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, companion and baby's nursemain Gyltha, the Saracan Mansur, who poses as the doctor allowing Adelia to treat patients without being named a witch, and her new dog Ward.
King Henry's mistress, Rosemund, has been poisoned and his wife, Queen Eleanor is being accused. Adelia, recruited by Rowley, must prove Eleanor's innocence before the country is brought to civil war.
In some ways, this seemed a much bigger story than Franklin's first book (Mistress of the Art of Death) because of the themes.
Franklin presents a very real, unromanticized look at the time and the people in it, including Thomas Beckett and Queen Eleanor. She clearly illustrates how difficult it was to be a woman during the time as well as what life was like during civil war for those not of the ruling class.
Her descriptions are extremely visual and sometimes quite unpleasant but very effective. Although I had read the first book, I appreciated the way Franklin provided a recapitulation of the plot and the character's backgrounds sufficient to bring readers up to current to this book. It's not all politics and description.
The plot is fascinating with good intrigue and suspense with bits of romance and humor. Yes, there are anachronisms, but they are small and I've willing to forgive them when viewed against the strengths of the story. In all, it was a fascinating book and a thoroughly good read.