This is actually the third book in a series, but I could not tell. While there are references to the main character’s past, this is no
more than any stand-alone novel would elude to, which to my mind this book truly could be. The main protagonist, Adelia, is a type of medieval forensic pathologist trained at a school in Salerno
(which was actually the world’s first medical school). Her character is strong but vulnerable and even throws up a heartfelt prayer here and there. She does not discount religion despite a few bad
experiences. She has regrets, she learns to cope with new situations, she lets herself love, and fights tooth and nail for what she believes in.
Much of the action is unexpected and gripping. There were multiple parts to the plot that, happily, I did not pick up from the back cover description. I love surprises like this, and the plots just kept twisting and turning. I did guess the Arturus plot thread right away, but the rest of the revelations were surprises.
The dialogue and settings were so strong that I really felt history come alive as I read. While at times it was hard to decipher what the less-educated characters were saying, it felt so authentic and fit right in with what I was reading (even though the author did modernize the language for us modern readers), so it really did not distract me from the overall plot development. There is so much detail to the characters as well as the social setting. From the classes (from tithings to lords and ladies), rituals about life and death, living qualities, court proceedings and laws, weaponry, medicines, etc., all this was amazingly ripe with historical fact. I loved how immersed I was in 12th century England time and place as well as the action. The only thing that threw me out of the setting was the use of the word “forensics.” It just feels too modern a term, but I cannot say when the word itself started being used. As the rest of the story was so richly authentic, I will trust Franklin’s call in including it.
Franklin adds a little bit of everything: Suspense, romance, historical facts, and humor! Franklin knows how to stir up the pot on previous historical confines yet create something sensational. Some authors tend to dehumanize historical characters by making them about as warm as a tomb wall painting. Franklin knows how to take a character and look beyond the exterior wall. She understands that throughout history, people have always joked, laughed, and cursed at their circumstances.
Many books of this time period are very hard on the church of the time. While this book does show some less than desirable qualities to the medieval times church goings, most of the characters are caring, forgiving, and understanding that people make mistakes and that God is not as harsh as some rulers would make you believe. I appreciated that the author did not grate heavily against the religious practices and beliefs. The church does have its black spots, but this book offered something fresh by highlighting more redeeming characters.
I was very impressed with this book. I will be looking for other books of this series to dive into. Such historical depth and quality of character make this a very satisfying read.
This is actually the 1st book of this series... but I read book 3 first (hence its listed first). Most of what I said upstairs relates to this review as well... but here are a few other praises for Franklin's work.
The characters and setting of this book breathe so deeply that you easily get sucked into the story. The life and times are rich. While the speech patterns can be a puzzle at times, you easily fall under each character's spell. My only complaint would be that my sense of direction got lost at multiple points. I would find myself a bit lost during a character's movements (wait... wasn't that tunnel on the other side of the chamber? Didn't her momentum carry her the other way?). I will admit, though, that many descriptives are also foreign to me, so while the overall landscape was easily visualized, specific pieces of a structure or specific objects in their daily lives were not fully realized for me. I could not picture the modern counterpart... but maybe that in itself brings to live the novel's beauty.
The book is a breath of fresh air in terms of historical mysteries. Its got forensic concepts and treats the historical figures with intelligence. They are from "simpler times," but that does not make them simple people. Despite the otherwise divergent social attitudes, these characters had relatible motivations, outlooks, and ideals. I think this is one of the few novels able to jump this chasm from historical to modern values with ease.
The author never rushes things, so her character development is gradual, enchanting, and vivid. I enjoyed the scenes with the pragmatic, calculating, and mostly unassuming King Henry. He provides the systematic breakdown of judgemental sterotypes and predjudices to bring a true killer to light. I found it a very satisfying conclusion. Franklin provides a smart, plausible, and witty ending to a world quite different from ours but with the same ultimate goals, justice, peace, and love.
Just released December 2016: "The Forgotten" volume 2 "Heir of the Heretic"
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse