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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.


  1. Sorry to hear that this one doesn't quite match the success of the first one in the series, Jenclair. I've been looking forward to reading the new one for a while but haven't stumbled upon it anyplace yet. I definitely like the main character a lot and think that this could make for a nice, fun and long series of books.

  2. Yes, I'm sorry this doesn't match up to the first one as well; it was one of my better reads last year. I've discovered the reason I've been having difficulty finding this in the UK - it's coming out under a different title. But I may stop chasing the library for it now anyway.

  3. Sam - I am looking forward to the next one, and must admit, the conclusion left some hope for improvement in one area of complaint. :)

    Ann -- The library will get a copy eventually, I'm sure. And while not as much fun as the first one for me, I liked catching up with the characters!

  4. I thought Adelia was such a great character and did enjoy the first book a lot. I will keep this one on my wishlist - I'll have to keep you posted on it.

  5. I look forward to catching up with the characters, too. I'm happy to hear this one is out.

  6. Booklogged -- I was so glad to find it in the library and did enjoy catching up with the characters!