12 Days of Clink Street Christmas - The Shield by C.J. Bentley

It's my last 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas post today. I've really enjoyed taking part and would like to thank Clink Street publishing, Rachel Gilbey and all the authors who have written me guest posts or short stories, or entrusted me to write a review of their book. I do hope you've enjoyed this bookish start to the festivities too!
Today I'm reviewing a book for middle grade readers, The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series by C.J. Bentley. First, here's the front cover and description of the book,

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again. 

A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time - to its original owner?  

With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his King, the safety of the Kingdom and the life of the daughter of his best friend. 
The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife Philippa and their son, who will later become the Black Prince.

I was intrigued from the moment I read the blurb! If you are too, The Shield can be purchased here. Many thanks to the author, publishers and Rachel Gilbey for my copy of the book.

The Shield's prologue is set 'somewhere in Durham' in 1340. A knight has been attacked by bandits and has just regained consciousness but he's not sure how long he's been lying there. He was on a mission from the King and the future of the country depended on the message he carried in his shield's hiding place. It can't be found however, so the knight makes the decision to leave and recuperate properly. he vows to return and find it though as he is determined to complete his mission for the sake of the country.
The book then moves to the present - well, the more present 1962. Peggy aged ten years and four months has the long summer holidays ahead of her. Peggy and her gang of friends have decided to go and catch sticklebacks in the beck. Peggy, we learn is an imaginative child; her real name isn't actually Peggy, this is the name she has chosen to go by this week, inspired by Buddy Holly's Peggy-Sue. Last week she was Rebecca, after the character in Ivanhoe. Fortunately her friends and family seem to have no bother in keeping up with her name changes! The children set off across the fields and at this point the story is reminiscent of a Famous Five story - although perhaps a little more relatable to those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s as their picnic is less slabs of fruit cake and lashings of ginger beer and more cheese sandwiches, apples and biscuits, carried in plastic bags. Peggy doesn't have much luck finding sticklebacks but she does find a very old wooden shield.
This first part of the tale really is evocative of childhood summers of the past, from mothers using twin tubs, to children spending hours outdoors. The gang's efforts to bring the shield home allow us more insight into their characters and the dynamics within the group. The pace of the story is a little slow here but by Chapter Three things are starting to happen. Peggy meets a mysterious knight who insists on calling her Eleanor. Fortunately, our name changing girl likes this new moniker and informs her family she's no longer Peggy, so I will do the same and refer to her as Eleanor from now on. The knight - Sir Kay - takes Eleanor back to his time and she finds herself dressed in a pale blue wool dress and in 1340 A.D.
This is where the action really starts as history and adventure meet and Eleanor finds herself thrust into the danger and intrigue of medieval life. She learns she has been chosen specially for this quest, will she complete it successfully, who can she trust and will she get safely back to her own time? Eleanor is a wonderful protagonist; brave, intelligent and witty. In this setting she is forced to become a slightly more mature version of herself, and the other children she meets also seem a little older that their years This is clever writing by the author, as she subtly informs her young audience of the extra responsibilities and expectations of young people back then. All the little historical titbits are woven seamlessly into the plot, from the clothes worn, to the food eaten (Eleanor is not impressed to be given beer for breakfast), to some of the political intrigue of the times.
The Shield definitely has a timeless quality about it, it's a book I could imagine reading when I was a child. However, there are still many children who enjoy the adventure stories written by the likes of Enid Blyton and I'm sure this would also really appeal to them. I'm looking forward to discovering what C.J. Bentley has planned for Eleanor in the next book - and what name she will be known by then!

Don't forget you call still enjoy the other #12DaysofClinkStreet posts, check out the calendar below and the hashtag on Twitter.

About the Author

Originally heralding from the North of England, C.J Bentley has travelled extensively and enjoyed living in a variety of countries across the world from Dubai to Doha, Qatar and now the countryside in the South of France. A background in teaching and childcare she has always enjoyed creating adventure short stories. However, it was when she became a grandma and with her grandchildren growing up  that she discovered that books seemed to contain only stories of vampires, zombies and farts that she decided seriously to take matters into her own hands and put pen to paper which today she calls The Finder Series.
Website -CJ Bentley 
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CJBentleyAuthor/ 
Twitter - @CJBentleyAuthor@CJBentleyAuthor