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.It took me a long time to make it through Changeling by Philippa Gregory. Not because it was a bad book or a poor story or anything like that. It wasn't. It just didn't hold my interest as much as I'd hoped it would.
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.
The beginning of the story made me angry. Isolde's father died and though she KNEW that he'd loved her and cared for her during his life, she did not fight when her brother told her (told, did not show her the "new" will) that her lot in life was reduced to either marrying someone she did not love and who did not love her or being sentenced to life in the nunnery. I understand though, after reading the rest of the book, that females in those particular times were nothing more than property. They did what they were told and were not allowed to question decisions made by those "in charge".
I wasn't sure what to make of Luca. He seemed like he wanted to do the right thing, and generally tried to do so... but it also seemed at times that he was more influenced by those around him. Those who were also in authority positions of different sorts.
Frieze and Ishraq were my favorite characters. Frieze for his unwavering faith and devotion to Luca, and eventually to their extra passengers. And Ishraq for her strength, loyalty, compassion, and brains. Because of her upbringing (thanks to Isolde's father) and her heritage she's not bound by the same "morality" and teachings that the rest of them are and is able to see things more clearly and in better perspective.
There were two wonderful parts to this story. The first came more than halfway through the book. The second came right at the end. That was what bothered me the most. The first half of the book was kind of slow and dragged on and then all of the sudden there was this flurry of excitement and action in a scene that would be fit for a horror story put to film.
The last 50 or so pages of the book were my favorite part. Luca & Co. travel through a village with a werewolf problem and he's taken it upon himself to judge and decide the fate of said werewolf. I wish that particular section had been given more time in the story, but what can you do. It ALSO would have been wonderful on screen, too, but in a different way. It was suspenseful and heartwarming. It redeemed the book for me honestly.
Like I said, the book was slow. The title doesn't suit the story at all and unfortunately the story itself failed to hold my interest save for the two parts I spoke about. This is the first Philippa Gregory novel that I've read. It's also the first book in the Order of Darkness series. Based on the last bit of the book I probably will at least read book two. I hope with all my heart that it's more interesting than the first book. At least more interesting more often.
I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a quick read (it took me a long time because I wasn't really interested, but it would have been a quick read had I felt more entertained). And anyone interested in somewhat historical religious fiction.