Norman England has little to celebrate in the new year of 1140. The country is immersed in a bitter civil war from which no one is immune, including Hugh de Leon, heir to an earldom. His Uncle Guy has arranged his marriage to the spoiled daughter of the newly named Earl of Lincoln. It is a merger that will combine two of the land's largest fortunes -- and give the de Leons unparalleled power. Hugh's heart, however, belongs to the Lady Cristen, and he will do everything he can -- including eloping -- to make her his own.
His plan is simple enough-until the new Earl of Lincoln is murdered, and a friend of Hugh's is accused of the crime. Though he has little time in which to foil his uncle's arrangement, Hugh cannot see an innocent man wrongly hanged. To save his friend and marry the woman he loves, Hugh must work fast to track down a deadly -- and wily -- serpent. But when he grabs it by the tail, can he avoid its poisonous bite?
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Joan Wolf appeared on the medieval mystery scene with No Dark Place, which introduced readers to Hugh de Leon, a young 12th-century Norman accustomed to living by his wits, who unexpectedly discovers that he is heir to the powerful Earl of Wiltshire--and must grapple with the complications that accompany a lightning-fast rise in station. Since Hugh, however, is (of course) a natural paragon of grace, strength, and beauty, readers shouldn't worry about his ability to adapt. What they should worry about is the sad tendency for his nearest and dearest to get themselves into scrapes that only Hugh can get them out of.
In The Poisoned Serpent, Bernard Radvers, loyal friend to Hugh's late foster father, stands accused of murdering Gilbert de Beauté, Earl of Lincoln and pompous fool. Hugh feels the blow all the more sharply because of the motive attributed to Radvers: to help Hugh--declared by his uncle as betrothed to Gilbert's lovely and self-centered daughter--succeed to the earlship. Hugh's investigation leads him into the tangle of treacherous alliances that define English society during a civil war that pitches knight against knight, where loyalty can be bought with a title, and silence with a knife. He must face a phantasm from his past as well: the charismatic Richard Canville, son of the Sheriff of Lincoln. Hugh knows that Richard's handsome face hides a cold heart; does it also hide a murderous intent?
Wolf's characters are generally well-sketched; Cristen Haslin, whom Hugh loves deeply, is particularly appealing. Strong-willed and pragmatic, she is determined to help Hugh discover the identity of the murderer. The atmosphere of the novel, however, carries none of the persuasive, seemingly effortless detail popularized by Ellis Peters, whose Brother Cadfael mysteries have both charmed and educated readers for years. Wolf is too intent in her focus on the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, challenger to the throne; the fight is on every mind and on every tongue--but Wolf never moves beyond the most simplistic description and analysis of the rivalry. That said, the relationship between Hugh and Cristen should overwhelm even the weakest of political plots; it is a partnership that augurs well for future novels in the series. --Kelly FlynnAbout the Author:
Joan Wolf lives in Milford, Connecticut, with her husband and two children. In her spare time she rides her horse, walks her dog, and roots fanatically for the New York Yankees and UConn Huskies.
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Book Description Avon, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0061097462
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Book Description Avon, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0061097462
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