A Parliament of Spies

Written by Cassandra Clark
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

This fourth installment featuring Abbess Hildegard is set during the tumultuous times of the reign of Richard II in the 14th century. The series focuses on Hildegard and some of her loyal friends as they try to uncover various treasonous and murderous plots. The mistrust between the barons and the king is highlighted as Hildegard investigates the mysterious deaths that occur around Archbishop Neville’s retinue. The archbishop trusts Hildegard with secrets and relics as she progresses through England, looking over her shoulder for her husband who was once declared dead.

Although there well may be a fascinating history behind Hildegard, newcomers to the series are left wondering who exactly she is. While one would expect the term “abbess” to refer to a religious woman, Hildegard’s actions are not those of one who is immersed in religion; in fact, her thoughts illuminate her doubting faith. The dramatic times of unrest in which Henry Bolingbroke made a name for himself are marginalized, and the entire story is dull and lackluster. The book appears well-researched, but I felt no empathy for the characters, making this a tedious read with politics and character so generalized that the story misses the mark. Perhaps the novel is better suited for readers familiar with Hildegard and knowledge of the political machinations among the factions surrounding Richard II’s courtiers.