Genre

Historical Fiction, Romance

Audience

Adults, Secular, Christian, Catholic

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2023

Themes

Early Britain, Northumberland, marriage, saints, needlework, falconry, kingship, statecraft, love, discernment, loyalty, right relationships, St. Hilda, St. Cuthbert

 

Reviewed by

Corinna Turner

Hilda has lived her life in the shadow of her beautiful, vivacious sister, Elswyth. Despite Elswyth’s recent kidnapping by Vikings, Hilda still cannot escape her sister’s legacy—or her destiny. For it is now Hilda, with no accolade to her name other than that of being the best needlewoman in Northumbria, who must marry the Ealdorman’s son and heir, Anfaeld. But Anfaeld’s parents will seize any excuse to set aside the advantageous match that Hilda’s mother so desperately desires. When Anfaeld’s mother explains the life of an Ealdorman’s wife—constant travel, constant social duties, no time for embroidery—Hilda makes up her mind almost on the spot to enter a convent instead. But a wise abbess insists that first, she discover why Anfaeld wants to marry her. As a web of truth and lies unravels with potentially deadly consequences, will Elswyth destroy Hilda’s happiness yet again?

Needle of Avocation is the third Cuthbert’s People book, and the strongest book of a strong series. Certainly, readers who like a little hope and happiness in their historical fiction, and who enjoy a strong character arc will relish this powerful story.

Needle of Avocation is even more character-driven than the previous two novels. Most of the drama is social and interpersonal, although the very real threat of a bloodbath of revenge hangs over the entire book. One of the chief pleasures of the book is watching a previously constrained character unfurl and bloom, and begin to become all she can be. The theme of vocation is discreet and very well-handled.

Reading this book also provides an interesting insight into aspects of Elswyth that were not apparent in the first two books. Elswyth haunts this third book too, yet by the end, Hilda has finally shaken off her sister’s shadow and become her own woman. Hilda is certainly a far from perfect character, but she is more level-headed and more inherently virtuous than Elswyth. Indeed, the difference in the ending of this book as opposed to that of the previous two (explicitly Elswyth-focused) books cannot but bring to mind reflections on the just rewards of virtue.

The novel has strong secondary characters, especially Abbess Wynflaed and King Eardwulf from book 2, as well as excellent new characters like Anfaeld and Queen Claennis. The characters are multifaceted and imperfect, but Baker makes the reader identify with, and care about them. As usual, the historicity of Baker’s worldview feels very real and compelling, with no anachronistic attitudes forced in.

This book would be suitable for all fans of serious historical fiction who are happy with a significant romantic plotline. Most secular readers with an interest in the period will have no issues with this book. Although Christianity is a significant part of the backdrop of life in the novel, it is not discussed in as much detail as in the earlier books. Both Protestant and Catholic readers are likely to find certain characters’ preoccupation with virtue and truth of particular interest. Most teens would enjoy this book as much as adults, although it is not a YA novel (not because of significant sexual content but because of the complexity and subtlety of the themes addressed).

A very satisfying and page-turning conclusion (at least for now) to an unusually strong historical series.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

This two part graphic novel tells its story from 2 sides China’s bloody civil war: A Boxer Rebel & a “traitor” Christian-Convert.

June & July Book Releases

The hottest new books in Catholic fiction

The People’s Choice- Top 10 Genres in Catholic Literature

The book-geeks have spoken! Top favorite genres in Catholic literature July 2018- July 2019

Saint Magnus: The Last Viking by Susan Peek

A young Viking Prince evades a warlord while finding his own harrowing path to sainthood.

Feel-Good Books For Pandemic Summer

Book Therapy to chase the blues away

The Fisherman’s Bride by Catherine Magia

The wife of Peter takes up her pen to tell her side of the story, and forces us to examine our ideas of perfection and holiness.

Playing by Heart by Carmela Martino

In this historical drama, Emilia longs for a love as beautiful as her sonata, but the ambitions of her father put her and her sister in great danger. Winner of our 2018 Best of the Year Awards.

I, Claudia By Lin Wilder

Will the extraordinary events lead the wife of Pontius Pilate, Claudia Procula, to the Son of God?

Brother Wolf by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson

Swept into a werewolf hunt with two nuns, a dashing guardian and a jolly priest, Athene Howard applies her intellectual skills to unravel this mysterious new Papist world.

The Fire of Eden (The Harwood Mysteries Book 3) by Antony Barone Kolenc

The mystery of a stolen treasure might hold the key to Xan’s discernment about whether God is calling him to the priesthood or to Lucy.

The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia Toney

A Catholic “To Kill a Mockingbird” if there ever was one.

The Poppy and The Rose by Ashlee Cowles

While abroad in England, Taylor discovers a mystery linking her to an heiress and passenger aboard The Titanic.

The Wistful and the Good by G. M. Baker

Two weeks after the sacking of Lindisfarne, Norse traders aren’t welcome in Northumbria. But they’re here. Does a Viking really have a chance with an English noblewoman?

Best of 2019

Comic Books, Classic Literature and newly converted Catholic authors– 2019 brought some excellent changes to the literary tradition of our faith.

Spooky Catholic Reads

Books with the themes of the All Hallows season grouped according to scariness level.

The Letters of Magdelen Montague by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson

An epistolary novel full of ironic British wit.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur

A young slave girl in ancient Korea investigates a murder & meets real life Korean Catholic saints

Silence by Shusaku Endo

The story that introduced faith to one of the most secular nations on Earth

The Phantom Phoenix

A humble phoenix rises from the ashes to clean up corrupt, 1920s Chicago in this thrilling superhero comic

Books to Pray With, March: For the New Martyrs

Every month in 2024 Pope Francis has a monthly prayer intention. Every month we will release a book list that will draw your heart and soul deeper into prayer on these topics.