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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Monday, March 21, 2011

Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson

'announce me to you master...the name is Crispin Guest'

Murder and courtly intrigue recalling the people involved in the Tracker’s fall from grace are woven into Book 2 of the Crispin Guest novels including Lancaster, the Abbot of Westminster Abbey, and of course Richard.
As a character, Guest has developed further in Westerson’s second novel. He’s rounding out, has substance and feels like an old friend. He’s still being beaten up by the Sheriff, still stiff with pride about being a knight and the inherent differences in class in 14th Century England, and still quoting Socrates.

We glimpse his unbroken ideals when he talks about his philosophy about life to Liveth. She asks him,
‘Why not become an outlaw on the highways? Other knights struck by poverty take to it readily enough.’
Eventually Crispin replies that life is more than climbing out of poverty,
‘…men need a challenge. They need to feel useful, that they fill an important place in the world.’  (p.108)
The Tracker’s London is as ever, a dangerous sewer pit-–the reeking streets, the polluted Thames, the ragged beggars, occasionally overlaid by descriptions of early morning crispness. All leap off the page and assault the reader’s senses.

Once again there’s a religious relic involved. Once again Crispin is determined such things are nonsense. But...!
Jack’s encounter with the relic and reaction to it is a gem of delight. Here again a character under growth in situ and I am becoming more attached to him–-as is Guest (behind the grumpy exterior)

The tracker’s confrontation with the King Richard is reminiscent of Matthew Shardlake’s with King Henry VIII in C.J.Sansom’s novel Sovereign.
Again honor over expediency. But we love him for it. The Tracker reminds me of the Clint Eastwood anti-heroes. But then Westerson says that Guest is based on Sam Spade a definitive anti-hero!
I am certainly well pleased with the Serpent. The novel is rollicking good fun and Crispin Guest is a hero to enjoy.

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