Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 24, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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 story starts out with Luca accused of heresy, which is a serious crime as this is Italy in the 1400s. Luca has his whole life ahead of him. He's seventeen years old, good looking and extremely bright. All is not lost for Luca though, since the Pope has recruited him to be a part of The Order of the Dragon. This secret group goes on missions throughout the land investigating suspicious occurrences that could be the work of Satan. On his first assignment, he goes to a nunnery in order to figure out what is plaguing the nuns. Many of them have visions and walk in their sleep ever since Isolde came. Isolde was sent to this nunnery by her brother who says her father's dying wish was to send her there, even though he never mentioned it before. Whether it's suspicious or not, she is casted away to this nunnery and denied her inheritance. Now Isolde has run into even more trouble since she and her best friend, Ishraq, are accused of witchcraft. As Luca investigates the situation at the nunnery, he comes to realize that perhaps Isolde isn't to blame after all. He realizes there is more to the situation at hand. Philippa Gregory's Changeling, the first book in the Order of Darkness series, is a fascinating look into 15th Century Italy. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy Luca and Isolde's adventure.
Isolde is a character that I liked right away. Readers will immediately know that she is being duped by her greedy brother; how could you not root for her? Her relationship with her best friend/companion, Ishraq, is also pretty interesting. Ishraq, although many think she is Isolde's slave, isn't; in fact, she is free to go at any point, but stays with Isolde as they have been close since childhood. Luca, on the other hand, wasn't immediately one of my favorite characters, but as the story progressed, I enjoyed him more and more. His servant, Freize, is absolutely one of my favorite characters in Changeling. His witty one-liners and hilarious comments really kept me amused throughout the story. There's no doubt that Gregory did a superb job developing these secondary characters as they don't simply fall to the wayside.
Changeling just scratches the surface of a possible love connection between Isolde and Luca, even though they both took vows and are bound to the church. I'm sure this aspect of the story will be explored even further in book two, Stormbringers, which comes out this June.
At first I thought Changeling was going to have more fantasy elements in it, but I realized that this book is strictly a historical read. I know many fantasy lovers were disappointed by this. So be forewarned, Changeling may include "werewolves" and "witches," but so far in the series, this has all been explained scientifically.
Changeling is Gregory's young adult debut and although it lacks her signature sparkle that can be found in many of her adult novels, I still found Changeling to be entertaining glimpse into a medieval world.