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The Serpent's Tale

(Mistress of the Art of Death #2)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  11,956 ratings  ·  1,125 reviews
Ariana Franklin combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the drama of historical fiction in the enthralling second novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, featuring medieval heroine Adelia Aguilar.

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison - and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published January 31st 2008 by Putnam Adult (first published 2008)
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Start your review of The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death, #2)
Really good reading, this historical series! You smell and you feel the old ages through the pages...the dirt, the snow, the food, the fear.... 4.5 stars for me. I need to read the sequel soon. Highly recommended for those who like strong historical fiction. Sorry to read on Goodreads that Ariana Franklin is no longer among us....She was a great writer.

Set in the dark 12th century England, it's the story featuring Henry II, the Plantagenet king and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and Adelia Aquil
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is an okay historial murder-myster-whodunit. The main problem is with the main character; I never liked her. She also has problems with what she believes; in one instant, she's giving a poor girl a cross necklace and in the other, she's saying things like she doesn't want anything to do with a God who allows [insert whatever it is she's railing against at the moment], but then later prays for God's protection. Confusing. The author also repeats herself ad nauseum. Yes, we know what the main ...more
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nearly five stars. I know it's not literature but these stars are for how much I personally enjoyed this book. Again I've left this day and age and spent some time in the 12th century as a safe spectator to the adventures of Adelia. Some remarks of the bishop made me laugh. Nice tongue in cheek humor. ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
More than just a good read. This series about a 12th century mistress of death solving murdermysteries is ver addictive. I know very little about this period and enjoy learning about 12th century England and Henry II. I love the main character Adelia Aguilar. She struggles, being a doctor and a woman, which is a contradictory in England in that time. She also struggles with her beliefs: sometimes an atheïst, sometimes not.

This is part 2 in the series in which Adelia has to find out who poisoned
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

This mystery novel is the second outing for Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, in (reluctant) service to His Majesty Henry II Plantagenet, and based in and around Oxford.

It's a fun book to read, and Adelia is fun to spend time with. She's a character with a complete lack of history, as she's a foundling, and she's invented herself as a fish out of water as a result. She's simply not anyone's but her own, unlike most people.

Her new baby daughte
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Who knew one could find murder mysteries placed in twelfth century England? A very palatable way to learn history.
THE DEATH MAZE (aka The Serpent’s Tale) (Hist. Mys-Adelia Aguilar-England-1172) – VG+
Franklin, Ariana – 2nd in series
Bantam Press, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9780593056509

First Sentence: The two men’s voices carried down the tunnels with a reverberation that made them indistinguishable but, even so, gave the impression of a business meeting.

King Henry II refused to let Adelia Aguilar return to her home at the School of Medicine in Sicily so she is living in the fens with her baby daughter Allie,
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an enjoyable romp. It did get a bit icky at times with the description of a decomposing corpse! Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the various goings on & the relationship between Adelia & her lover, Rowley (pronounced roll-y by the narrator which gave me a bit of a giggle!) who is now a Bishop & sworn to celibacy..... Also, there was quite a bit of "tongue in cheek" humor much to my delight. ...more
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was, by the barest whisper, sufficiently curious about the heroine from "Mistress of the Art of Death" to get a copy of this from the local library. It's a fast read - I churned through it in about a day - but man. I was disappointed by its predecessor, and this one's not all that great either. Franklin's writing is more than a little ham-fisted at times, and it gets repetitive. Again, I wasn't too surprised when the big reveal came along at the end.

Also, I'm coincidentally in the middle of Al
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
Adelia, Mansuer, Gylthia - I enjoyed reading about them again! I am happy I read another book in this series. Normally I am on Eleanor of Aquitaine's side, but I have to admit Henry II has his good side also. The writing is well done, the characters keep in their century, and I am looking forward to reading the next book! ...more
Bookish Ally
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having finished the second book in the series, I can say I’m really loving this foray into a mystery set during the reign of Henry II, our tour guide being Ariana Franklin. The protagonist is an antisocial (yet people loving) agnostic foreigner who is GAHHHHH educated. Sometimes I really dislike her sullenness and stubbornness, but she really is quite a detective, and we have multiple crimes and mysteries to unravel.

I love the characters Franklin has created, this historical murder mystery is a
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Certain points and situations were 5 star in this Mistress of the Arts #2. The entire couple of chapters getting into the Tower, through the Maze, were 5 star, for instance. Detail and nuance and Adelia's persuasions and methods- PERFECT. It's a micro view of her part in England, IMHO.

Liking the entire, I just didn't connect or enjoy this particular episode as much as I did the first. But it's well placed and yet the language intricate requiring constant attention to meanings. Often archaic to t
Jan 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
The Serpent’s Tale by Arianna Franklin is the second book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series set in Medieval England during the reign of King Henry I (Plantagenet). I am not providing details of the first book, Mistress of the Art of Death, or a summary of The Serpent’s Tale.

In The Serpent’s Tale the author conveys more a sense of delight in telling a tale of murder than in Mistress of the Art of Death, which I felt more a sense of dread and doom throughout, plus the child murders bein
L.E. Fidler
two things happened in this installment that made me incredibly happy:
1. ariana franklin only felt compelled to mention once or twice the unhappy tragedy of thomas becket and henry's "side comment" to his knights about getting rid of the bugger.
2. adelia's full name only gets mentioned twice

two of my biggest gripes about the first book in the series were the previously mentioned items that franklin threw in the reader's face any time there was a chance to do so. here, she seems to have learned
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I finally caught up with this series, and totally enjoyed the book as much as the first. There is immaculate research about the time of Henry II here, and as a fan of the era I just LOVED being immersed in a believable way in the world.

Our heroine is sent to investigate the mysterious death of the king's mistress, there's nuns and bloated corpses and poisonous mushrooms and assassins. This book has it all, and some great personal conflict/growth too. I love her maid Gwylfa (however you spell it)
Feb 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Put Temperance Brennan from "Bones" in the Plantagenet era, make her a less sympathetic and more inconsistent character, and add a heaping helping of heavy-handed WOMEN HAD IT TERRIBLY BAD BACK THEN AND THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES, AND IF I (THE AUTHOR IN THE GUISE OF THE MAIN CHARACTER) WERE IN CHARGE THINGS WOULD BE BETTER, and you have this book. I wanted to find out whodunit, then I did. The last 40 pages then became unnecessary. I'm glad I picked this up for only ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Mysteries
I dithered about the rating of this one. In some ways I did enjoy this even more than the first book in the series, Mistress of the Art of Death. I loved the portraits of Henry II of England, his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and his mistress the "Fair" Rosamund. In all those cases they are takes unlike what I'd read of them and made me want to read more about the real history--and I even poked around a little online. That's what good historical fiction does--not only draw you into another world, b ...more
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love everything Ariana Franklin / Diana Norman writes. Everything. She’s so talented and has a knack for bringing riveting historical fiction come alive.
Simply put, Franklin’s books are for me the definition of a captivating read. I’m especially very fond of the characters I meet on the page; they are colorful, quirky, well-fleshed and very human.
The Middle-ages are such a dark time, no doubt about it. Here, notwithstanding that the author gives us glimpses of historical reality and we get a
This was a rather crowded book. A lot of characters, some of whom did not seem to add to the story but did add to the volume. To be honest, I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first, maybe a little paring down with more focus on the interesting characters (including Gyltha and Mansur) and the relationship between Rowley and Adelia (which could do with some actual relating) would have appealed more to me as I got a little fed up with Adelia (she is somewhat unrelenting and dreary at times)and ...more
This is the second in Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of Death series, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first in the series. I’m not exactly sure what was missing from this one, although it felt as though Adelia, the forerunner to today’s forensic pathologists, did less of the examination of bodies in this than in the first and there was more traipsing back and forth being made to follow this person and that. It was still a good read, that had me turning the pages to fin ...more
Jul 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Somewhat slower paced than the first because much of it takes place in a convent. Murders compete with the mores of the cloister. If you are interested in the historical period of Henry II's England this is no problem. Otherwise, you had better not take it on summer holiday.

An interesting sidelight is the plot's investment in the status and tribulations of being a woman of any class at this period of time.
This series is working its way to becoming one of my favourites. In this one, Adelia is required to help determine the death and killer of King Henry II's fair Rosamund. I hesitate to call this historical fiction because it takes great liberties with the history. Shall we call it "loosely historical"? The author does take time to point out where she strays from what is known of the period. But the value in this book is the craftsmanship of storytelling that Ariana Franklin possessed. ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not quite as humorous as the first one but I did enjoy the historical trip. It is always good when books make you Google people and doing that I learned a bit more about British royal history.
Carolyn F.

You can tell the age of Adelia because she pushes Rowley away telling him not to contact her and then in this book she's mad because he listened. Very good mystery. I was a little surprised by who the assassin turned out to be. I thought he might be a suspect for one of the murders but I didn't think he'd be the assassin. The ending was a little dissatisfying. I'm wanting the details - will Henry pay her like he said, will she go home, what is Rowley going to do.

I've recommended the ne
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent historical fiction!! A mystery or two solved in Henry II & Eleanor’s world by an incredibly well educated woman!! Time & place are well described. The plot is well developed!
Truly recommend this series to readers of medieval England, strong women protagonists and well done mysteries!!
So very glad to learn that there is another one to look forward to!!
In Mistress of the Art of Death, author Ariana Franklin introduced Adelia Aguilar, a 12th century physician with a speciality in what we now call forensic science. Franklin's obviously thorough research and excellent writing skills were put to good use in the creation of Adelia, her friends, her world, and the "case" she is called upon to resolve.

In The Serpent's Tale, those research and writing skills are still evident, but the people and places they are meant to describe are thin shadows of th
Jamie Collins
I enjoyed much of this book. The writing is quite good, particularly the dialogue. As with the first book, the author does a great job with the historical setting, depicting life during a harsh medieval English winter. I continue to enjoy the main characters. (The recap of the first book seemed unnecessarily detailed, but perhaps that's just because I read it not long ago.)

Unfortunately, the mystery centers around the legend that Eleanor of Aquitaine poisoned her husband's famous mistress, Rosam
Mz. H
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I believe that I enjoyed this book more than the last, perhaps because the characters were already established and so there was less background and more action. Even when they were locked away and snowed in at the abbey, it continued to be entertaining. While these books certainly would not qualify and high literature, they are fun examinations of history and they are, most definitely, historical fiction, which the author readily admits too.

I know some other reviewers of the book scoff at the ap
Alondra Miller
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
4 Stars

I am loving this series. Here we have Adelia on the case again at Henry's 'request'; to investigate the poisoning of one of his mistresses.

Adelia does what she does best; questions, investigates and theorizes. However, when Allies life is threatened, Adelia almost abandons the investigation altogether..... But, she just won't let it rest, and she knows Henry's demands will be enforced, one way or another. So, with bodies piling up and the possibility of not one but two crimes to solve, A
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't fact I'm sure it was an accurate depiction of what things were like back then. But there were long stretches that were relatively uneventful bordering on boring. Also, the plot didn't seem very cohesive to me, and some of the main events were kind of glossed over so I often had to go reread passages to figure out what was going on or what had happened. Very little emotion evoked in this one. I didn't feel the fear, the disgust, the sadness, or the despair that should have ...more
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Ariana Franklin was the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman had written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lived in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

The Death Maze (UK) is published as The Serpent's Tale in the US.
Relics of the Dead (UK) is published as Grave Goods in the US.
The Assassin'

Other books in the series

Mistress of the Art of Death (5 books)
  • Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, #1)
  • Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death, #3)
  • A Murderous Procession (Mistress of the Art of Death, #4)
  • Death and the Maiden (Mistress of the Art of Death #5)

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