THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER by Ariana Franklin

13 04 2013

TAPrayer coverIn this, the fourth (and very sadly, the last) of the Adelia Aguilar medieval mysteries, King Henry orders Adelia to accompany his daughter, the ten-year-old Princess Joanna, on the long, long journey from England to Sicily.

Throughout the eight years that she has spent in England, Adelia has yearned to return to Sicily, her home, far away from the cold barbarian north where she is not even allowed to practise as a physician, but Henry has always forbidden it, claiming he needs her, his “Mistress of the Art of Death”.

And now that he is letting her go, it is only to accompany and be there for his daughter should she fall ill somewhere along the way, while he ensures that Adelia will eventually return by keeping her daughter with him in England. Or rather with his wife, Queen Eleanor, who is a prisoner herself, having supported her son Duke Richard in his attempted coup d’etat.

Also making the journey are the Bishop of St Albans – Adelia’s lover, and the father of her daughter; the legendary sword Excalibur, a gift for the King of Sicily; an old enemy of Adelia’s, now impenetrably disguised, whose sole aim in life is to bring about her death; and a mysterious sea captain, who seems at first  to be little more than a pirate with the royal blessing, but who is to take the party on by ship from the south of France to Sicily.

Before they reach the coast, however, many catastrophes befall them – not least of which, for Adelia, is witnessing a “witch” being burnt alive in the town square at Aveyron, and knowing she is to be next.

This is a perfect “medieval mystery”, with many of the same colourful characters as in the previous books (Ariana Franklin’s Henry II is totally unforgetable, for me anyway, the definitive Henry II) and a host of new ones, including all the people in Palermo whom we had only heard about, and wondered about, before but now meet in person.

Read this book. And if you haven’t read the other three, read them first, in order. They are precious, and there will be no more.

(Be careful, this book has also been published under the title A MURDEROUS PROCESSION)

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