Spanning nine centuries, Rutherfurd has given us a window into the past. His depiciton of early English life is vivid and full of detail and at the same time it is a real page turner. Although several centuries may lapse between each chapter, the reader starts to recognize certain families and foes from the past chapter. Characters are engrosiing and historical events are truly part of the story and not intrusive plot devices. The true center of the tale is the New Forest, and how it grows into the preserve it is today from the King''s preserve it was in times past. The one thread throughout is a small wooden cross that is passed down through the generations. Whose hand it ends up in is a true master stroke by an author who knows his subject intimately. The fact that several of the characters were real adds to the draw of a tale finely told. Rutherfurd is more than just the English Michener, he is a master storyteller that is not afraid of letting the reader enjoy a really great story. It is compelling to the end.