Author: Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 24, 2012
Series: Order of Darkness, book one
Source: Audiobook from the ever amazing April
Audiobook Info: Simon & Schuster Audio, read by Charlie Cox
About the Book: 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.
My Thoughts: As a huge fan of historical fiction set in medieval times I was looking forward to this book. I admit to being a bit reluctant because I didn't love the only other Philippa Gregory book I've read (The Other Boleyn Girl.) However, the combination of Italy, forbidden love, and the intersection of science and religion drew me in. And, while I did not love this book I enjoyed it overall.
I think my favorite thing about the book ended up being Luca's best friend Freize. He is loyal but doesn't hesitate to do what he thinks is right, even without consulting Luca. I really loved the humor he brought to the story. The way that he would interact with the other characters was delightful. I particularly liked the byplay between Freize and Ishraq. Not sure what the fact that my two favorite characters were the secondary ones says about the book!
Charlie Cox narrates the audiobook which may honestly be why I enjoyed it! He played Tristan in the movie version of Neil Gaiman's Stardust (one of the few movies I enjoyed almost as much as the book!) His voice fits the story and makes imaging Luca a treat (doesn't work quite as well with Isolde!)
There were a few things that confused me and I'm not sure if it was my lack of knowledge about medieval Italy or plot issues. Also, the "mysteries" went on a bit long for me. It was clear how they would be resolved but it seemed to take forever. As a bit of an aside... I get how the title Changeling fits in to the story but I think it is a bit misleading.
Still, the story idea was interesting and I enjoyed the listening experience overall.