It is with much sadness I embarked on the fourth instalment of Ariana Franklin’s series: THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER. This book marks the eighth year of Adelia being in England, serving Henry II as his mistress of the dead. I have enjoyed three books without fail and was mesmerised by her writing styles, characters developments, storyline. To me, Ariana’s decision in creating a story arc for each of her characters is less cruel than Ken Follett, which is an interesting switch of reading material.
THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER is a direct continuation of RELICS OF THE DEAD. Adelia left unfinished business with a character called Scarry who debuted in the previous book. Scarry holds a grudge because Adelia accidentally (or not…) killed his lover, the Wolf, with Excalibur. We will be travelling far and wide across the European continent in this book—I felt tired reading it. It was a complicated story, especially with me trying to fit in the title of the book to the topic. Nevertheless, I managed to finish the book feeling satisfied.
Visitors and readers to this site might have noticed that I shifted from writing about arts and crafts into writing book reviews. I am planning to do this as a regular thing every time I finish a book merely under the reasoning that I require practice with my writings. It seems like light years ago that I have the responsibility to write reports and/or articles in my work. Now I feel losing my previous work engagement should not mean that I stop writing.
While I quite enjoy this shift in writing styles, I somehow still embed my old-style of writing reports and/or articles. There are hints of them here and there though sometimes perhaps invisible. By no means at all, I am writing to appeal to a particular demographic of readers. I merely write based on what I gathered, what I know, and what I learned from each book I read. And yes, I am a non-PC person, so please don’t bother me about being not as woke as other people.
In THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER we are met with Adelia and her usual entourage: Mansur and Gyltha (who are now obviously an item), darling Allie, Emma of Wolvercote and her new husband, Rowley, and one other character who is making a comeback after being off the plot since THE DEATH MAZE: Ulf, Gyltha’s grandson. Oh, and Ward the Smelly Dog. The English king, Henry II Plantagenet and Queen Eleanor are still part of the storyline. Also, we have additional real historical people joining in the cast: Princess Joanna, Henry the Young King, and Richard I, the future king of England. Rhys, the Welsh troubadour is now also part of the band since his debut in the previous book.
To me, the cast of characters in THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER is far more diverse, possibly due to the nature that we are travelling throughout Europe, from Cambridge to Sicily. I found interesting guest characters such as the Irishman O’Donnell who clearly fell in love with Adelia since the beginning, the Scotsman Rankin, the Cathars residing in the Pyrenees. Oh, it’s so crowded with new people and new characters—which probably can be expanded in other books.
THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER revolves around the journey of Princess Joanna as she goes to marry William of Sicily cause Daddy needs allies. I imagined that Adelia would be thrilled to be given the chance to accompany the princess to her hometown and bring Allie to her grandparents. Henry II, though, had another idea. He made it clear that Allie is to be left behind in England as a ransom for Adelia to come back and that Allie will be taken care of by Queen Eleanor. I can see why that becomes a problem for Adelia.
Let me put it this way: London to Palermo in 2020 requires at least four to six hours of flight and £22 with Ryanair. You can fly in the morning and fly back in the night—even your daughter wouldn’t even notice you leave. Adelia must leave behind Allie for months cause then, of course, Adelia promised Joanna that she would stay until the wedding day.
Henry II had also tasked Adelia to deliver Excalibur to William of Sicily—unnoticed by the travelling bunch. The sword, which was intended to be presented as a wedding gift, must only be revealed when they’re in front of William of Sicily. Wait, was it as a dowry or as a wedding gift—I forgot… Anyway, but this is the most important thing: NO ONE COULD KNOW that they are carrying the mighty Excalibur.
Adelia gave in to Henry II’s proposal and left with the bunch of people accompanying Joanna. Their journey started in Southampton to be met with Henry the Young King in Caen. The Young King then deserted the bunch cause he was distracted with tournaments in Falaise and Rouen. He did not stay to see his sister depart for Aquitaine much to everyone’s dismay.
They then stopped in various monasteries and inns during this journey and problems started to emerge when Adelia’s horse caught some form of illness and must be put down. There had been gossips and rumours saying that Adelia is a witch who is travelling with an Arab man (referring to Mansur)—an evidence of inhospitable gestures towards those who are not from the same crowd. But Adelia had her order directly from the King and she tried as much to ignore the gossips and rumours in her surrounding.
There were two other incidents during the trip and of course that caused gossips to heightened. People speculated that Adelia cursed the victims as they had thought she cursed the horse as well. Do you know what’s funny? I still find such behaviour in today’s people—by that I mean people living in the year of 2020. How humans have not changed—only the language now is different. It is called being racist now and you can expect someone in the crowd to yell at your face and put the encounter on YouTube or frikkin’ TikTok.
THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER was the hardest book of all for me to pinpoint the real identity of Scarry. That was just his nickname and nobody knows who he actually is. So I employed my usual method: excruciatingly reading and noting each new character, find the nicest or most handsome or full of bull-est person and set my suspicions on them. I did have a handwritten list of the suspects—this is how far involved I am in Ariana Franklin’s series. But throughout the unravelling storyline, I was still unsure about my candidates of the culprit. I cannot 100% say that one character is Scarry. All I know this person is super vile and can hide amongst the entourage accompanying Princess Joanna in the journey towards Sicily.
As I said, the travelling bit is very tiresome. Even only reading it. I kept opening maps and calculating routes and looking at landmarks mentioned just to get the feel on where they are at which point in the story. In the 21st century, we have planes faster than anything to get Joanna from Southampton to Palermo—minus the COVID situation and restrictions. Still, we have options. If I had to imagine me having to travel back in those days, ugh, that would be a problem. Days of horse riding, stopping at inns, possible encounters with outlaws and robbers, risks of exposure to the elements—and oh, a little sightseeing.
The fun bit of this book: I didn’t expect that they will encounter the Cathars during this journey mainly because I didn’t think that the route must have passed Cathar regions in the south of France. This Cathar theme reminded me of a book that I put off a while ago: Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth—which I shall continue to read later.
The ending of this book made me worrisome of Rowley’s fate in the next book, assuming that he will appear in the next book resuming his duty as the Bishop of St Albans. But even better, it’d be great if he could finally reveal to the public that he is Allie’s father. Nevertheless, I have to be patient until October 20, 2020—which is when the final book will come out. I will head straight to Kindle and buy, buy, buy!
Featured image credit: jcomp – www.freepik.com