Grave Goods (Paperback)

By Ariana Franklin

Berkley Publishing Group, 9780425232330, 356pp.

Publication Date: March 2, 2010

April 2009 Indie Next List

“The bones of Arthur and Guinivere have been found at Glastonbury Abbey, the land of fabled Avalon. King Henry II sends his 'Mistress of the Art of Death' to verify the find, and Franklin has written a story that is vivid and full of danger. She trumps television watching every time!”
— Becky Milner, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA
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Description

The "richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling" (New York Times) follow up to The Serpent's Tale
When a fire at Glastonbury Abbey reveals two skeletons, rumor has it they may belong to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. King Henry II hopes so, for it would help him put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is strong. To make certain, he sends Adelia Aguilar, his Mistress of the Art of Death, to Glastonbury to examine the skeletons.
At the same time, the investigation into the abbey fire will be overseen by the Bishop of St. Albans, father of Adelia's daughter. Trouble is, someone at Glastonbury doesn't want either mystery solved, and is prepared to kill to prevent it...


About the Author

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A bestselling author and former journalist, she lives in England with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.


Praise For Grave Goods



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. Grave Goods is in some ways a story driven by stories, from the legend of King Arthur’s power over the Celts to the lyrical songs that get Rhys the bard neck-deep in the action.  What makes these stories so powerful? 
  2. Adelia is a female scientist and doctor traveling with an entourage that includes her illegitimate daughter Allie, outspoken nurse Gyltha, and Mansur, an Arab eunuch who wears white robes and a turban.  How does she leverage their other-ness so they can operate within an oppressive society?  
  3. Emma seeks to gain land for her son Phillip, Adelia focuses on pursuing her career and maintaining her independence, and the dowager Lady Wolvercote goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her domain.  Discuss the forces that motivate each of these women.  Are they internal forces, external, or a combination of the two?  
  4. On the surface, Adelia and King Henry II have little in common: she is a woman in his service: he is the most powerful figure in the land.  She has a reputation as a healer and scientist; he is something of a brute.  What are the shared values and attributes that eventually win each of them a measure of respect for the other?  
  5. Despite her allegiance to truth and fact, over the course of her discoveries Adelia seems to fall under King Arthur’s spell.  Why does she come to care about the legend, and what does she do to protect it? 
  6. In the world of Grave Goods, honor and nobility of purpose are fluid characteristics that sometimes reside in unlikely people.  For example, Adelia’s kidnappers try to absolve Eustace and save themselves, but they lead her to the secret burial ground of Wolf’s victims, prompting her to observe “Thieves they might be, but there was honor here—more honor than in a Christian abbey” (p. 192).  How does Adelia's flexible worldview serve her?  How do other people’s more rigid views result in harm?  
  7. Why does Adelia feel remorse at killing Wolf? 
  8. At times, Adelia reminds herself of her full name: Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar.  What does a strong sense of identity do for her?  Are the women around her equally self-possessed?  
  9. A free spirit like Adelia would struggle with the concept of marriage in any era, let alone in medieval times.  Discuss the relationship between Adelia and Bishop Rowley.  What are her reasons for not marrying him in the first place, and how does she decide to compromise?  Can you make any predictions about their future together based on what is known?  
  10. Abbot Sigward makes a startling, surprisingly joyous confession when Adelia confronts him about how his son really died.  After his terrible crime he made a bargain with God—he’d give his life to the Church in exchange for protection from justice on Earth but at last his Nemesis arrives in the form of Adelia.  Do you think justice is served in the end?  
  11. Excalibur changes hands several times towards the novel’s end.  Adelia keeps it in an attempt to date the body in the cave, then she hands it off to Roetger to heal his warrior spirit.  When they realize the sword's provenance, Roetger gives it back to Adelia, saying “I am not worthy; it belonged to a great heart, and to a great heart it must go” (p. 292).  Finally Adelia presents Excalibur to King Henry II with the words “It belongs to the greatest heart of the age, which makes it yours.  You are the Once and Future King” (p. 330).  Who deserves Excalibur and its attendant powers, however mythological?  Has it come to rest in the right hands?
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