The Year is 1453 and for 17 year olds, Luca and Isolde, great changes are ahead.
Luca, finds himself accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery and the only real life he has known since age 11. It isn't long before he finds himself in the company of a stranger who bestows upon him, the arduous task of recording the end of times across Europe. His experiences are often challenging, but life is never dull in the company of his longtime friend Freize, and a clerk known as Brother Peter.
Isolde has led a somewhat sheltered life in her father's castle, learning all that he would wish her to learn, often in the company of her long time friend/servant Ishraq. When her father passes, without her being permitted to see him, she can only stand by helplessly as her future is made clear and she is faced with a decision that can never bring happiness. Rather, it's simply deciding which is the lesser of two evils.
What follows is a wonderfully orchestrated blend of murder, mystery, and intrigue. I've read Philippa Gregory novels before (The Cousins' War series) and had found them to be enjoyable. When this book arrived with me, I couldn't wait to get started. I think this title is one of those that people are either going to love, or hate. I've had people remark that they found this book to hold more questions than answers, and I honestly find that to be true with the first installment (or two) in any series of books.
Personally, I enjoyed this book immensely. The storyline, while at times a touch transparent, was well crafted and I am very fond of the way the characters are introduced to us, the readers. It's done with great subtlety and I really hadn't noticed how attached I had become to the characters, until I neared the end of the book.
While the characters are all developed pretty decently, my favourite is definitely Freize, closely followed by Ishraq. Freize is such a lovable, comical rogue, and I find Ishraq to be both wise, and highly skilled in such a vast range of subjects. I'm really looking forward to being reunited with them both in the next installment of this Order of Darkness series.
I could delve deeper into the characters but I think you'd have greater enjoyment learning more about them at the Order of Darkness website. There, Philippa Gregory speaks about each of the main characters in depth as well as providing a wealth of associated resources. I think the attention to detail that shines through in novels from this author, is what makes her work such a joy to read.
I loved this book and can't wait for book two!
Author's website: http://www.philippagregory.com/