I have loved Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series in the past, so I was pretty excited when I saw she had written a young adult novel taking place in the 1450’s which was in the historical fiction/fantasy genre. BUT, this was just an OK story for me and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been expecting so much out of it. I just don’t see where the fantasy was in the book though. I kept waiting and waiting…and waiting and then the book was over and I was very confused about how this was classified as a fantasy novel. Putting aside the fact that I was holding my breath the whole time for something paranormal to happen, the actual storyline wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t amazing either. It was very hard for me to stay focused on the story and took me quite a while to finish reading. I really didn’t feel a strong connection to any of the characters either which didn’t help my meandering attention.
The main male character, Luca, is taken from his home at the monastery and finds himself working for the Pope as a part of the “Order of Darkness”. Luca’s job is to investigate all forms of evil throughout the land since the end of days is believed to be near. He travels with his quirky, yet good-hearted friend, Freize, and a “spy” of the Pope, Brother Peter, who makes sure they follow their duties and complete their inquiries.
Luca’s story interweaves with Isolde’s tale. Isolde has recently lost her father and, to top it all off, been told by her brother that she’s been stripped of all inheritance and must either marry a horrible prince or become abbess of their land’s nunnery. Isolde, along with her faithful friend Ishraq, head to the nunnery where their paths cross with Luca’s.
Luca has come to the nunnery to discover the source of a mysterious problem which started occurring ever since Isolde and Ishraq arrived. What will Luca discover about the mystery of the abbey and what are the implications for Isolde and Ishraq? After the abbey mystery is solved and you think How can this story go on? it does, and it gets a little more interesting, but not more paranormal (so don’t hold your breath).
If you want a historical fiction mystery, check this book out. However, if you are looking for a historical fiction fantasy novel, I would look elsewhere. I will continue to read Philippa Gregory’s purely historical fiction novels because they are fun and you feel like you are learning something from them, however I don’t think this particular series will be one I continue on with.