Their Castilian Orphan

The Castilian Saga Book 4

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
474 Pages
Reviewed on 03/14/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Their Castilian Orphan (The Castilian Saga Book 4) is a continuation of author Anna Belfrage’s superb story of knight Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor d’Outremer. Robert and Noor have been secretly raising a foster child whom they claim to be a Castilian orphan they were asked to adopt. In reality, though, Lionel is the only surviving blood of the former leader of the Welsh uprising. Lionel is now working as a page to King Edward and is favored by the king but the return from exile of Robert’s half-brother Eustace threatens to destroy any chance of peace and marital happiness for Robert and Noor. Eustace hates his half-brother with a passion and believes his father wrongly gave Robert land and estates that rightfully belonged to Eustace. He is determined to destroy Robert and expose the truth about Lionel’s real bloodline. When, in October of 1294, the Welsh again rebel against King Edward, Robert, as one of the king's most trusted and favored knights, must again leave Orton Manor and fight alongside Eustace to crush the rebellion, knowing full well that he may face his Welsh longtime friend and comrade, Rhys, on the battlefield.

Author Anna Belfrage is a recognized master of the medieval genre. Having read the previous three books in this series, I was thrilled to read the continuing saga of Robert and Noor whom I have grown to love. Their Castilian Orphan did not disappoint as the inevitable clash between Eustace and Robert edged closer. It is not necessary to have read the previous books to thoroughly enjoy this one but why not read the first three as well? They are simply superb. The author does a tremendous job of dropping little gems of information into the story to let you know the backgrounds of the characters from the first three books so that at no time will you feel lost or wondering. What I particularly loved about this entire series is the wonderful contrast between Robert, the man of action, courage, and war, alongside Robert, the loving husband and doting father. The romantic scenes between Robert and Noor are truly amongst the best I have ever read. The author’s prose flows with perfect timing and pace which seamlessly carries the reader from pitched battle scenes, violence, and mayhem to gentle, loving scenes of family bliss and tranquility. I adore that Noor is an independent and spirited woman of her age and prepared to fight with everything she has to protect her loved ones, her little cubs, and especially their adopted son Lionel. Although the fight scenes are brutal and realistic, the violence is not overdone and is always tempered by a moral lesson or, more often than not, some degree of mercy. In an incredibly violent era, Robert and Noor stand out as paragons of principle and this gives the story such depth and power. I loved this book and the entire series, so I have no hesitation in highly recommending it to all readers.

K.C. Finn

Their Castilian Orphan is a work of fiction by author Anna Belfrage in the historical saga, interpersonal drama, and political thriller subgenres, and is the fourth novel in The Castilian Saga. The work is best suited to adult readers and contains some scenes of medieval battle violence and sex. We find ourselves in 1294 England, where Eustace de Lamont returns from exile with vengeance burning in his heart. He targets Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor d’Outremer, while their foster son, Lionel, becomes a pawn in his malicious game. As Eustace's violent tendencies resurface, he also threatens to expose Lionel's true parentage, which could spell disaster for Robert and Noor. With rebellion brewing in Wales, Robert is torn between duty and protecting his family, leaving them vulnerable as he fights on behalf of the king. Meanwhile, Eustace's determination to destroy Robert knows no bounds, setting the stage for a high-stakes showdown that could alter the course of their lives forever.

Author Anna Belfrage has crafted a highly engaging work that perfectly balances well-researched historical detail with compelling characters and a suspenseful, slow-burning plot. The intricate dynamics between the characters, especially the manipulative Eustace and the vulnerable Lionel, kept me engaged throughout the story, and I loved the attention to detail in their dialogue inflections and those little tension-filled clues to the trouble brewing beneath the surface. The historical backdrop of 13th-century England added depth and authenticity to the attitudes and activities happening in the story world, transporting me to a tumultuous era filled with political turmoil and personal vendettas with rich authenticity and total immersion. Overall, Their Castilian Orphan is a captivating addition to The Castilian Saga series, offering a thrilling blend of history, drama, and suspense that will leave readers eager for more.

Jamie Michele

Anna Belfrage returns readers to The Castilian Saga series with the fourth book, Their Castilian Orphan. In the lead-up, His Castilian Hawk introduced us to Robert FitzStephan, loyal to King Edward, who marries Eleanor d’Outremer, known as Noor. Their marriage faces challenges, especially with Noor's Welsh ties and Robert's mistress Edith, as the strife in Wales ensues. The Castilian Pomegranate places Robert and Noor as emissaries of Queen Elinor, sent to retrieve the jeweled Castilian Pomegranate. France's crusade ensnares Robert in Aragon's conflict, and a dual-edged confrontation ignites in Castile. Her Castilian Heart brings in Robert's half-brother, who wants to murder him, and the queen's anger over their refusal to abandon Lionel leaves Noor to save them both. Now, Eustace reemerges from exile, intent on destroying Robert and Noor by way of exposing Lionel's true parentage and threatening the couple. A Welsh rebellion erupts, and both Eustace and Robert are called to confront the rebels, with Noor left alone to battle at home.

Their Castilian Orphan by Anna Belfrage continues with the ongoing plight of Robert and Noor, but what I loved most about this installment is that she really explores identity, loyalty, and belonging. I found this both in Lionel's struggle with his heritage and the unwavering support of those around him, and also with Tilly, who epitomizes the climate of gender roles, class distinctions, and moral judgment. The fact that, as a mother, an ancillary character like Tilly could resonate so deeply is a testament to Belfrage's skill in character development. Belfrage does well in the seamless blending of action and emotion, like an intense ambush scene where Samuel and Lionel demonstrate bravery, but we also see a surprising show from another with a stern and protective admonishment, followed by an affectionate admission. The unity between Noor and Robert is as solid as always, even when an unthinkable loss occurs. There is a full circle moment that had me in tears, and it is a fitting endcap from an author who can make something so sad still feel hopeful. Very highly recommended.