Author: Philippa Gregory
Publication: May 24th 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Received: Received ARC from Simon & Schuster (thank you!)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Blurb: Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy.
My thoughts: A lot of religion, but religion I can actually stomach. Some books talk about Christianity in a way that makes me want to vomit. Philippa actually takes Christianity as the reality of history for the time period. Her characters think, act and exist the way people in 1453, Italy would have. I found it refreshing to read some actual historical fiction for teens.
Getting into the plot. Luca Vero is accused of heresy, and shipped off to become part of a secret Christian Order that plans to discover the meaning of 0. Luca is versed in mathematics and came to the conclusion that one of the nails from the original cross held in one of the cathedrals was not in fact authentic. It goes without saying that the premise is a bit elementary, after all, we’ve had the number zero around for a long time, but for the Church, zero means nothing, it means non existence, and that simply cannot be right.
Luca ends up in an Abbey, where he meets Isolde, a princess who was betrayed by her father on his death bed. I found Isolde’s scenes and dialogue tiring. She was too stereotypical for me. Luca finds her when she’s been at the abbey for a number of years, and the other nuns are all going mad, seeing ghosts and crazy things. Luca is meant to investigate, and well he’s not a nice guy. I can’t say that his investigation makes him a likable character. He almost burns two of the nuns alive before finding out that the culprit isn’t witchcraft, but belladonna.
This leads Luca, Isolde and the others in their party on a cross country trek, which Gregory also makes very accurate, being on foot, and with horses, explaining how long it will take to get to their destination. They end up encountering werewolves and having an entire episode with them before the book ends, stopped a bit short I support because it’s the first in a series.
I was left feeling a bit incomplete despite the historical accuracy, flowing plot, interesting characters and overall premise. I understand that Gregory kept it simple for a reason, but she could have trusted teens to keep up with her incredible art for story telling. I know for a fact that her books for adults are amazing.
What I’m hoping is that this series gets better with the next few books. Gregory has a powerful literary voice and is one of the greats in our generation and I look forward to seeing what comes next from her.