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A Darkly Magical Read for Young Adults
on 24 May 2012
It is 1453, we are in Rome and Luca Vero, a handsome and very intelligent seventeen-year-old is expelled from his monastery after having been accused of heresy. Awakened one cold night in his cell by strange men, Luca is taken by river and is delivered into the presence of a mysterious hooded man who asks Luca a series of searching questions about his childhood and his thirst for knowledge. Although Luca is very frightened he realizes that if he wants to survive this ordeal he must answer the questions honestly and, in doing so, he is rewarded with some very surprising information from his inquisitor. The hooded man is the spiritual commander of an order appointed by Pope Nicholas V to explore the mysteries, the heresies and the sins of Christendom and to defeat them where possible. In preparation for becoming a member of the Order of the Dragon, Luca is to be specially trained and then sent out to investigate and map the fears of the world, by travelling outwards from Rome to the very ends of Christendom and to the frontiers of good and evil.
At the same time, in another part of Italy, we meet the beautiful seventeen-year-old Isolde who, after the death of her father, is forced to become the Lady Abbess of a nunnery after she refuses to marry the man her father chose for her before he died. However, Isolde and her companion, Ishraq, do not have a life of quiet reflection and prayer because some very strange and supernatural happenings start to occur at the abbey, resulting in Isolde being accused of witchcraft. In order to discover what is really happening in the abbey, Luca is sent with his servant, Freize, to carry out an investigation and to gather evidence. When this evidence points to Isolde, Luca has to use all of the knowledge he has learnt in order to decide whether she really is guilty of practising witchcraft and condemn her to be burnt, or whether there is another explanation for the weird happenings at the abbey. However, I won't say more because I really do not want to spoil the story.
This very attractively presented Young Adult novel is a dark and magical story of medieval times where we read of evil, sorcery and werewolves, with some wonderful characters who you won't want to leave behind when you turn the last page. And that's fine, because this book is only the first in Philippa Gregory's 'Order of Darkness' series, so we will be able to meet up with some of these characters again in future stories. I bought this novel for my niece to read when she comes to stay and I'm afraid I couldn't resist reading the first couple of chapters just to make sure she would enjoy it. Well, I have to admit that once started, I had to carry on reading and although this is not a book I would have chosen to buy for myself as I am obviously not in the age range of the intended audience, I know I would have enjoyed reading this when I was in my early teens. I am quite sure that 'Changeling' will be a success with the teenaged members of my family and is a book that will be passed around while they wait eagerly for the next one in the series.
Please note that I have commented on and rated this book on the basis that it is a Young Adult Novel, for teenagers under eighteen.