I was kind of ambivalent about the first book in this much praised series (also
reviewed on Myshelf,
although not by me). I liked it rather than loved it: the sort of book I would keep picking up
and putting down until I finally did finish, glad to have read it to know what the buzz was about,
but not exactly yearning for more. I gave the second book in the series a pass since the storyline
didnít grab me, but thought Grave Goods, the third, sounded much more interesting.
An understatement as it turned out. This was a compelling, compulsive, gotta stay up late at
night to finish read.
After a fire destroys Glastonbury Abbey, the skeletal remains of a large man and a small
woman are uncovered. Could they be King Arthur and his queen, Guinevere?† King Henry II certainly
hopes so. Heís having trouble in Wales, with the Welsh rallying in the name of Arthur, whose legend
says he is not dead but sleeping, and will rise again to lead them. Henry would love to have
evidence of an Arthur long past any hope of rising again "...shown to every bloody Celt from here
to Brittany... I want Arthurís bones and I want them on display." Well he has bones, and they were
found where legend says they should be, but how does he convince people they are Arthurís? Thatís
where Adelia, his Mistress of the Art of Death, comes in...
Thatís also just the beginning of the rich, multi-threaded story packed in here. Adelia has
problems of her own before she even reaches Glastonbury (where the situation is far from simple),
with plenty of new ones waiting for her there. The author does a lovely job of giving the reader
a "you are there" feel for her long ago settings, situations and people, while telling a story
that rarely pauses for breath. There are several different puzzles to be solved, most of which
stayed puzzles until the satisfying ending.† All of which is built on a nicely blended mixture
of fiction and fact. There was in fact a 12th C fire which destroyed Glastonbury Abbey, with
bones believed to be Arthurís discovered during the subsequent restoration.