Info: Simon Pulse, copyright 2012, 256 pages
(Order of Darkness #1)
A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): A perfect example of why I could not have lived during the middle ages.
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.
Luca has been accused of heresy and cast out of his religious order. Than this well-to-do, mysterious man comes and finds him and tells him about the Order of the Dragon, a secret society of men who seek to protect Christendom and seek out would be evils. After recruiting Luca into the order, he sends him on a mission to a country Abbey that is experiencing weird phenomenon. Luca and his posse quickly find out that more is going on beyond the walls of the religious institution than meets the eye.
The book is based on any real historical event which is extremely refreshing. It's set realistically in a time period and the characters build upon the setting, but Gregory has created a new, unique story that maybe could have happened. This totally destroys my usual pet peeves with historical fiction...the destruction of actual history. There's plenty of intrigue, action, and humor blended in with cultural details to really round out the story.
This is coming strictly from a teen librarian viewpoint, but this book would be a hard sell. Historical fiction doesn't fly off the shelves, and this is sophisticated historical fiction to top things off. Not so impressed with the cover either. Not an "oohhh shiny" cover.
I listened to the audiobook, which was fantastic, but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the story as much if I had read it. It's not really an easy read. Changeling is my first experience with Philippa Gregory. She's fantastic. She gives just enough detail to make things interesting and to really set the scene, but doesn't bog you down in unnecessary descriptions. The character building was pretty fantastic as well. It's just a more sophisticated read than I'm used to in teen historical fiction. Several times I forgot it was considered a teen series. I'm not sure I would necessarily categorize it as such.
I'll definitely be continuing though! Probably not on audiobook...they switched readers. Why do they do that?! Just when you get settled in with certain voices and intonations, they go and through in someone new...of a different gender no less. That changes everything! Oh well.