Philippa Gregory is and has been my favorite historical fiction author for years now. She single-handedly got me OBSESSED with learning about the British Tudor period. Each and every time she comes out with a new book I run around my apartment, shouting the news, then enter a period of nail-biting anticipation until its actual release. When I heard that Gregory was beginning work on a young adult series, I was pumped that an entire new audience would get to experience her writing.
The first installment in Gregory’s new Order of the Darkness series, Changeling takes place smack dab in the middle of the Italian Renaissance: 1453. We first meet Luca Vero, a 17-year-old genius who, after being kicked out of a religious order due to heresy charges (also known as using science to counter religious beliefs), is inducted into The Order of The Dragon: a secret group commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate odd “dark” occurrences across Europe. We then meet Isolde, a bright teenage girl who has the misfortune of being sent away to a nunnery following her father’s death in order to prevent her from inheriting his estate. For some unknown reason, the nuns that inhabit the convent where Isolde resides begin to report having strange visions, and Luca and his order are sent to investigate. Despite their attempts to the contrary, Luca and Isolde find themselves developing feelings for each other. Luca vows to make sure that his investigation is very thorough to explore all avenues of possible explanations. After a successful yet harrowing escape, they find themselves traveling all across Europe, discovering all sorts of mysteries and mystical creatures under investigation by The Order of the Dragon. Will they be able to discover the true meaning of all these strange occurrences?
I have loved almost all of Gregory’s other books, so the bar was set pretty high for Changeling. The book is really divided into two parts: a mystery in the Abbey and a mystery the group finds on the road during their travels. The whole first half of the book (Abbey mystery) was interesting and intriguing. Diving into Isolde and Luca’s back stories was fascinating, as we learn about Isolde’s family and Luca’s constant thirst for knowledge (it’s this thirst that is essentially what drives him out of his monastery.) The second half of the book is where it got a little crazy for me. The group winds up near a village where legend has it that a werewolf has been caught. Luca obviously doesn’t believe that such creatures exist and decides to open an investigation. The outcome of the investigation was a bit too off the wall for me.
Will I continue reading the Order of Darkness series? Hell yes. Luca’s sidekick Freize is hysterical, and his attachment to Isolde’s “sister” Ishraq is adorable. I’m interested to see how things progress between Luca and Isolde as well. With both of them having sworn sacred oaths to God (being a nun and a monk) it’ll be interesting to see what Gregory does with their relationship. As always, Gregory’s stellar writing was a delight to read. Her ability to clearly describe every scene and circumstance is what draws me to her novels time and time again. I’m so happy she’s chosen to bring her delightful skills as a writer and knowledge as a historian to a whole new generation.
3 out of 5 Stars
This is my thirty-ninth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
Changeling by Philippa Gregory
Simon Pulse (2012)
Hardcover: 272 pages