Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin

Rosemund Clifford, beloved mistress of Henry II, lies dead in her tower, a victim of poisoning. Because of traitorous letters she wrote to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and because Henry believes his queen responsible for her death, war threatens to break out between them. Desperate to prevent this, Henry's loyal bishop, Rowley Picot, summons Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to investigate.

Adelia travels with Rowley to Rosemund's tower, surrounded by an intricate hedge maze, where her investigation is interrupted by Eleanor herself, who plans to join rebel forces in nearby Oxford. Caught in a terrifying blizzard, the queen, her mercenaries and Adelia find their way to Godstow Abbey, where more murders occur. Adelia must discover how the murders are related and find the killers before civil war breaks out in England.

I really enjoyed Mistress of the Art of Death, Ariana Franklin's first medieval thriller featuring Adelia Aguilar. The sequel was even better - an intricately plotted, intriguing story filled with excitement, horror, pathos and wonderful characters.

For Adelia and for all of England, the stakes are much higher in her second adventure. The country once again faces the horror of monarch fighting monarch, and people fear they will suffer as they did during the war between King Stephen and Matilda, Henry II's mother.

Into this tale of politics and dynastic ambitions, Franklin wove a secondary theme: The limitations imposed on women in medieval society, from merchant's daughters to queens. Emma, a ward of the convent, is forced to marry against her will, while Adelia is labeled both a whore and a witch. Adelia is torn by inner turmoil, as her desire to see justice done for the dead wars with her desperation to keep her baby daughter safe. Her relationship with Rowley (who is now sworn to chastity) gains unexpected depths as they face danger together.

I don't want to say more about the plot for fear of revealing too much, but I have to add the story ends with clever dialogue between Henry and Eleanor that pays tribute to the classic film, The Lion in Winter.

I hope Adelia will have many more fictional adventures. Another novel by Franklin, Grave Goods, comes out next March, according to Amazon. I am guessing it will be the third book in this promising series.

My grade: A.


Marg said...

I really loved the first book in this series,, and finally have this book here to read! It took forever to come out here! I hadn't heard about the third book, but I have added it to my TBR list already!

Have you read any of the books that this author wrote under the name of Diana Franklin? I love the trilogy featuring Makepeace Burke, which starts with A Catch of Consequence.

Mimi said...

I've never read her, but this plot sounds so good. Off to put it on my WL.