The Arrows of Mercy

The year is 1348. Haunted by the blood on his hands, an archer named Edmund returns home from the French wars to a life of serfdom.

His brutal elder brother doesn’t want a hero of Crécy on his doorstep. The woman he loves yearns for a wider world, the ambitious wise-woman challenges him in ways he deplores, and an abused servant-girl is a thorn to his flesh. The priest denounces his mercy killings. Yet, as the days pass, Edmund is impelled to fight for the impossible: love and redemption.

Then plague arrives in the village and everything changes.

“…Richly imagined and compellingly realized, The Arrows of Mercy draws the reader into a story of the past that is imbued with the urgency and immediacy of our own time.”


Anne Simpson, award-winning author of Speechless

“…Gripping, immersive, and penned with wisdom and a fiery prescience, The Arrows of Mercy is a story of human desire that pushes the boundaries of language to make a powerful statement on the passions and impulses that shape morality itself. A story for the ages.”


Carol Bruneau, award-winning author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are

Review on Goodreads

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Two of Jill MacLean‘s middle-grade books won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature, as did her YA free-verse novel, Nix Minus One. Her third middle-grade novel won the Red Cedar Award, and her other YA novel is in the Nova Scotia school system, as is The Nine Lives of Travis Keating. All five books received numerous nominations, four of them international.

An avid gardener and canoeist, she lives in Nova Scotia near her family.

The Arrows of Mercy

Book Launch

Sunday April 16    |    4:00 -5:30pm

at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (1113 Marginal Road, Halifax)

Bookmark will have copies of The Arrows of Mercy available for sale at the launch.

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend; you were a wonderfully responsive audience.

I loved the spontaneous burst of applause for our Halifax independent bookstore, Bookmark, whose manager Mike Hamm was on hand to sell books (many books, as it turned out, and thank you for that, too).

When Edmund’s stand-in as a medieval archer, Cavan, was speaking about the role of the peasant’s bow and arrow at the battle of Crécy, utter silence.

When Brian Bartlett introduced the novel (an introduction that blew me away), and when I read a section from the novel, I could feel how attentive you all were.

So Edmund is now launched into today’s world. If you enjoy reading the book, I’d be most appreciative if you’d pass the word along, online or in person.

Again, a heartfelt thank you.

Cavan as medieval archer and Jill MacLean reading from The Arrows of Mercy at the Book Launch

Cavan (as medieval archer) & Jill MacLean reading at the Book Launch

I love writing. It can be fulfilling, obsessive, exasperating, exciting and nerve-wracking – all on the same morning. It’s always a challenge.

After the publication of my fifth book for young people, I felt I was getting in a rut, that I needed a new direction – but what? Gradually, into that (frightening) vacuum arose my longtime fascination with the medieval period. I searched out historians who specialized in rural England. I travelled to Berkshire, the county where I was born, for the setting. And finally, I took the plunge (very frightening) and started writing a novel, for adults, set in the 14th century.

Because I was so fascinated by the research, I wrote a sprawling, unmanageable mess of a novel. Revising it, paring it down to its essence, took, literally, years. And now it is launched and I have to let it go.

If you’d like to know what else I do besides tapping words onto a blank screen, you can find out more about me here. Interested in taking a quick look at my previous publications? Click here.

Then there’s Book Talk where I post a blog about various aspects of the writing process or about books I’ve read that have really grabbed me. You’re always welcome to read them and comment!

Click here to visit me on Facebook.

Jill MacLean, Author, medieval novel - photo from Luttrell Psalter

Photo from Luttrell Psalter
Courtesy of the British Library

The image is from the Luttrell Psalter, a book of psalms commissioned by Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, a wealthy landowner whose home manor was in Lincolnshire but who owned property throughout England. The psalter dates from 1320-1340, was the work of one scribe and five or more artists, none of whom are known by name, and contains an exceptionally large number of images of everyday life that are inventive, detailed, often humorous and, probably, idealized. The psalter also abounds in “grotesques,” wildly imaginative combinations of animals and humans.

You can see all the images in the psalter in the digital version on the British Library’s website.

I chose this image because my protagonist, Edmund of Flintbourne, is an archer, and would have participated in the Sunday afternoon practice sessions on the village green.