Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Faithful Dead by Alys Clare
Alys Clare’s fifth Hawkenlye mystery with Josse d’Acquin and Abbess Helewise, The Faithful Dead, takes a walk on the strange side. Clare has introduced some interesting characters in the forest people that inhabit the woods around Hawkenlye Abbey and they give a bizarre element to the stories. But in this novel, Clare mixes a little bit of the supernatural with a touch of magic.
Much of the book takes place in the past (prior to the events in the novel) and focuses on Josse’s father Geoffroi and his adventures in the Crusades in the Holy Land. After saving the young son of a powerful Muslim, Geoffroi is given the Eye of Jerusalem, a large sapphire set in gold that has arcane powers. Geoffroi puts the jewel to the test and it surpasses his expectations.
He finally returns home with a friend known as the Lombard, but keeps the jewel hidden. He uses its power once to save the brother of his beloved doesn’t disclose its presence to anyone. After the Lombard has returned to his home, Geoffroi realizes the jewel is missing.
Years later, Josse receives a visit from Prince John, who gives the knight a cryptic reason for seeking him out. The prince asks the whereabouts of a man Josse has never heard of. After the royal departs, Josse travels to Hawkenlye Abbey to enquire if the man had sought out its healing waters, as many travelers do. He learns plenty from the monks and the nuns but it’s only when his brother Yves arrives unannounced, that the clues start to come together. The reason his younger brother made his way across the Channel to seek out Josse is directly connected to a mysterious death six weeks prior near the abbey.
In addition to the strange powers of the Eye of Jerusalem, another character brings an mysterious twist to the work; a seer in the service of Prince John. He appears to have precognition among his many powers. And he’s not the only one.
Sometimes The Faithful Dead reads more like science fiction/fantasy. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just not expected in a medieval mystery. It seems to put Abbess Helewise in an awkward stage of character development. Some of the strange aspects of magic and the supernatural, she accepts but others she dismisses. It’s confusing at times. Josse seems to accept everything for what he’s told.
I enjoy Clare’s Hawkenlye series but I hope they take a step back from the edge of strange.