Book two of Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series was an exciting read for a number of reasons. The first being that it wasn't involved in the great jam accident the first book was unlucky enough to be part of, and the second was we get to meet Henry's formidable consort, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
I know what you're thinking...Jam?
On the way to visit my mom, a couple of weeks ago, there was an explosion of Peach Vanilla Bean jam in my suitcase, the most unfortunate victim being my good friend Jenna's copy of The Mistress of the Art of Death (Well and my suitcase. Trust me, you don't want to have to scrub dried up, sticky jam from a suitcase. In the bathtub. In January.). Meaning I had to unstick each page from the ones before and after it, as I read. Very tedious, but it smelled nice.
So it was great joy to flip through the pages of The Serpents Tale without stickage.
In book one, the ground work is laid, characters are fleshed out and Adelia is held in England awaiting to serve Henry II whenever he next needs her. She's not thrilled by the situation, but the Fens, Gyltha, Mansur and Ulf make it more than she could have hoped for, and she finds herself at home in England. Until the Bishop of St. Albans, Rowley Picot bursts into her life again, demanding she throw herself into more dangerous situations in the name of the King. Rosamund Clifford, the Kings mistress, has been poisoned and Adelia must find the culprit before England dissolves into civil war as King and Queen use the death to further their dislike of each other to new and horrifying heights.
History is full of fascinating royal couples with strange and compelling dynamics, and Ariana picked well when she set Adelia's stories in England under Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She does nothing but charming justice by putting words into their mouths and fleshing them out into people instead of history lessons. The Serpents Tale, which primarily deals with the royal couples tumultuous later relationship, also once again highlights many intriguing aspects of Medieval life including English winter weather in the time period, cloister life in a more modern Abbey, marriage laws and Christmas customs. Populating her story with just the right mix of Mystery, intrigue, wonderful characters and fascinating historical tidbits that she had me turning to book three as soon as I'd put down book two.
A great series I don't want to see end any time soon!
The Serpents Tale, By Ariana Franklin
Published by Putnam Adult, January 2008