Wednesday 16 May 2012

Review: Changeling - Philippa Gregory

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.

Visit Philippa Greggory's website or the Order of Darkness website for more information.

Order of Darkness Series:
Future book titles and release dates to be confirmed

I'll admit it's been quite a while since I read one of Philippa Gregory's adult titles but as soon as I heard about Changeling I knew I wanted to read it. I've been really enjoying historical fiction recently and as I have a love of anything paranormal I couldn't wait to find out more about these nuns who are being accused of witchcraft! Set in 1453 Changeling gives readers a great feel for the era and makes for fascinating reading.

Luca is extremely intelligent and has an aptitude for science (as much as was known at that time) and mathematics, he loves to learn and soaks up any new information that he can. Growing up in a monastery his abilities quickly get him into trouble and he is accused of heresy. Luckily rather than earning him a death sentence this gets the attention of the leader of The Order of the Dragon who knows that Luca's intelligence will be useful investigating a range of paranormal occurrences across Europe. Along with the clerk Brother Peter and Luca's close friend Freize who will act as their servant Luca sets out to investigate the events that people think herald the end of the world. Can he explain the unexplainable?

Isolde's father was obviously very forward thinking for the time period and he raised her as a leader, training her to take over his holdings and run things after his death. However, he changed his mind at the last minute and instead left everything to her brother. Isolde is shocked by what she considers his betrayal and when she refuses to marry the man he chose for her she has no other option than to join the nunnery. Although that is the last thing she wants she feels it is preferable to a forced marriage to someone that she detests and decides to make the best of things. Her faithful friend Ishraq accompanies her but is mistrusted by the other nuns because of the colour of her skin and her faith. When strange things start happening at the nunnery they blame Isolde and Ishraq and accuse them of witchcraft. Luca is sent to investigate and must try to uncover exactly what is happening, is someone really practising witchcraft and if so can he stop them?

I loved both Luca and Isolde and it was great to see things from each of their points of view as this really allowed us to get to know them both. They have good friends in Freize and Ishraq who were some of the best secondary characters I've come across in a long time - the banter between them all was fantastic. I enjoyed the dynamic between the whole group, particularly after they leave the convent so I'm looking forward to seeing more of that in the sequel. It was interesting to discover more about life during this period of history and see just how people could be made to think something supernatural was happening. It was easy to see how people could be fooled into believing things when they didn't have our knowledge of science to explain them. My one minor complaint was that it was made a little too obvious who was behind the events at the convent, I hadn't quite figured out the whole reason why they were doing it though so there was some surprise at the final reveal.

Changeling is a fantastic start to Philippa Gregory's new Order of Darkness series and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book. I'm excited about the potential for romance between Luca and Isolde but glad that this has been left for future books rather than rushed into too quickly. I also can't wait to see more of Freize and Ishraq who I think are going to have major roles to play as the series continues. I'll be recommending this series to any fan of historical fiction.

Source: Received from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


  1. I've never read any Philippa Gregory (my mother has though!)but the trailer and the premise for this book look enchanting. Thanks to your review too, I'll be looking this one up :)

  2. Thank you for a fantastic review, Sarah! I admit Gregory's adult titles are a bit heavy and depressing for me, but this new YA historical paranormal sounds right up my alley :)

  3. Great review, I have enjoyed all of the books I have read by this author!

  4. @ M - I really enjoyed this one & I hope you do too :o)

    @ kara-karina - it's been so long since I read one of her adult books I can't really remember much about it but this one definitely wasn't heavy or depressing so I can happily recommend it :o)

    @ Viv - I think you're going to enjoy this one!

    @ Dot - have you read this one yet? I'd definitely recommend it if you haven't :o)



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