I have always been intrigued by Thomas Becket. Not only in his death, but in his life as well, his friendship with Henry II that turned to hatred after Beckett's apparent transformation from politician to devout churchman after his appointment as Archbishop thereby thwarting Henry's plan to have an Archbishop on his side and one he would control. It was King Henry's thwarted plans for Beckett which fueled his rage and to voice the need to have "someone rid him of that meddlesome priest". Whether King Henry meant those words literally or not four of his knights decided to do just that and journeyed to Canterbury where they murdered Beckett on the altar of the Cathedral. Pilgrim Footprints on the Sands of Time takes up the tale of those four knights and their families as they make a pilgrimage to Compestelo de Santiago in Spain to atone for the death of Beckett.
I feel that Nilsen's Pilgrim Footprints in the Hands of Time filled a gap in the literature surrounding the story of Thomas Beckett and found the narrative seemed to embody the lackluster feelings of a pilgrimage undertaken without personal investment; in that these pilgrims were not motivated by faith, or the need to make a personal penance but were making the often arduous journey for political atonement and not for personal or religious reasons.
Sylvia Nilsen's Pilgrim Footprints: On the Sands of Time is a thoroughly researched and well written account that contributes to the written discourse on the period despite being a work of fiction. Pilgrim Footprints serves to remind any researcher of the period to not overlook the fate of the four men involved in the murder, but also provides a more realistic account of the arduousness of making a pilgrimage, and relates the angst of the pilgrims themselves, in a way so many others authors have romanticized.