Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date: May 29, 2012 (hardcover)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 3 Stars
Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.
Changeling, the first novel in the Order of Darkness series and marking Philippa Gregory's YA debut, was a historical fiction novel with a book description that instantly hooked me in. However, once I began reading the book, I couldn't shake the feeling of being disconnected in some way, despite all the mystery and suspense, sadly.
Philippa Gregory has a descriptive style of writing that makes it easy for readers to visualize the fifteenth century setting. I was very much interested in learning more about the customs of the people in Italy during this time period, curious about their simpler ways of living and their strong religious beliefs. It's an age where the Church held enormous amounts of power, and things that couldn't be explained as acts of God were immediately suspected to be the evil works of something supernatural. In fact, after reading the book, I still have no idea if something paranormal actually occurred... or if everything was just twisted by perception.
But while I absolutely enjoyed reading about the setting, I had very mixed thoughts on how the characters and the actual storyline developed. It was in these areas that it felt very obvious that Philippa Gregory had made a switch from writing adult to YA because the writing seemed too simplified and toned down. And in a way, Changeling felt oddly episodic, with two parts melding together to form one larger story arc in a way that led to slower and more exciting moments oscillating.
Isolde and Ishraq were two brave and forward-thinking young women, certainly ahead of their times. It was very sweet to see their loyalty and sisterly affections for one another, and their refusal to be docile to the whims of men was refreshing. I found it rather entertaining to see the pair put Luca and Freize in their places when they doubted their capabilities. Luca could be quick to judge, but thankfully, Freize was always right there to be a voice of reason and could stop him before he acted on impulse. While I can easily talk about their personalities though, the book didn't seem to offer very much on their personal thoughts and emotions... or if it did, it wasn't deep enough for me.
While I did feel a bit disappointed with Changeling, I am still very much curious to see how the series will continue in the next book and what challenges Luca, Isolde, Freize and Ishraq will have to face next in their quest. If you're a fan of Philippa Gregory and historical fiction, I have no doubts you'll be rushing to read Changeling right away. While my first experience of reading a novel by Philippa Gregory hasn't been the smoothest, I have hopes it will only improve from here.
Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing this review copy!