Friday, 4 December 2009

Relics of the Dead

Having really liked the previous books in the Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin, I was a little underwhelmed by Relics of the Dead. As with the other two books the story is set in England at the latter end of the 12th century during the reign of Henry II, the Plantagenet king who despite his many achievements and strong leadership will always be known as 'that one who did for Thomas Becket'. The majority of the action takes place around Glastonbury Abbey amidst rumours that the skeletons of King Arthur and Guinevere have been found. Henry sends Adelia and her little entourage off to discover the truth of the matter in the hopes that proving that 'The Once and Future King' is well and truly dead would help him with his dealings with the rebellious Celts. Most of the characters seem somewhat diluted from their previous portrayals. I do still like Henry though, even if the author does tend to emphasize his sense of humour maybe a little too much. The book is strongest when exploring some of the historical themes e.g. Henry's judicial reforms in a land where such things had previously been decided by Trial by Combat. There are some interesting musings on the way legends and myths evolve and you can't really find anything more legendary or mythical than good old King Arthur. The horrendously psychopathic Wolf and Scarry surely couldn't be the germ that sparked Robin Hood... could they *shudder*. Where the book really disappoints though is with the softening of Adelia's character and the lack of any real mystery for her to be challenged by. Instead there are a handful of smaller mysteries that practically resolve themselves. Still a very readable book but it didn't quite evoke a sense of place as Mistress of the Art of Death did with its 12th Century Cambridge or The Death Maze with its bitterly cold towers, mazes and landscape.

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