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16 August 2012 @ 07:57 pm
Start of a Book  
Alright, so I'm trying again at finding a good book.

I've started one called Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin, which I was more unsure of than the other one, since it involved an empowered woman in the twelfth century. Basically, it's a serial killer novel based before anyone knew what a serial killer was; small children are being killed on Holy days, and people start blaming Jews.

Henry II, who is currently in a precarious situation due to the recent murder of Thomas a Beckett, has to prove that it isn't a Jew without actually making himself seem the instigator of the investigation, and thus enrage the Papacy even more for protecting them. So he writes to Salerno for someone "versed in the causes of death," who knows Hebrew and English and is discrete.

And the doctor that they send is a woman, Adelia, which is what I was wary of. (I looked it up and fact: in Salerno in the twelfth century, women were admitted into the school of medicine. You learn something new every day, right?)

To my surprise, it's pretty good so far. One tricky feat that the author manages to pull off is displaying historical anti-semitism without either sounding anti-semitic herself or making a self-righteous fuss over the injustices against the Jewish people. And while being a period piece, it's neither pretentious or patronizing, which is an increasingly common problem in historical fiction; additionally, the author doesn't take far too many liberties with historical culture/fact. (While I don't know a whole lot about medieval Europe--it's not normally my thing--there are certain "liberties" authors tend to take that can be spotted a mile off.)

And there's no budding romance, as far as I can tell. Unless she ends up with the tax collector, Sir Rowley Picot, which I highly doubt will happen. For one, he's overweight, which is an indicator of him not being the "perfect man" that female writers tend to envision (superficial, I know, but true), and for another, as far as Adelia is concerned he's a prime suspect. And her male chaperone, for which I'm actually grateful she has, is a former castrato (former in that he doesn't sing, not that he grew his balls back) so there's no romance on that front.

Admittedly, I'm not very far in it, but from what I can tell, it's worth a read.

aaa_mazing: I love readingaaa_mazing on August 17th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC)
I tried to find it online after our talk yesterday. No success so far. Well, we still have bookstores, right?:)

Thanks for the rec, hon!
blklizard: book libraryblklizard on August 21st, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
I read the series and loved it. I could hardly put the books down as I was reading them to get real life stuff done.

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. Unfortunately she passed away in Feb 2011 after publishing 4 of the Adelia books. Not sure if we will get the fifth and final book in the series. I've seen notes here and there that she was working on the fifth book so maybe it will eventually get published although it would be hard for someone else to take over her work and finish it.

Since you are just starting the series I don't want to spoil anything for you but the books just get better and better and more involved. I learned so much about the 12th Century by reading fiction series. The writers research was so detailed.

MissTeacakes: romemissteacakes on August 21st, 2012 01:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, this book is really a stroke of luck for me; I don't normally go for empowered women in history, or for things set in the middle ages. But I've been getting a little desperate for decent literature lately, and was picking up books semi-randomly in the store to look at the titles.

I almost didn't buy it at all, actually, because I had another one that looked interesting. I bought both, which was a good thing, since the other one was a flop.

And yeah, I'm already starting to learn things. I already knew a small amount about the twelfth century, but since looking up about Salerno doctors, I've started to have more faith in her research, and it's wonderfully refreshing.