Valley of Dry Bones
In 1274, in the aftermath of the Barons’ War, a group of travelers arrives at Tyndal Priory, where the quick-witted Eleanor is prioress over a diverse little monastic community. Everybody in the cast list falls out on one side or another of the recent unpleasantness, in which people did things like hang, castrate and exile each other; however, everybody agrees on hating one of the travelers, who turns up dead. It falls to Eleanor to descry the villain, which she does with a neat turn of mind.
The novel begins with a dizzying number of characters; a few emerge: a well-drawn sinister smiling priest, Eleanor herself, the requisite hermit, who seems awfully in the thick of things for one piously withdrawn from the world. A detailed description of the Daniel play, performed in the priory for the visitors, is artfully done and probably the most interesting part of the book.
The rest of it seems oddly perfunctory. This is Royal’s seventh book; one problem with any series is the necessity for each successive book to catch up on the backstory. The more books, the more backstory. In the end, this novel is all backstory.