Review Blog

Jun 10 2013

Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory

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Order of darkness series. Simon and Schuster, 2013. ISNN 9780857077356.
(Age:13+) Recommended. Historical. Middle Ages. Crusades. The second in the series following Changeling, sees the group led by Luca Vero, a member of the secret Order of Darkness, travelling to Piccolo, a small fortified seaside village. With him are his friend and servant, Frieze, Brother Peter who is also a member of the Order of Darkness as well as Lady Isolde and her companion Ishraq. While in the town a huge children's crusade arrives, led by the charismatic speaker, Johann, who believes that the waters will open for him and give him and his followers a passage to the Holy Land.
The characters are somewhat wooden, their fears and emotions are glossed over, but it is the historical background that will grab the reader and keep them reading. Gregory excels at giving the reader mesmerizing historical information. I followed the children's crusade with bated breath, fearing for the very young who left everything to follow Johann on a journey that they believed was ordained by God. The map of Piccolo at the beginning of the book was fascinating and serves to ground the reader's mind in the setting. Superstitions of the Middle Ages and the conditions that people lived under are very well described. Any reader of this series will come away with a more detailed knowledge of what life was like in the Middle Ages. The way women were feared and branded as witches if they were not under the protection of a father or husband was shown clearly as once again Isolde and Ishraq have to fight accusations of witchcraft. Luca struggle to understand why the sea opened up and then came back and drowned the village and his yearning to know the real reason behind the storm rather than the superstition of evil stormbringers is also dealt with adroitly
There is a website  to support the series with teacher's notes, historical background and character descriptions and Gregory gives an author's note at the end that puts the novel into historical context. Illustrations throughout the book add to its readability.
Readers of historical fiction will enjoy this novel as would readers who enjoyed other books about the children's crusade like Angel fish by Lili Wilkinson and Crusade by Linda Press Wulf.
Pat Pledger

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