Thursday, 14 March 2013

Changeling - Book Review

Changeling – Book Review
Philippa Gregory
YA Historical Fantasy
Book #1 in The Order Of Darkness Series


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.
For as long as I can remember, Phillipa Gregory has been one of my favourite authors of historical fiction. When I heard she had written Changeling, her first ever book aimed at young adults, I was itching to get my hands on a copy. However I must admit, I think I placed my expectations a little high as, while the story was interesting and most certainly enjoyable - It wasn’t the amazing, gripping read that I thought it would be.
The story is told from a dual perspective and begins with seventeen year old Luca. A priest in training, he suddenly finds himself cast out from his monastery on a charge of heresy. Yet while many of his fellow priests view his analytical mind as a sin, there is one branch of the Catholic Church who sees his ability for the gift it is. And so rather than the burning death he expected, Luca finds himself named as the Churches newest inquisitor. Responsible for uncovering evil in whatever form it may take, Luca now wields the power to save lives… or end them.
Yet in another part of Italy, the Lady Isolde has just lost everything she knows and loves. Beautiful and intelligent, she was raised as her father’s heir; to one day preside over his lands and castle. Yet somehow, her scheming brother has managed to take it all leaving Isolde destitute. Now, faced with the choice to either marry a repugnant Prince or join a nunnery, Isolde chooses the church and a vow of celibacy. Knowing either way, she will be condemned to a life of misery.
A few months later, these two people find their fates crossing. When Luca is sent to investigate a nunnery, whose occupants are said to be plagued with possession and mad visions, it is there he meets Isolde who quickly becomes his lead suspect. Yet as their lives become more and more entangled in a web of sorcery, intrigue and politics, they begin to realise that the fate of their lives may just be in the others hand…  
I did enjoy this book but I think part of my disappoint lay in that for a YA book, it was rather short and I seemed to finish it all too quickly. Yet the book did move at a good pace and the story has a unique concept. I also loved that it was set in 14th century Italy as one thing Phillipa Gregory does very well is description, and with her words she truly brought the time period to life.
The mysteries within the story were also interesting to read as they played upon the fears of the time. And I liked how Luca’s eventually revealed what was behind the smoke and mirrors of these ‘supernatural’ occurrences.
Yet it was the characters of this book that really made the story for me, and surprisingly, not the main ones. While both Lucas and Isolde where unique characters, I felt like with the book being so short there wasn’t much in regards to their development, and they didn’t change much over the course of the story.
However it was the supporting characters such as Frieze and Ishraq who I loved the most. Both with distinct personalities, they created conflict and humour throughout the novel and towards the end, there were hints of a possible romance that was just too sweet. It was them that really made this book for me.

Overall though, while it wasn’t my idea of a perfect read this book still has much to offer and I think the younger market of YA would really enjoy the story. Fans of authors such as Mary Hooper and Mary Hoffman will definitely want to check it out. Mysterious, intriguing and all set within the beautiful world of medieval Italy, Changeling is sweet read with which to idle away an afternoon. 3 ½ stars!
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