and mysticism. At times, they are even more dangerous than the evils of the spirit world. With each ordeal, the attachment between Yolande and Geraint blossoms into a powerful love that binds them together against all trials. When it seems Yolande has completed her task and faces a bright future with Geraint at her side, a new torment awaits them, something stronger than Yolande and Geraint have faced before.
Lindsay Townsend has a knack for writing about the unusual heroine. Her female protagonists are often uncommon woman and Yolande is no different. As a biracial woman of Ethiopian and English descent, working as an exorcist for the medieval Church, she faces constant challenges that would subdue a weaker-willed character. I enjoyed her portrayal. While her origins aren’t commonplace, Yolande is very much a woman of her times. She is spirited and spiritual, a character who exemplifies honor and duty, but she isn’t afraid to delve into the hearts of people and examine the fears, heartaches, hopes and loves, influencing their best and worst actions. Through her viewpoint, readers enter a world, which at the outset seems different from the modern period. Still the elements of humanity are familiar, emotions that drive lust and hate. Although Geraint doesn’t share Yolande’s uncanny connection to the spirit realm, he serves the purpose of keeping her grounded in the real world around her. His love bolsters her against each threat and aids her growth. Theirs is a wonderful partnership and a great love story.