Pip Vaughan-Hughes

The Vault of Bones

""… a complex and geographically wide ranging novel that sweeps through early mediaeval Europe…" "


In Mediaeval London, recently arrived Petroc of Auneford suffers tragedy when his beloved Anna is mown-down by a horse in the street. In despair, he sails from London with the enigmatic relic broker Captain de Montalhac and his crew, unaware that Anna's death is more than a tragic accident.

When they reach Rome they encounter first the impoverished Emperor of Constantinople, Baldwin de Courtenay and then, more worryingly, Pope Gregory the Ninth. De Courtenay wants to barter the contents of his famed Chapel of Pharos that, allegedly, includes the crown of the thorns worn by Christ. However, the Pope - for political reasons - wants to make sure that it is sold to the King of France. What begins as a simple trade transaction soon descends into intrigue, kidnap and murder.

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This a complex and geographically wide ranging novel that sweeps through early mediaeval Europe, taking in Constantinople, Rome, Venice and London along the way. The finely woven plot, although complex, never confuses the reader who is drawn into the depiction of the many highly colourful facets of mediaeval life. Vaughan-Hughes seems to particularly enjoy describing the various costumes of Petroc and his fellow shipmates. The plot is also carefully reigned in so that the excellent characterisation is not overshadowed. Both Petroc and the Captain are independently minded creatures, but each is appreciative of the talents of the other. The reader wills them to make it through their adventure. My only criticism is that there are a few references to his previous book Relics which I, personally, haven't read, but this is a minor issue – common to series - and the references in no way detracted from the story.

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