Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Joys of My Life by Alys Clare

From the back of the book I read: "Adroitly weaving medieval history into a rousing and mystical tale", and I was interested.  Elsewhere on the cover it mentioned Chartres, the Ile d'Oléron and Richard the Lionheart and that finished the process of capturing my imagination.

This was yet another cover with a black background - there seem so many at the moment.  A robed figure, maybe a monk, a labyrinth, maybe the one at Chartres.

It became obvious after a while that the book was one of a series with a number of references to things that had happened to the characters in the past.  It wasn't a major problem because the book stands relatively well on its own but I'm not sure how you'd feel going back to read earlier books.  In fact it is the twelfth and final book in the Hawkenlye Mystery series and it finishes with a fair amount of tidying up of loose ends.

The story started at the siege of Châlus Castle, not far from Limoges, where Richard the Lionheart was fatally wounded.  From there we are taken to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine who wants a chapel built in honour of her son, Richard, we are introduced to the main characters, and the mystery unfolds.  In all honesty there wasn't much of a mystery so you could hardly describe the book as full of suspense.  The magical or mystical elements were over-played for my taste.

Nor did the characters really come to life for me.  They all seemed too good to be true - or evil.  Even the hero, Josse d'Aquin, didn't feel like a real person, and I the love of his life, Joanna, left me with no impression of her character at all.  I found Helewise the abbess more interesting because through her we saw how the Christian church was changing at that time and how the crusades against Catharism were starting.

It was fun, though, to trace the journeys made by the characters through France, and to visualise the cathedral being built at Chartres. It was a light, easy, and undemanding read.

The Joys of My Life is available at or at

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