Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Author: Philippa Gregory
Series: Order of Darkness (Book 1)
Publication: Simon Pulse; Book Club edition (May 29, 2012)

Description: Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

My Thoughts: This would be a great book for people interested in history and interested in the world view of those who lived it. Luca Vero has been kicked out of his monastery for being too smart, too beautiful, and too curious. He is recruited into a secret order founded by Pope Nicholas V. His charge is to investigate the strange occurrences that are becoming common in 1453. The Pope is convinced that mankind is nearing the ends of days. He sends Luca out to make a map of the fears of the world.

In his first investigation, Luca, his clerk Brother Peter, and his servant Frieze are sent to investigate an abbey where the nuns seem to be going mad. The new Lady Abbess is Isolde who should be the heiress to the Castle of Lucretili but her brother forced her out after her father's death saying that her father changed his will and left everything to his son after all. Isolde and her servant Ishraq, Moorish and brought home from the Holy Land as a child, are sent to the abbey but Isolde is still grieving for her beloved father and isn't able to take charge with all the plots surrounding her.

While Luca does solve the mystery at the abbey, it is too late for Isolde who has been convicted of witchcraft and disowned by her "grieving" brother. She and Ishraq manage to flee before they are burned at the stake. They meet again on the road and decide to travel together until their paths part. Luca to investigate as he is commanded and Isolde to travel to Hungary to ask her godfather to help her regain her inheritance.

The historical detail was wonderful. The characters spanned a broad spectrum of medieval society and thought. But this didn't feel like a novel. It is clearly the beginning of a series of books that will have further adventures of Luca, Isolde, and crew as they wend their way through medieval Europe. This was just the first two episodes of that greater journey.

Favorite Quote:
"Sleepwalking, visions, the nuns fasting on feast days, starving themselves and fainting in the chapel. Some of them are seeing lights in the sky, like the star before the Magi, and then some  wanted to set off for Bethlehem and had to be restrained. The people of the village and the servants from the castle say they're all going mad. They say the whole abbey is touched with madness and the women are losing their wits."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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