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The Bones of Avalon [Paperback]

Phil Rickman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2010
It is 1560, and Elizabeth Tudor has been on the throne for a year. Dr John Dee, at 32 already acclaimed throughout Europe, is her astrologer and consultant in the hidden arts...a controversial appointment in these days of superstition and religious strife. Now the mild, bookish Dee has been sent to Glastonbury to find the missing bones of King Arthur, whose legacy was always so important to the Tudor line. With him - hardly the safest companion - is his friend and former student, Robert Dudley, a risk-taker, a wild card...and possibly the Queen's secret lover. The famously mystical town is still mourning the gruesome execution of its Abbot, Richard Whiting. But why was the Abbot really killed? What is the secret held by the monks since the Abbey was founded by Joseph of Arimathea, uncle of Christ and guardian of the Holy Grail? The mission takes Dee to the tangled roots of English magic, into unexpected violence, necromantic darkness, the breathless stirring of first love...and the cold heart of a complex plot against Elizabeth.

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The Bones of Avalon + The Heresy of Dr Dee + The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Corvus (1 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848872720
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848872721
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Phil Rickman is the author of the internationally-acclaimed novels featuring Merrily Watkins, rural diocesan exorcist, and a new series about the Elizabethan astrologer John Dee. His early horror novels were praised by Stephen King but - determined to avoid any hint of fantasy - he now concentrates on realistic crime with a subtle element of the paranormal. Phil is fascinated by ancient places, loves rock and folk music and, with guitarist and composer Allan Watson, writes songs for the CDs linked to his novels.

Product Description


"* 'Rickman is an excellent writer, terrific on atmosphere' - The Times * 'We don't praise our home-grown thriller writers enough, it's high time we praised Phil Rickman' - Daily Mail" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Phil Rickman lives on the Welsh border where he writes and presents the book programme Phil the Shelf on BBC Radio Wales. He is the author of ten Merrily Watkins Mysteries.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had never heard of Phil Rickman before I stumbled, quite accidentally, upon this book. As a writer and historian myself, I am a harsh critic and have grown weary of predictable, run of the mill historical novels. Most are unconvincing both in characterisation and plot and when I picked up The Bones of Avalon I did not expect it to be any different. But I was wrong; Phil had me at the first line.

The Bones of Avalon is set in the 1560's; a time of religious uncertainty, Popish plot and counterplot. The people walk in fear, trusting no-one in an England still reeling from the heretical burnings and hangings of Mary Tudor's Catholic reign. Now, she is dead and another Tudor takes the throne. Another queen, the bastard daughter of Anne Boleyn - Elizabeth.
Haunted by her mother's death, uncertain if she will succeed or fail, the young Elizabeth allows herself to trust few men. Two of whom are Robert Dudley - mistrusted by the council, a wild card adventurer and rumoured to be the queen's lover; and her consultant and astrologer, Dr Dee, a mild mannered scholar and dreamer.
They are sent to Glastonbury to discover the missing bones of King Arthur, lost during the dissolution in Henry VIII's reign, so that Elizabeth might fulfil a prophecy. Without its abbey Glastonbury is desolate, the town decaying and as soon as Dudley and Dr Dee set foot there, mystery and superstition unfolds.
By the time I reached the end of the first chapter I knew I was in good hands. Mr Rickman's first person narrative is authentic enough to make me forget I was actually reading. The fumbling investigative powers of Dr Dee endears him to the reader and the primitive, wary people of Glastonbury instil the plot with ambiguity.
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102 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finale is horrifyingly tense 25 April 2010
It was only a matter of time before Phil Rickman got his teeth into Glastonbury. The mystical Isle of Avalon was an obvious target for Britain's master of creepy tales and he has once again written a superlative book.
This 16th century tale is very different from his `Merrily Watkin' series of great renown, though his gift of walking the tight-rope between sober fact and the supernatural is similarly employed. I know Phil had reservations about moving from contemporary fiction to the historical, but he has pulled it off in great style.
A reviewer has the constant problem of not being able to divulge too much of the plot and especially the dénouement, which inhibits a rational description of the story, but basically it is a first-person account by Dr John Dee, the mystical, scientific astronomer-astrologist of the Virgin Queen, as she was incorrectly described. Much of the story is based on fact - or at least, the factual accounts of characters, places and times are used to weave a complex story worthy of John le Carre's espionage books, with a wealth of obscure events being drawn together, when all is explained. In 1560, the young Elizabeth sends Dee to Glastonbury to seek the bones of King Arthur, which were turfed out of the marble tomb in the Abbey at the Dissolution twenty years earlier. She has been haunted by dreams of her mother Anne Boleyn, beheaded by her father and a cryptic message suggests that by kissing the bones, this malign spirit might be exorcised.
In Glastonbury, Dee falls in love with the woman doctor who treats his companion Robert Dudley, the queen's lover, but finds that the town has become a tortured place, under the thumb of a former monk from the abbey, who has turned Protestant and become a harsh Justice of the Peace.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History with guts 8 Oct 2010
By JoolsR
Being a big fan of Phil's previous, didn't know what this foray into history would be like, as he's normally routed very much in the present.
Ignore the dialogue structure in the first few pages, as he renders it more naturalistically a chapter in. The thing with John Dee (and unsure if this is what Phil was after) but he paints him as a reluctant celeb of his day. At the whim of politics and royal moods, John becomes embroiled in a plan to find the bones of Arthur (as in Arturian legend), and place them in Elizabeth 1st care, as part of Arthur's heritage in the royal line of England (something to do with ER1's mother being a witch, and Bess being haunted by her - very Hamlet like?).
There's a grissly murder, accusations of witchcraft, some LSD-druggy sex (well it is set in Glastonbury!)and religious conspiracy. Typical Tudor shenanigans. But John Dee comes across as a victim of the restrictive beliefs of his time, and a naive young man, rather than the shady sorcerer he is painted as in history.
Enjoyed it, and would like to see how John's own history could pan out. But it's a bit like watching 'Titanic' - on the whole you know how it all ends...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's meat on these Bones ... 29 Jun 2010
As a longtime reader of Phil Rickman who was hungry for my annual fix of Merrily Watkins, I must say I approached this offering of historical fiction with some hesitation. I've never quite acquired a taste for the genre, but I have to confess that this was one tasty read, a perfect blend of historical and crime fiction.

As other readers have commented, Rickman serves up a story carved from an wonderful slice of Elizabethan life. He certainly did his research, which must have been exhaustive. As with his other books, it's the characters who once again bring the tale to life. The perspective is a departure from his other books in that the main character, John Dee, is also the narrator, which allows a more immediate intimacy for the reader, or for this reader at least. I also enjoyed seeing the other characters -- both historical and fictional -- through Dee's eyes, my favorite being the one-eyed hag, Joan Tyrre, who often sees what others can't. There's also a surprise -- but crucial -- cameo by a famous Frenchman!

Rickman fans will not be disappointed in this book. The only disappointment as far as Rickman is concerned is that he can't magically clone himself and simultaneously turn out sequels to this latest book, the Merrily Watkins series, the Will Kingdom books and Thom Madley's Marco series.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars You feel like you are back in Elizabethen England!
Its a great story if a little slow sometimes, but the characters are very real and the historical detail is great.
Published 1 hour ago by Sarah j
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
This is the first Phil Rickman book I have read. It was a bit hard going in places and seemed a bit disjointed, and sometimes a bit confusing, but overall I enjoyed the book and... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Lois kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and entertaining
Intrigue and skulduggery in the fertile cloak and dagger world of Elizabethan England, vividly brought to life in Rickman's gripping tale featuring Robert Dudley, lover and... Read more
Published 28 days ago by
1.0 out of 5 stars Slow
I was tempted on a number of occasions to give up. Story line was lacking in credibility. Not for me
Published 1 month ago by David A Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars well written historical novel
An interesting story which also brings history to life, without too many unessential facts. I enjoyed reading it very much.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. S. A. Stratford
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure
I normally love historical novels but I'm really not getting into this. Maybe its just slow in starting - I will report back when I finish - might be a long job!
Published 1 month ago by Moira Hanson
3.0 out of 5 stars hard to follow
Found the style of writing hard to follow, the main character seemed to bumble along not finishing what he was saying. Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. Bayliss
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
The plot, setting and characters were really intriguing and an alternative view of Robert Dudley was most interesting. Read more
Published 2 months ago by elizabeth brummell
5.0 out of 5 stars I have just finished this book and Ididn't want to put it down
Ihave read almost everything Phil has written and this book is one of the best.It draws you in right from the start. Read more
Published 2 months ago by ruth elaine fry
1.0 out of 5 stars Dr Dee has been struck off.
I read this book after searching Amazon books for an 'occult horror/thriller'. I read both the book blurb and the reviews singing it's praises. Read more
Published 3 months ago by W. Nicholls
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