The 12th Century. One mighty civilization collapses as another takes tentative steps out of the Dark Ages: In the Middle East, the Golden Age of Islam withers and the great universities die, tolerance and learning replaced by Jihad. In England, Oxbridge splutters into life while sweeping, legal reforms shackle corrupt officials and inch out legalised torture, the savage ‘Trial by Ordeal’. Carle has fled Baghdad, a female, Muslim doctor hiding the explosive recipe for gunpowder – a secret both her parents died to protect, aware of the devastating, martial potential. Intelligent and educated but bitter and arrogant, she arrives in a misogynist, violent and corrupt England preparing for Magna Carta. Disguised as a Christian, male Squire, she is isolated from her culture, her gender and her religion, the ultimate outsider. John is a killer. A Crusading Knight tormented by the atrocities he witnessed – and committed – in the Holy Land, his religion in tatters. He is Carle’s reluctant protector and then employer, when volunteered by his wife to be a Coroner. And the unexpected happens; the unjust and brutal plight of the repressed resonates with both of them. Carle applies her knowledge of pharmacy and anatomy, and finds a home and a cause. John applies his unwanted experience of violence and slaughter, and regains his integrity. Battling their personal demons, their disillusionment and arrogance, they clash as John adheres to rigid Justice while Carle fights for morality, but ultimately they unite as legal pioneers. Setting The Domesday Book lists Norwich as a leading provincial city with ‘5000 houses, 2100 sheep, 1 goshawk’. By 1196, it had doubled in size and become a very wealthy trading hub. Sewage ran open down the streets, children’s games were often fatal, apprentices waged warfare with each other and the upper classes fought in melees, or mock-battles (technically banned by the church and King), and tourneys, to hone their combat skills and make a living. It was a brutal, violent society.