Changeling (The Order of Darkness #1)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
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.
If I didn’t know Philippa Gregory was the other of some of the best selling adult historical books, I wouldn’t be able to guess from this book. She has adjusted to writing YA books with a hint of supernatural with aplomb. Luca works for a mysterious Order within the Roman Church and along with his clerk, Brother Peter and servant Frieze, travels the country investigating unnatural events that could mean the end of the world is coming. Isolde has just lost her father and has been sent to the Abbey by her brother, just when the nuns are struck with visions and stigmata.
I have to admit that Isolde and Luca are decent enough characters – Luca has a very logical mind which helps him see through stories and hearsay while Isolde has a very modern viewpoint on women. However, my favourite characters by far are Frieze and Ishraq, their servants. Frieze might come across as simple at first but he is fiercely loyal and quite sharp. He manages to spot some details that may have otherwise passed Luca by. Similarly Ishraq, a Moor despite being raised in Italy has been brought up with numerous skills that reflect her culture. She is dedicated to Isolde, but not being Christian has a different way of looking at things to the other characters. Both of them seemed to have more layers to them than what they were sharing.
The story feels a little like two shorter stories joined together with one story focused on the visions and events at the Abbey and the second on a captured werewolf in a small village. Both mysteries have an intriguing hook to them, but the solutions are quite easy to figure out as there are no red herrings or alternatives offered. This disappointed me as I would have liked to try to figure out what was going on! Overall, I liked Frieze and Ishraq, but found the plot a little simplistic. Still I would be curious to see where the next book takes these characters.
Recommended for fans of Mary Hooper and Alison Weir. 7 out of 10