Jena Henry's Reviews > Silent Water

Silent Water by P.K.  Adams
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it was amazing

I am happy to be able to share the latest book from historical fiction writer P.K. Adams. Her two previous books, which I highly recommend, focused on the first female physician in Germany in the 1100’s. (The Greenest Branch and A Column of Burning Spices.) Her newest book, Silent Water, an historical mystery, is set in Poland, in the early 1500’s. Silent Water blends careful historical research and insight with a compelling murder mystery and a cast of real historical figures, and some creative fictional characters. (And it has a beautiful cover!)

For some historical background, I found an interesting blog post by the author. Silent Water focuses on a woman royal, Queen Bona Sforza. Ms. Adams notes that medieval and early modern queenship is a fascinating area of historical research. Many of us will be more familiar with the famous queens of the Western world, such as as Eleanor of Aquitaine (of France and later of England) Catherine de’ Medici of France, or Elizabeth I of England. These women had substantial leadership roles and freedom to act.

But, as Ms. Adams explains, a woman’s role in countries like Poland and Lithuania was very limited outside the home. Even if they were nobles or royals, their duties centered on bearing children, playing hostess at feasts and banquets, and supervising the domestic staff. They were not expected to remain at the table after a certain hour, and while there they tended to speak among themselves and not to men, especially if those men were not related to them.

With those bits of history, let’s learn more about the book Silent Water. When Bona Sforza married King Zygmunt of the Jagiellon dynasty which ruled the union of Poland and Lithuania, she left Bari, Italy and traveled with her entourage and treasure to Wawel Castle, to join the Royal court in Krakow, Poland. The narrator of this first-person story is Contessa Caterina Sanseverino, the Lady of the Queen’s Chamber. In her early twenties, and recently widowed, she was offered a place in Queen Bona’s new household, in charge of the young ladies in waiting.

The Queen and Contessa Caterina arrive in Krakow in 1518 and settle in to their new world, colder and more restrictive than their sunny Italian home. I was fascinated with the life of the royal household in the castle. As the Lady of the Queens Chamber, Caterina had her hands full monitoring the young Ladies in Waiting, with their beautiful and beguiling ways of flirting with the courtiers.

All goes well until December 25, 1519. Caterina tells us that the events of that festive winter’s night still haunt her dreams many years later. A body is found in a dark hallway in the castle. Caterina knows that this has been no ordinary death and that the killer lurks among them. And then comes the second murder. Caterina is driven to solve the murders. She is helped by Sebastian Konarksi, a junior secretary in the king’s household.

The story of the historical Queen Bona is brilliant. The author shows the many contradictions in Bona’s nature, fiery and unquiet, yet nurturing. Gifted with brilliant intelligence but held back by stubbornness and impetuosity. I was interested in the Queen’s ability to develop agricultural reforms. I have always liked how the author presents the realities of the times, with respect to the treatment of the different classes, royalty and Church, men and women, without being judgmental.

The author deftly weaves the history of the times with a dark set of murders that will intrigue readers. Contessa Caterina is an appealing character and her developing friendship with Konarksi is a good part of this story, too. This is a complex book, with many characters with unfamiliar names to many of us. But, the quality of this book shines through and makes for a special read. Perfect for history lovers who are in the mood for a gripping mystery. And there may be a future mission for Caterina to tell us about- let’s hope another book is coming.

Thanks to the author for a digital review copy. This is my honest review.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 2, 2019 – Shelved

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