Sunday, 17 June 2012

Changeling by Philippa Gregory (Young Adult, Historical)

May 2012, Simon and Schuster
272 pages, Hardback 
Review copy

Themes: medieval life, women having to obey the decision of their father/brother, life in a convent, superstition, prejudice, deception, fear, murder, plotting against people, accusations, men of religion, ladies with amazing skills including fighting, trials, mon mentality, strange goings on, quite a bit of gore, some violence, very mild romance

Summary from Simon & Schuster
The year is 1453, and all signs point to it being the end of the world. Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old, Luca Vero, is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom, and travel to the very frontier of good and evil. Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and all the evidence points to Isolde's criminal guilt. Outside in the yard they are building a pyre to burn her for witchcraft. Forced to face the greatest fears of the medieval world - dark magic, werewolves, madness - Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

Nayuleska's thoughts
I was really excited when I started this book because I love historical novels that have a daughter fleeing the grasp of her wicked family. Now I've reached the end I don't like it. The beginning was exciting, and all the suggestions were there about why Isolde's brother did what he did, but they then fizzled out. There was less of a spotlight on Isolde in the next part of the book, which surprised me because going to a convent against her will would produce strong feelings that I as a reader wished to know.

The events that happen in the convent were rather odd, and I went right off Isolde & Ishraq. Once explanations were given to the reader I still wasn't keen on that part of the story because for me the girls weren't acting within their character which I'd seen at the start of the story and which I saw at the end. The parts which I did enjoy included the strength, stamina and intelligence of Isolde and Ishraq. I understood the male characters - excluding Isolde's family - very well. Their role was easy to figure out and they didn't change as radically as he girls.

Even knowing this is book one in a series I wasn't at all hapoy with the ending. It didn't make sense. I was freaked out by the werewolf saga. I understood it was something Luca had to investigate, but there wan't really any focus on Isolde seeking help from her father's friends, something which was important to clearing her name yet was hardly mentioned.

It is rare that I don't like a book, or that a book blurb looks at issues which aren't always followed through. Because of the sometimes random plots, the lack of following through certain aspects of the story, and the character shifts in Isolde and Ishraq I'm having to give this book 4/10. You can find a review from someone who enjoyed the book over at Serendipity Reviews.

Find out more on Philippa's website, and the dedicated Order of Darkness website
Suggested read

For a fun tale of a girl going against her family's wishes try The Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen.


M said...

What an honest review. I know what you mean about the werewolf section of the book - it's not its strongest part. But I also had a different response to you overall. I thought that Gregory created characters who gelled together well as a group. I saw the novel as the setting for the rest of the series.

Nayuleska said...

I think I can see it through your view, yet it's not how I normally see it, if that makes sense.