Today I’m excited to host a guest blog by P.K. Adams about the Jagiellons and her new historical fiction novel, Silent Water , which released August 6. P.K.’s prose flows from the page to seep into your mind and whisk you away to another world. You can read my review of her debut novel here, but in the meantime, here’s P.K. Adams:
With my new novel, Silent Water, I am finally entering the Tudor-era mystery subgenre, but with a twist. What’s the twist? Well, my protagonists are not actually Tudor subjects. That’s because even though my story takes place in the first half of the 16th century, it is set in eastern Europe at the royal court in Cracow ruled at that time by the Jagiellon dynasty.
I have long wanted to set a novel there. It is a personal project in a way that my previous writing was not. I spent my teenage years in Poland, and my first serious study of history was not about the Tudors or the Borgias, but about a dynasty that, although powerful in its time, is little known outside of eastern Europe. The Jagiellons (pronounced Ya-ghye-lohns) ruled the union of Poland and Lithuania (as well as, at various times, Hungary, Bohemia, and several minor principalities and territories) for more than two hundred years.
Longer-lasting than the Tudors (founded in 1387 and dissolved in 1596), at its heyday the monarchy presided over a territory stretching from the Baltic in the north to the Black Sea and the Adriatic in the south. The reign of the last two kings of the dynasty – Zygmunt I (the Old) and Zygmunt II (August)—was the period in Polish history known as The Golden Age. Never before or after—until late in the 20th century—would Poland be so prosperous and peaceful as it was in the first seven decades of the 16th century.
Interestingly, one of the most powerful and consequential Jagiellon monarchs was not actually Polish. Bona Sforza, who married Zygmunt I in 1518, was an Italian noblewoman who arrived in Cracow as a young royal bride, bringing with her new cuisine, customs, and fashions. But it was her ambition, forceful personality, and political astuteness that made the biggest mark on her adoptive country. She reformed its outdated agricultural sector, patronized artists, founded schools, built roads and bridges, and in the process accumulated a massive fortune. She was by all accounts a strong, fascinating, but also a tragic figure.
Silent Water (A Jagiellon Mystery Book 1) is the result of my fascination with the Jagiellon era in eastern Europe. I hope that it will give the English-language audiences a sense of how dynamic, diverse, glamorous, and intrigue-ridden the Polish court was. In that, it was no different from the Tudors, the Borgias, or the Valois about whom we love to read so much.
Synopsis of Silent Water
It is Christmas 1519 and the royal court in Kraków is in the midst of celebrating the joyous season. Less than two years earlier, Italian noblewoman Bona Sforza arrived in Poland’s capital from Bari as King Zygmunt’s new bride. She came from Italy accompanied by a splendid entourage, including Contessa Caterina Sanseverino who oversees the ladies of the Queen’s Chamber.
Caterina is still adjusting to the life in this northern kingdom of cold winters, unfamiliar customs, and an incomprehensible language when a shocking murder rocks the court on Christmas night. It is followed by another a few days later. The victims have seemingly nothing in common. Gossip, speculation, and suspicion are rife, but the perpetrator remains elusive as the court heads into the New Year.
As the official investigation stalls, Caterina—aided by Sebastian Konarski, a junior secretary in the king’s household—sets out to find the killer. With clues beginning to point to the queen’s innermost circle, the pair are soon racing against time to stop another murder.
Silent Water is a story of power and its abuse, and the extremes to which a person may go to find redress for justice denied. Although set at the dawn of the Renaissance era, its themes carry uncanny parallels to some of the most topical social issues of the 21st century.
“This clever and suspenseful murder mystery casts a fresh and sparkling light on the world beloved by fans of The Tudors and The Borgias. P. K. Adams, author of two previous novels about the twelfth-century healer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen, masterfully brings Renaissance Poland to life without ever losing track of the human passions that drive her characters. A wonderful start to a new series.”
—C. P. Lesley, author of Song of the Siren and other novels
About The Author
P.K. Adams is a Boston-based historical fiction author, whose debut novel The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale. When not reading or writing, she can be found hiking, doing yoga, and drinking tea (though usually not at the same time).