Jana Petken’s The Errant Flock is set in Sagrat, Valencia, in the late fifteenth century. After his wife has lost three babies, Luis, Duke of Sagrat, is desperate for a son to succeed him. What is a man to do? The duke’s remedy is to force young David Sanz, one of his militiamen, to steal a newborn from among the townsfolk. Since secrecy is vital, David is also ordered to kill the parents and any other family members in the house. If he does not carry out this dreadful mission, the duke will destroy his own family.
This repugnant crime is the basis of the plot. Add the Inquisition, a corrupt town official, a band of murdering marauders, family members and a friend who cannot understand the change in David. Spice it up with a little love interest in the form of a Jewish girl, and what you have is a delicious soup of treachery, betrayal, guilt, and suspense that will make you want to keep on reading long after bedtime.
Alternating points of view help carry the story along at a fast but not hurried pace. On the whole, the characters are believable. It’s impossible not to sympathise with David for the terrible dilemma he finds himself in. I would, however, have liked to have seen just a dash of goodness in the duke. He is a little too evil.
When you come to the end of the book, you will be happy to know there are other Jana Petken titles available. (I’m looking forward to reading more.) The Errant Flock is the first book in The Flock Trilogy. I highly recommend it.