Published: May 24th 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: Order of Darkness #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
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. -Goodreads
I bought this book on ebook when it was released in 2012, and I had very high hopes for it. I had heard good things about Philippa Gregory's adult historical fiction novels, and I hoped she would transition to Young Adult smoothly. Unfortunately she seems to have dramatically reduced the level of her writing, to fit what she thinks is the YA level. This whole novel is written extremely simply, like she thinks we readers wouldn't be able to understand anything too complex, which is very disappointing. YA isn't a dumbed down version of adult books, and should never be treated as such.
This really got my reading off to a bad start, but it all went downhill from the very first line, which is utterly appalling. "The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a hand-gun going off in his face." WTF, it reads like something a student might write when trying to make their story read better, and to give it a punchy beginning, but instead ends up being clunky and cringeworthy! I actually read that line two or three times just to make sure I had read it correctly!!
The characters are not amazing in this novel either, they are disappointingly one dimensional and difficult to care for. Luca the main character I found difficult to get to grips with. I flipped very quickly from hating him and the things he said and did, to actually almost liking him, then flipping back again. Also the whole changeling thing makes no sense, it's mentioned like its true, then the next scene it's denied, so I had no idea what was going on at all!
The other male main character is Frieze, who is Luca's servant, who has slightly more personality than Luca, he can be sarcastic and snarky, but he still wasn't particularly likeable, he could actually be quite rude too, and I struggled to like him!
The two girls were very non-descript too, Isolde is so bland, I'm actually struggling to think of anything to write about her, or her personality. I really wanted to love her, it started out ok, when she defended herself against the advances of her brother's friend by knocking him out, and standing up to her brother, but she was soon turned into a weak girl who fluttered her eyelids at Luca.
The only character I could feel myself warming to was Ishraq, who is Isolde's servant and companion, she is very intelligent and brave, but again I just struggled to feel invested in her and her welfare, I just didn't care about her, or any of the characters to be honest!!
The tempo of the plot was quite odd. The characters spent a lot of time at the Abbey in the beginning of the novel, even though the blurb talks about them all travelling together. It took about 70% of the novel to actually reach the travelling together part, it seemed to drag on for quite a while!
The whole book also seemed to have a lot of dialogue, and not a lot of action, meaning it dragged on even more, as very little actually happened but lots of talking.
Overall I was quite disappointed with this novel, I had hoped for a lot better from Gregory and she failed to deliver. I don't think I will bother to read any more of this series, as I don't really care much for the characters or for what happens to them next.
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