Like most others, I thought this volume would conclude the goings on of our party of quirky characters – ruthless Ishraq, horse whisperer & general factotum Freize, dispossessed noblewoman Isolde, Luca Vero (Luke Truth) who is the Inquirer for a shadowy order (Order of Darkness) run by a shadowy peron (Milord) and long-suffering priest Brother Peter.
But it does not. It leaves things hanging in the air, after our band of comrades has yet another adventure, this time in an Austrian village, seized by the “dancing sickness.”
I know this is hard to believe but it IS TRUE that people were seized by this strange malady to dance and dance until they fell down exhausted. It seemed to hit young people the most, but women were also very likely to fall into this malady. Once started, it was difficult to stop. For many years, people in Sicily believed it was caused by the bite of a malevolent spider. But investigating scientists have discovered no such animal. Perhaps it was psychological in origin. If so, the likely reason might well be the hopelessness that women felt in their dreary, hard lives, dominated by brutes of husbands who regularly beat and raped them. Perhaps young people were vulnerable because the prospect of a hard, miserable and short adult life was also too much to take.
Whatever the reason, this malady does seem to have come and gone across the years, starting in the middle ages and ending…in the 18th century?
After having let that adventure play out, Ms. Gregory abruptly ends the novel. As a writer myself, I cannot believe that an accomplished author like Philippa Gregory would simply stop. Like that. There has to be at least one (perhaps two) more volumes to read. It would be cruel not to find out which lady Luca will end up with. Or what will happen when Isolde finally gets to Wallachia. Or whether she is finally able to confront her brother and win back her estates. Most of all, we have to know who “Milord” is and whether he is the same person as Radu Bey. And where does Ishraq fit into this tale? Four stars.