This is the last and best book in this truly brilliant series. Some other reviewers have complained about the melodramatic nature of this episode, but in truth I think the whole series is high melodrama, (in the first chapter of the first book, for goodness sake, there was a drunk pig and Lymond sets fire to his family home with his mum inside). This is just building to a climax before the end. The highs are higher and the lows are lower, it is all as we should expect, and it is glorious.
Quick recap: In the Previous book Lymond became estranged from his family. Now convinced his parentage is not what it ought to have been, he cannot face his mother. His brother, Richard, sensibly demanded that he cut out the usual confusion and deception and tell him exactly what was going on. He got half an answer and he didn't like it, and so smashed Lymond in the face. Lymond more than deserved it but it hasn't helped family relations.
In the hall of revels, thanks to an Lish play, Francis finally realised what everyone else had known long ago, and fell deeply and unfortunately in love with his wife.
Phillipa has decided that the only way to heal the family rift, and make Francis whole again, is to find out all the dirty little secrets surrounding Francis's birth, and once Phillipa has decided on a course of action it is pretty much impossible to divert her.
These three strands, along with France's wars against her all her neighbours and any one else who wants a go, drive the plot of this book.
An early episode has Lymond being chased across the rooftops of Lyon, an echo of an adventure many years ago in Bios, only this time more deadly and in much better company. It is as if all his previous adventures have just been preparation for the events of this book. Lymond appears on top form, dealing with danger through wit, guile and humour, Philippa, his equal in every way, follows leaping across the roofs, cheerfully dispatching her opponents with skills leaned in the Sultan's Harem. Together they soar, laughing, sure of each others talents. It is strong wine indeed for a wife in name only, the crash that follows is complete.
Jerott is back too, last seen abandoned to fate with Marthe in Volos They are married now, I am not entirely sure why, a reason is given in the book but I suspect it way just as likely that Marthe just wanted to cause someone pain.
You want to marry me? Fine – Do it! And then we shall see how happy you are...
Not very, by all accounts, Marthe is as fierce as ever an clearly has no great love for her husband. Jerott puts a brave face on it and cries into his wine every night.
Phillipa is the real star of the show, coming into her own in the French court, she has wealth and status of her own, and a whole troop of men who would lay down their lives for her love. She still makes just about every sacrifice possible to help her reluctant husband.
The ending was stunning, to say the twists were unexpected is a massive understatement, it is a roller-coaster. I was so glad – having enjoyed the series so far so much I was glad to see it go out with a bang.
Oh, I love this book, I have read the ending about 20 times in the past week and cried for about 5 of them. If that means I am a soppy sentimental lover of melodrama then so be it.
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