Sunday, 19 December 2010
Relics of the Dead by Ariana Franklin
In Glastonbury she meets with hostility, as well as the unwelcome news that Emma has failed to arrive at her mother-in-law's Somerset manor, although she had only a short journey remaining when Adelia left her. Enquiries meet only with denial - she and her entourage seem to have disappeared without trace.
Although Ariana Franklin makes a reasonable case for her female doctor, you have to suspend a good deal of disbelief with these books. That said, there are plenty of rewards for doing so. You can't help but admire Adelia, for all her obstinacy, so that the loyalty of her friends, and even Henry's determination to keep her at his disposal, is convincing. All the characters, including Henry, continue to grow and develop - in the case of the king there are further insights into his ruthlessness, a necessary part of his desire to govern well. An element that caught my sympathy in this third book, already to some extent touched on in the first two, but developed and explored here, is that parallel between the fictitious Rowley, Bishop of St Albans, and the real Thomas Becket, murdered at Henry's instigation when he refused, once he became Archbishop, to defer to Henry's power. The very real dilemma of king's law versus church law makes Rowley's efforts to be a good churchman into a strong theme, although you wonder whether Henry would have been willing to risk creating another Becket. On the other hand, as depicted here, perhaps he couldn't afford not to. Incidentally, Franklin provides Henry with these strong, domestic - but fictitious - allies, without too much risk of changing the course of history. They were interesting times.
* I reviewed the first, Mistress of the Art of Death, here.