When I first heard that the masterful Philippa Gregory had written a YA novel, I was elated. I've adored every one of her Tudor novels, and have started digging into her War of the Roses series, and this is an author who always tops my "must read" list.
I finally got around to reading this last night, and once I got past the fact that she was trying to write YA (the characters felt stilted and didactic at first, but that improved), I fell into the world of fifteenth century Italy.
Luca was expelled from his monastary on charges of heresy, but he isn't going to burn. Instead, he's been given a special task by a mysterious Order: conduct explorations and inquiries across Christendom, searching for evidence of the end times. His first comission takes him to a convent filled with mad women. But things are not as they seem, and Luca discovers that the new lady abess, Isolde, is not to blame for her flock's misbehaviors. Something uterly mundane is at work, and where the other people want to blame it on the devil, Luca digs until he can pin the blame on the humans who are upsetting the balance.
The cover makes the book look like it's going to be fantastic, and my library even had this shelved in YA-Fantasy, but all the things Luca encounters have perfectly reasonable (if a bit far-fetched) explanations. It will be interesting to see where this series goes: a few clues dropped in the text and confirmed in the author's note make me think Gregory is going to play with a certain count named Vlad latter on (and I love all things Dracula!).
This is a fast read filled with mystery, action, and a hint of romance. The secondary characters are what really makes the book sparkle, however, especially Freize, the Sancho Panza meets Shakespearean fool who tags along with Luca. Adult fans of Gregory will enjoy this, and teens with a historical bent.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you tend to read by author or story? (Will you read everything an author writes just because you love them, or do you pick and choose based on plot?)