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The Vault of Bones
Petroc of Auneford series #2

by Pip Vaughan-Hughes

      Petroc of Auneford has come a long way since his days as a novice monk in Devon, related in Relics. Now he is part of the crew of Cormoran, a gang of loveable rogues dealing in fake relics, and a few real ones too. They donít come any more real than the ones in the Chapel of Pharos in Byzantium. Here lies the crown of thorns, the shroud of Turin, the spear of Longinus and a whole lot more. But apparently they are up for sale, and about to be sold off to the highest bidder to raise money for a Frankish princeling. Captain de Montalhac is the man for that sort of task, so of course our trusty narrator Petroc comes along for the ride as well.

Stories about miraculous relics and the power of ancient artifacts are quite in vogue at the moment, and here is another one. I love a good adventure story with plenty of swashbuckling and derring-do set against the fascinating backdrop of the middle ages, and this is certainly a tale with all of these elements in it. The author is adept at description, and we see everything that Petroc sees, from an audience with the Pope to seedy inns, the wreckage of Byzantium and the relics themselves. There are plenty of fights, sinister villains and beautiful damsels, deaths and escapes to thrill, but there is rather too much of it all. After a while the plot flags and gets repetitive, causing the whole thing to rather lose momentum. Cutting out a few of the escapes from inns and suchlike would work wonders, for seeing the gaudy panoply of the 13th century through Petrocís eyes is a worthwhile experience. I was especially impressed by the descriptions of sacked Byzantium; at times it almost seemed as though the author really had seen it for himself and this alone was almost worth the price of admission.

The Book

Orion Books
July 25, 2007
Historical Adventure [1237, Rome, Venice and Istanbul]
More at Amazon UK
(not available through Amazon US)
NOTE: Some violence

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2007
© 2006