Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.

Luca Vero is expelled from his monastery after being accused of heresy. The seventeen-year-old is recruited to map the End of Days, and his first task is to go to a nunnery where a Lady Abbess of his own age has been accused of witchcraft. Will he find Isolde guilty and condemn her to the pyre, or is there more to the case than meets the eye?

Philippa Gregory is an author who I’ve been meaning to try reading for ages, but never quite got round to, so I was really excited to get my hands on this one. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint me. Gregory brings the Europe of the 15th century thrillingly to life, capturing the time period perfectly, and her writing style is engaging and draws you into the story.

She also gives us a quartet of fantastic main characters. I warmed to Luca straight away, from the brilliant opening scene in which he gets removed from the monastery for pointing out that there are far too many fragments of nails from the true cross for them all to be genuine. His servant Freize irritated me for the first 60 pages or so with his constant self-deprecating humour, won me over by the middle of the book, and by the end had become one of my favourite supporting characters for ages. Completing the quartet are two of the strong female characters who Gregory has become so famous for, Isolde – trapped in a nunnery to stop her from claiming her inheritance – and her servant Ishraq, both of whom are portrayed really well. The constantly changing dynamic between the four is a treat and definitely makes this a book well worth reading.
A minor criticism is that the pacing of the book feels a bit off. I loved the first part, but the last few chapters seemed a bit rushed. It’s not a massive complaint, and part of the problem is that I was so in love with the characters that I didn’t want it to end so would have welcomed an extra hundred pages or so to spin the story out.

I’m certainly looking forward to the next book in the Order of Darkness series, and would highly recommend this one to fans of historical fiction.

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