I am a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and have read lots of her historical novels. So I was really keen to read her latest book; a YA novel set in Italy in 1453.
1453 was a very significant time for the Church, as it was thought by many to be the year that the world would end. Luca Vero is a seventeen year old monk who is banished from his order for heresy. However, a knock on the door late at night leads him to a new challenge – documenting the fears and superstitions of Christendom for the The Order of the Dragon and the Pope.
One of Luca’s first assignments is to visit an abbey in Italy. The Nuns at the Abbey have been suffering from strange visions and sleep walking. A new Abbess who has been banished to the Abbey by her brother, is the main suspect and Luca is sent to gather more information against her. However, seventeen year old Isolde is not your average Nun and Luca finds himself thinking of reasons that prove her innocence.
Told from the dual perspectives of Luca and Isolde, this allows the reader to feel that they’re getting to know both characters. There are also two other characters who are central to the plot; Frieze and Ishraq. Frieze was one of my favourite characters, he gave the book a real injection of humour and I hope to see more of him in the series. Ishraq is an unusual addition in that she is companion to Isolde, but not a slave. I found her to be quite witty and sharp, she has been educated and seems to be very ahead of her time. I hope that we find out more about her past as the series progresses.
As with all of Philippa Gregory’s books, the description of the era and setting are so vivid that the reader feels they are there with the characters. In this case, the four young people begin their journey through fifteenth century Italy where they encounter werewolves and so called witches among many other superstitious beings.
Philippa Gregory is a wonderful story teller and her transition to the YA genre has worked perfectly. There are so many twists and turns in this dark mystery that you will not want to put it down. I am so pleased that this is the first in the series, as I can’t wait to read more from these characters.