Excerpt from The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Abbot's Tale

by Conn Iggulden

The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden X
The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2018, 480 pages

    Oct 2019, 480 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Looking back on it, I know I should feel ashamed that Wulfric fell off the path. He vanished from sight as he stepped off an edge and broke a bone in his heel, landing too hard on a stone. We had to wait, though we were tired and hungry, while the two monks climbed down and brought him back up. They muttered to each other when they saw them limping, though we would not know till later that he had actually cracked his foot. He was weeping – and looking in accusation at me, if you can believe it. I was ashamed for him. If he had fallen into the marsh and been drowned it would have been a thing to grieve, but I would have forgotten him now. I always protect Wulfric, but some lives are touched by dark.

The sun rose on my right shoulder as we went on, clattering along a wood walkway that must have been as old as Caesar. I found myself at my father's side, scowling at Wulfric as he limped and made more of his injury than he should have. My father was breathing hard and sweating like a dray horse. He nodded in relief to me as we came to the outer wall of the rough place they dared to call an abbey in those days. Even after the peace of Alfred and King Edward, monks still knew the value of a good wall. It was fine, golden Wessex stone too, none of your stockade camp. Yet the gate they heaved open for us was made of wood and had to be lifted by the two Irishmen, to keep its trailing foot from dragging in the mud.

Nowhere was truly clean then, at least where men worked and slept. The passage of our feet turns grass to quagmire, which is the way of the world and means nothing more than that. In time, we take that mud and make bricks and tiles, so you can keep your damp peasant huts and shiver as I warm my hands in the dry.

Wulfric was given into the care of a tutting matron. I watched the woman put her big, pink arm around him to help him along. I was still scowling when he looked back. I raised my head sharply, trying to remind him to keep silent and be watchful and to remember his name and line. I saw Heorstan greeted by a man in plain black wool, his scalp like a brown knee, with knobs and freckles and odd planes to it. I waited patiently, content as they talked just to stare around the abbey yard. I looked up to where some men were labouring, and my entire life changed with that glance.

There was a cart piled high with grain sacks and four young monks stood on the cart bed. Above those working lads, two more gestured from a high window cut in what must have been a grain store. I didn't know. What caught my eye and held it was a double pulley, with ropes that whirred in polished wooden grooves. I swear to you I felt hair rise on my neck.

I have told this story a dozen time and there's always someone to laugh or scoff and tell it couldn't have been the way I remember it, but I will tell you the truth here. I saw those pulleys and I understood them in an instant, that turning a rope over the spinning blocks would halve the weight. I saw a device, a machine so extraordinary it looked the work of angels. I knew nothing then of Euclid's mathematics, nor the engineering of Archimedes. I was just an empty sheet, waiting to be bitten deep.

I stood there, though my father was tugging my sleeve as I had done to him before, trying to break my perfect concentration and introduce me to Abbot Clement. Yet I saw it all: how four pulleys would be better still and give a ratio of four to one, while the rope would travel four times as far. My mind lit up, and if you have never experienced such a thing, well, I am sorry. There are many wonders in the world, if you look.

I know them all now. Even today, these old hands could make the six great engines of the Greeks, that built the modern world and in combination will make wonders for a thousand years to come, if the Day of Judgement does not interrupt all our labours. The lever, the wheel and axle, the inclined plane, the screw, the wedge – and the wonder of the pulley, which sailors call the block and tackle. No great sail can be raised without the last. Those six, simple machines have given us dominance over all the natural world. I saw my first at Glastonbury Abbey and I stepped onto a new path.

Excerpted from The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden, published by Pegasus Books. Reprinted with permission. All other rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Lost Wife
    The Lost Wife
    by Susanna Moore
    The Lost Wife is a hard-hitting novella based in part on a white settler named Sarah Wakefield's ...
  • Book Jacket
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Voted 2021 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Angeline Boulley's young adult ...
  • Book Jacket: Hello Beautiful
    Hello Beautiful
    by Ann Napolitano
    Ann Napolitano's much-anticipated Hello Beautiful pulls the reader into a warm, loving familial ...
  • Book Jacket: The West
    The West
    by Naoíse Mac Sweeney
    It's become common for history books and courses to reconsider the emphasis on "Western Civilization...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Pieces of Blue
    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    A hilarious and heartfelt novel for fans of Maria Semple and Emma Straub.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

S I F A R Day

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.