Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Order of Darkness #1
Trade paperback, 315 pages
Publication: January 1, 2013 (paperback edition) by Simon Pulse
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 from 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 driven to accuse her.
Forced to face the greatest fears of the dark ages—witchcraft, 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.
The synopsis hints at supernatural occurrences/or sightings around Europe in the mid-1400s, but I must say the synopsis misinformed readers on what to expect in the novel. Changeling is not a paranormal-historical fiction but just historical-fiction. The year is 1453, and many people believe that the End-of-Days are upon them, and with it comes reports of evil/strange phenomenon spreading across Europe. Luca Vero, a young priest is recruited into the Order of Darkness by the Bishop/Pope to document these strange phenomenons and to get to the bottom of the problem plaguing the people.
Changeling is centered on four main characters; Luca, Freize, Isolde, and Ishraq. Luca was inducted into the church at a very young age, and now a priest at 17-years old. Luca was chosen to be part of the order because of his curious mind and his thirst for knowledge. Freize is Luca’s servant who accompanies Luca on his various missions. Isolde is a 17-year-old daughter of a crusader. Isolde comes from a very wealthy family but when her father dies; her scheming brother takes her part of the inheritance for himself and sends her off to become a Lady Abbess at an Abbey nearby. And finally we have Ishraq, who is Isolde childhood friend/protector. Isode’s father brought Ishraq home from the Middle East and the two girls grew up with one another. The characters were a bit flat, but I still found each to have a distinctive personality and outlook of life…I hope in future books they’ll become more fleshed out/realistic.
I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel. Luca investigates two strange phenomenons in this first book (of a four book series). The first case is a nun who is accused of witchcraft. The second case involves a werewolf terrorizing a village nearby. The first case took about two-third of the book, and in which I thought was the end of the book but in the last third of the book Luca investigates another case. I would have preferred that each book focused on one primary mission, and I thought it was unusual that the author decided to cram another case in the last few pages.
Overall Changeling is a great start to the Order of Darkness series. I usually read books with a magical/paranormal element to the story, but I found Changeling quite gratifying and engrossing. I look forward to reading more about Luca and the gang and the missions they will encounter in future books. I highly recommend this series to those who love reading about history specifically the middle ages. I actually think paranormal readers will also enjoy this series. Back in the 15th century, people would automatically think things that were unfamiliar/unknown to be evil or supernatural related therefore it was interesting to see how Luca solved each of the problems with a logical-scientific answer. So while it didn’t have real witches or werewolves like I hope, it was fascinating to have a glimpse of what people back then thought of the supernatural/superstition.