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Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Serpent's Tale
Franklin, Ariana. The Serpent's Tale. I loved the first book in this series, Mistress of the Art of Death, (which I reviewed in April of last year) loved the wit, the characters, loved the tension between Rowley and Adelia. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the second installation and was delighted to find it on the new books shelf at the library. I enjoyed this one, too, but founded it lacking in many of the aspects that gave so much pleasure in the first one.
When Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II, is found to have died from eating poisoned mushrooms, Adelia (the 12th century's version of a coroner) is "requested" by Henry to look into the matter and determine whether or not it was murder. Adelia, of course, has no choice in the matter and journeys to the nunnery of Godstow in bitter winter to investigate. Murder, it is, but who is the culprit? Rather obvious clues point to the King's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Tricky stuff, indeed.
There are some bizarre circumstances both in Rosamund's murder and in the murder of a young discovered as Adelia and her party arrive at Godstow.
Glytha and Mansur are there as support for Adelia and her baby, but Rowley, now a Bishop, has very little presence in the novel.
The wit and humor of the first novel are less apparent as well--perhaps as a result of the fact that Rowley is now a churchman and plays a smaller part.
Another aspect that bothered me was the presentation of Queen Eleanor, depicted as much sillier and less savvy than the powerful and politically astute woman history depicts. Eleanor may have been arrogant, stubborn, and willful, but she was independent, astute, influential, and powerful.
Her influence on history (she lived into her 80's), is well documented, especially during the reigns of sons Richard (the Lion Heart) and John (the villain in the Robin Hood tales and who, for me, will always have a little Alan Rickman flavor).
I enjoyed the novel, even it did not live up to my expectations, and hope for more.
Fiction. Mystery/historical. 2008. 371 pages.