Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Boy's Tale by Margaret Frazer

I was serious when I mentioned in my review of The Bishop’s Tale that I couldn’t wait to read the next Margaret Frazer novel. So I picked up The Boy’s Tale devoured it, for a second time. It was as exciting as the first time I read it.

Dame Frevisse is a captivating sleuth, humble and unassuming, yet intelligent and sharp witted. She can lock horns with the best of them: bishops, duchesses and know-it-all crowners.

In The Bishop’s Tale, Frazer introduced us to medieval medical literature as Frevisse searched for poisons. In The Boy’s Tale, she portrays the intrigues and scandals of Henry VI’s court. The young king’s mother has remarried in secret, without the approval of the regents in charge of Henry. More than that, she has had children by her new husband.

The king’s half-brothers are in jeopardy by those who would control them and, through them, the king. For their safety, the Queen Mother sends them off on a journey to Wales as fast as they can travel. The first part of the book is told from the young boys’ perspective, the excitement of traveling to far away lands; the confusion and frustration of riding for days while avoiding towns and well-traveled roads; and the horror of losing favorite servants in an ambush. Their governess, a young maidservant and the boys barely manage to reach the safety of St. Frideswide Priory.

Dame Frevisse recognizes the governess, Lady Maryon, from an experience several years before. Although she distrusts Maryon, she understands the boys need sanctuary.

Especially after attempts on the boys’ lives are made outside the cloister. Fully aware of the situation, Frevisse wonders what will happen to the priory if it is learned the boys are there. She’s managed to keep their identity a secret to everyone except Domina Edith, the aging, dying prioress.

There was never a shortage of political intrigue in any court of the English kings and queens, and from what I understand Henry VI was no exception. Frazer weaves a terrific story around the controversy and the danger to the king’s half-brothers as people risk their lives to deliver the boys to Wales where they will be safe with their father’s family. The interesting thing about the situation is that the boys have no claim to the English throne. Through their father, however, they have a strong claim to the French throne.

I enjoy the way Frazer can intertwine fifteenth century politics with the culture of the period in The Boy’s Tale. It brings the series to a whole new level.

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