9 April 2011

Review: RELICS OF THE DEAD, Ariana Franklin

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 471 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (December 23, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031RS43O
  • aka GRAVE GOODS, published in 2009
  • Source: I bought it.
Publisher's Blurb
England, 1176. Beautiful, tranquil Glastonbury Abbey - one of England's holiest sites, and believed by some to be King Arthur's sacred Isle of Avalon - has been burned almost to the ground. The arsonist remains at large, but the fire has uncovered something even more shocking: two hidden skeletons, a man and a woman. The skeletons' height and age send rumors flying - are the remains those of Arthur and Guinevere?

King Henry II hopes so. Struggling to put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is particularly strong, Henry wants definitive proof that the bones are Arthur's. If the rebels are sure that the Once and Future King will not be coming to their aid, Henry can stamp out the insurgence for good. He calls on Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, to examine the bones.

Henry's summons comes not a moment too soon, for Adelia has worn out her welcome in Cambridge. As word of her healing powers has spread, so have rumors of witchcraft. So Adelia and her household ride to Glastonbury, where the investigation into the abbey fire will be overseen by the Church authorities - in this case, the Bishop of St. Albans, who happens also to be the father of Adelia's daughter.

My take

History will always remember Henry Plantagenet as the king responsible for the death of Thomas a'Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. In his quest for a united kingdom, he desperately needs to remove anything that will give rebels a rallying point. In the West of England and in Wales the Arthurian legend is strong, with those who believe that Arthur may rise. Henry II needs Adelia to prove beyond doubt that Arthur is dead.
    Henry nodded. 'Arthur's. The Welsh are supposed to be a Christian race but their pagan little minds hold Arthur as a more immediate Messiah than Jesus, God rot them. They claim him as their own. He's the one who will rescue them from what they see as the Norman yoke. And I'm not a Norman yoke, Adelia. For one thing, I'm an Angevin and, for another, I'm a bloody good, peace-bringing, justice-giving king if they'd only realize it.'
There are several plots developing through the novel. What did the dying Brother Caradoc see when he saw three shadowy figures lowering a coffin into the fissure in Glastonbury Abbey grounds during the earthquake twenty years before? What happened to the Abbot's Crusading son? Where is Adelia's friend Emma?  Around these threads and others Ariana Franklin weaves an authentic-feeling historical tale, using some verified fact embroidered with credible detail.

Yesterday I read a blog post about how tricky it is to write a historical novel with a satisfying mystery element  and to achieve a satisfactory balance.  I think RELICS OF THE DEAD achieves that quite well, although I think the character of Adelia and her relationship with both the King and the Bishop of St. Albans strain the bounds. Certainly I enjoyed a lot of the historical detail and there was sufficient in terms of mysteries to get me conjecturing.

RELICS OF THE DEAD is #3 of the 4 title Mistress of the Art of Death series. I haven't read any of the others but only occasionally felt at a disadvantage, despite the fact that each book follows in sequence on the previous.

My rating: 4.6

Unfortunately Diana Norman, who wrote under the pen name of Ariana Franklin, died earlier this year.

Ariana Franklin's website, where you can read an excerpt from each of her books.

I am counting RELICS OF THE DEAD in these challenges:


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks, as always, for this review. I happen to have a soft spot for historical mysteries, so I'm glad you highlighted this one, and even happier that you liked it. This is one of Franklin's that I hadn't read yet, although after Mistress... I'd planned to. Thanks for the reminder.

Marg said...

I really enjoyed the first couple of books in this series in particular. I liked the last couple, including this one, but just not as much.

I do find it odd that the titles for this series are different in different counties. Very frutstating. It was only as I read the blurb I realised it was the book I had already read.

I have heard that there is one more book from Ariana Franklin, but I don't know much other than that.

Yvette said...

I am a big fan of Ariana Franklin's books. It was such sad news to hear of her death earlier this year. No more Adelia Aguilar stories except what we can conjur up in our imaginations. This book I think was titled GRAVE GOODS in the USA - I have trouble remembering plots. But I know the last one, A MURDEROUS PROCESSION was terrifc as well. A great series. Thanks for the wonderful review, Kerrie.

puzzledoctor said...

Thanks for the link to my blog - I'll try this series when I get the chance.


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