Robb's fourth chronicle of 14th-century church and crown power-plays, highlighting Owen Archer, her Welsh, one-eyed soldier hero (The Nun's Tale, 1996, etc.). King Edward is determined to make William of Wykeham the next Bishop of Winchester, despite the Pope's objections, and he needs the support of the influential Cistercian monks of the abbeys at Fountains and Rievaulx. Archer is to lead the group traveling north on that mission. Sharing the task is his friend Ned Townley, a spy for the Duke of Lancaster, the King's son, who is now in France. Ned is in trouble with the household soldiers of Sir William Wyndosore. Sir William's page Daniel has drowned after a threatening encounter with Ned--who was known to be wildly jealous of Daniel's innocent friendship with Ned's dearly beloved Mary, maid to the King's mistress Alice Perrers. The traveling mission has not reached its goal when Ned gets the news that Mary, too, has drowned. In short order, the group's friar Don Ambrose disappears, as do two of his soldiers. Ned is on the run, tagged a murderer, and only Archer can save him--with help from a surprising source and the revelation of a dark secret. Meantime, amid the proliferation of characters, long-winded conversations, chases through desolate landscapes, and detailed accounts of Archer's idyllic domestic interludes with his adored apothecary wife, only the incisive portraits of Alice Perrers and Lord Chancellor John Thoresby stand out. The rest is a jumbled scenario. Likely to be appreciated mainly by history buffs and medievalists.