Missing children along the River Thames, a daughter trapped inside the tower with an unaccounted for past and tales to explain why she must never leave the tower. Moss, the Executioner's daughter is on the verge of an awful truth.
Stolen moments lead to outside the tower through a hidden way, stolen boots lead towards a new and unlikely friend.
What is the mystery of the Witch of the Rivers and what does Moss have to do with her?
Set against the backdrop of the Tower of London, Hardstaff weaves a story that gathers together, in the language of legends, a world bordering the reality of those who live outside the tower. A world where reality, superstition and witches meet on the eve of Anne Boleyn's downward path from Queen to traitor. A place where children are warned against being taken by the Riverwitch into the depths of the Thames.
Moss's meeting with Anne is a lovely vignette of the doomed Anne whose flame might be fluttering but whose determination and character is very evident.
Moss was born and saved from drowning by the Riverwitch, who in giving her back declared that she would come for Moss in twelve years. Moss it seems is bound by that utterance. She is haunted by the apparition of the Riverwitch glimpsed beneath the icy Thames. Only she can in the end calm the ravages of the Riverwitch.
Hardstaff's language is strongly evocative. I felt the terror of the beheadings, the dank sliminess of the tunnel under the tower, the icy coldness of the river edges in winter, and the insidiousness of the faceless figure that nearly catches Moss.
A fascinating read portraying the Tudor times from a different perspective.
A NetGalley ARC