Review Blog

Jul 19 2012

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

cover image

Simon and Schuster, 2012. ISBN 9780857077318.
(Age 13+) Recommended. It is 1453 and 17 year old Luca Vero is expelled from his monastery, accused of heresy. He is taken up into a mysterious secret group, The Order of the Dragon, members of which are sent out to investigate rumours of good and evil. He is sent to find out the truth behind a nunnery, where the nuns have strange visions and some even have marks on their hands. Here he meets Isolde, who has chosen to go to a nunnery to avoid marrying a man of her brother's choosing.
Told from two different viewpoints, that of Luca and Isolde, the reader is swept into a strange medieval world where superstition is rife and where women have little power over their lives. With this novel, the reader knows that Gregory has an impeccable background with her historical research and the details are rich and fascinating. The life of Isolde is vividly described. The fact that she can't inherit her father's wealth and castle because she is a girl will be fascinating to today's readers, as will the life that she chose instead of an undesirable suitor. The mystery surrounding the strange happenings at the nunnery is well constructed with enough action and strange occurrences to keep the reader involved.
Luca is equally a fascinating character. He is careful and clever in his deliberations and finds himself involved with finding out the truth about Isolde and whether she should be burnt as a witch. Freize, Luca's companion adds a dash of humour to the stories, as well as pointing out that it is love that is all important. Ishraq, Isolde's friend and a young woman with special powers, is also a person that the reader will find fascinating to follow.
Gregory 's story of medieval werewolves in the second half of the story will appeal to today's readers who seem to be fascinated with these creatures. Once Luca has solved the mystery at the nunnery he meets up with Isolde and Ishraq again, and with Freize is summoned to resolve a matter concerning a strange beast that has been captured and which the villagers believe to be a werewolf.
My only quibble with this story is that while it deals with often complex themes, making it unsuitable for younger readers, the language and descriptions are not as complex. This however, does make it suitable to use as an easy to read introduction to the historical genre for older readers.
Historical maps add depth and the author note gives a historical viewpoint. There is a website for the series and  and a book trailer.
Pat Pledger

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