Monday, January 10, 2011

The Canterbury Papers by Judith Koll Healey

The only thing I felt was a strong hand around my neck, another around my waist, and -- before I could cry out -- I smelled the thick, sweet scent of a mandrake-soaked cloth. Unforgiving hands clapped it against my face, and all went dark.

Alaïs, the king of France's sister, is abducted while on her mission for the wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former Queen of England, to retrieve hidden letters that, in the wrong hands, could bring down the English king. In exchange, the French princess was to receive long-heldand dangerous information. Now Alaïs, along with help from the very intriguing leader of the Knights Templar, must unravel a tangled web of family secrets and lies.

I am always very fond of stories that bring some light to those minor, forgotten characters of history. I am fully aware that if they are minor characters a lot of the writer tells me is pure fiction but I like to imagine that it could have been so.

When I found a book about Princess Alais of France, of which I only knew she was Richard, the Lionheart's betrothed and that they never married because she became his father's mistress, I couldn't help but be interested. As many of the HF being published today this one belongs to a subgenre, it's a historical mystery. Princess Alais would have had a baby by King Henry and about 20 years lately here she is trying to find out what happened to the child she believed dead.

I found this an interesting story, it is written in a light tone and you get an overview of what was happening in England and France at the time. Alais was once used as a pawn between Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry and now she is set up to be one again. Luring her with information about the child, she is quickly captured by King John who is trying his best to find the same information and eliminate a potential threat to the throne.

However I did feel that Alais was a bit too daring, and shall we say modern, in her way of thinking at times. That made it a lighter read than what I would have liked. The author also felt the need to add a love story, I have nothing against that but making it so quickly consummated definitely made it look a bit too much like a romance novel. Overall I would have preferred a more solid read in terms of medieval behaviours and way of life but I still found it a pleasant read if not a memorable one.

Grade: 3.5/5


  1. I've thought about this and the sequel a couple of times, but some of the more critical reviews convinced me it wouldn't fit me. EC and Sharon have thoroughly spoiled me for the medieval period.

  2. I bought this book years and years ago and still haven't read it. For another take on Alais, you could try Christie English's book, but I thought it was another modern feeling book.

  3. Just stopping by to let you know how pretty I think your blog is and to give you THIS!

    BTW...this book has been on my TBR forever.

  4. I actually really enjoyed this one. I have the sequel on my shelf but just haven't picked it up yet.

  5. Misfit, yes this is completely different from EC and Penman. If you just want a light mystery it's ok but not if you want something more serious.

    Marg, that one is on my WL but now I wonder if I should keep it there or not...

    Megan, Looking forward to your opinion when you read it.

    Angie, Looking forward to your opinion on the sequel. I was wondering whether I should pick it up or not...

  6. I've had this book for several years but haven't felt motivated to read it quite yet. I think this review will have me leaving it on the shelf for a bit longer now, too.