The setting is feudal Sussex in the thirteenth century, a landscape and society that have changed almost beyond recognition. The power of the Church is at its zenith, and the bishop of Alincester is one of the richest men in England. He derives income from the watermills in his diocese: the forces of wind and rain are held to be divine.
Ralf turned to look at his sister and found her still sleeping, curled up behind him in a bed their mother had contrived from a fleece. Now that the shadows had lengthened, Imogen’s hair, silver-blond like his own, was no longer catching the sun. Her thumb had returned to her mouth. In the enclosed space among all the furniture and baggage, her features had taken the inward reflections and made them into a serene and private thing, entirely her own.
That she, and not he, the son, the firstborn, was his paren...