Review: Sworn to God by Steven A. McKay


Yorkshire, AD 1329
A new religious group moves into an abandoned church just north of the village of Altofts, but when men start dying under strange and suspicious circumstances the local bailiff decides to investigate.

The Disciples of God and their charismatic leader, Lady Alice de Staynton, appear truly holy, but something sinister seems to be going on within the walls of the newly refurbished St Joseph’s. Certainly the bailiff, John Little, has his suspicions about some of the warrior-like male acolytes, but are his fears justified? Infiltrating the group seems to be the best course of action, although the volatile Will Scaflock is none too happy about being nominated for the job by Friar Tuck…
Following on from 2019’s Faces of Darkness, this standalone story sees three legendary heroes battling invisible ‘Black Lords’ and far more dangerous earthly foes, but can they figure out what’s really going on in St Joseph’s before anyone else dies?

My Review

Here we have a story about Friar Tuck, Little John and Will Scarlet (Scaflock) in their post-Robin Hood days, after they’ve become honest men—reformed, you might say. Little John is even a bailiff, working for the Sheriff of Nottingham. Needless to say, they are older and wiser, although their history has certainly made them acceptable to the people they live amongst. Our protagonists have gotten themselves mixed up with a strange religious cult, and everything is not as it seems. “Mixed up” might not be a correct way of saying it; they are suspicious of mysterious deaths related to this cult, and Will infiltrates it in order to get an insider’s view. The leader of the cult, Lady Alice, had an irresistible charisma that attracted people of both sexes, and our heroes just can’t figure her out:

It appeared to be certain types who were drawn to her with earnest looks and eager questions: widows and widowers; those who’d suffered some personal tragedy recently; younger folk who hadn’t yet found their place in the world; men who found Lady Alice physically alluring, of which there were more than John would have expected. He looked on with great interest as the various people spoke with the Holy Mother and wondered just how many new recruits the Disciples of God would have after this meeting.

When the deaths start to pile up, something must be done but Lady Alice proves a tough nut to crack. Trust and betrayal play a big part in the story, and interestingly enough, no one comes out smelling like a rose. It’s a dark tale and I found it interesting though a little dispiriting.

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