Lauren Fidler's Reviews > Mistress of the Art of Death

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
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this book has been sitting on my bookshelves for awhile now (sorry, jillian!!!). i started it, got about two chapters in, and then life interrupted.

many reviews seem to describe this novel as a cross between "the canterbury tales" and "CSI" - which i see - but more specifically, while it certainly pays homage to "the general prologue" and "the prioress's tale," it also evokes "the silence of the lambs" (or "red dragon"), "ivanhoe", "jane eyre", and "robin hood, prince of thieves." with maybe just a little "fiddler on the roof" thrown in for good measure.

all that said, i don't know if i would have loved this book as much had i not a deep appreciation/fondness for chaucer's poem. half the fun in reading this novel came from identifying clear references to "the canterbury tales" (questionably-moraled knights, overweight clergy members with penchants for hunting, sex, and gluttony, characters named hubert, veronicas, fake relics, condemnation of doctors who focus on astronomy, etc.). the prioress's tale is one of my favorites (obviously, i hope, not for its content - as she tells the story of a young boy murdered by jews); it's hypocritically ignorant content baffles me, and it is that latent hypocrisy that franklin explores and manipulates most rigorously in the novel.

sure, there are flatter notes: the child-killing fiend is fairly obvious in all its incarnations (in formulaic mysteries, whenever a character seems entirely above suspicion, if they don't show up dead at some point, they're usually the killer). there were really only 2 or 3 potential suspects to pick from, and, by process of elimination (one choice would have been perceived as a betrayal on the part of the reader), the true villain should come as no real surprise.

i also wasn't completely sold on adelia. i liked her, but her attempts to deny her humanity (not referring to the murdered children by name, suppressing her feelings for the "love interest" through suspicions and childish attacks to his physical appearance) were a little obnoxious. it's all very jane and rochester, and let's face it, jane eyre isn't that likeable either.

when she starts looking for her knight in shining armor to save her at various points toward the end, well, my respect-o-meter fell quite a bit.

still, i couldn't put the book down this weekend.and i've already put the sequels on hold at the library. franklin gives us a deliciously addictive interpretation of the middle ages; i look forward to the next installment.

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Jillian i own this if you want to borrow it!!

Lauren Fidler i would!!!

Jillian lovely. i shall put it in my bag immediately.

Jess Really? Cause the more I read, the more I loathed the "heroine". I got about forty pages into the sequel before I threw it across the room in disgust.

Lauren Fidler every time she referred to herself using her full name i internally cringed. she wasn't incredibly likeable (see my jane eyre comment) but i liked that she was a more objective source through which to view the mystery.

Jess I thought she was just weak and loathsome. But then, I'm cranky.

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