Order of Darkness: Changeling by Philippa Gregory Book Review
Title: Order of Darkness: Changeling
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 3/24/2102
Length: 314 pages
Series?: Order of Darkness #1
Genre: YA historical/paranormal(ish)
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenges: Feminist Reads Challenge
When I first read the blurb for Changeling, I had a hard time figuring out what the story was actually going to be about. Now that I’ve read it, I’m going to give you the summary I would have wanted to have: Changeling is about the journey of a church detective, Luca, as he investigates strange occurrences across Italy in 1453. Luce investigates as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a secret sect commissioned by the Pope to question these strange occurrences in preparation for the end of days. But basically…he’s a church detective. His first case is a abbey where the nuns seem to be possessed by evil spirits. Lady Isolde happens to reside at the abbey, locked away when she refused to marry after her father’s death. All signs in Luca’s investigation point to Isolde’s involvement in the abbey’s unsettling events — but what’s really happening when the women go to sleep?
First off, I have to say that I have never read a Philippa Gregory book. So I am not coming at Philippa Gregory’s first stab at YA with any kind of expectations about her writing. I’ve seen some mixed reviews over this novel and, well…I don’t agree with them. I liked the book. It does feel like two different stories (the inquiry at the abbey and an inquiry about a werewolf), but I thought of it more as a detective novel. It seems like other people may have been expecting either A.) heaving bosoms and lustful glances, B.) swashbuckling action and adventure or C.) intrigue in the royal court. This is more episodic, traveling through the countryside to uncover lies and deception.
What I felt really made the book work was the characters. Luca is kind of dull (though I imagine he will develop over the series), but everyone else made for a good cast. Luca’s companion, Freize, offers some comic relief and unpredictable moments. Lady Isolde is smart and stands up for what she believes in. My favorite character by far was Ishraq, Lady Isolde’s companion and friend. Ishraq is such a fascinating character, and not just because she’s a Muslim surrounded by nuns. She definitely doesn’t follow the rules and she has a fiery side.
FINAL GRADE: B I love logic. And the use of logic. And using logic to prove that seemingly fantastic scenarios are not actually all that fantastic, a la an episode of Scooby Doo. So that’s why I enjoyed Changeling, and it’s why I know I’ll find myself reading the other books in the series. I recognize that this is a first book in a series, so I’m hoping there will be additional development of the characters, romance, and this whole “changeling” plot line (which is barely explained) over the later books. I’m also feeling like there’s some big-time stuff with the church that will come out later, too. I’m very glad I decided to try this book!
Required Reading: Required for fans of historical fiction for sure. Gregory knows what she’s doing in this genre. Also required for anyone who loves romance, since this is going to grow over the course of the series. And, as noted by the Feminist Reads Challenge note at the top, this is a good book if you love a good feminist read (but one realistic to the time period).
Library Recommendation: Appropriate for middle or high school. Be aware that there is an attempted rape early in the story, as well as a murder and a violent death. I’ve also had readers wonder how similar books portray Christianity, so I will say that the story does highlight corruption of individuals who are acting pious, but the overall goal is to reveal the corruption to save the church.
April @ Good Books and Good Wine reviewed the audiobook: “Gregory has this talent for bringing history to life and infusing it with a hefty dose of drama”
Zabet @ Reading Between Classes: “It really feels like two separate stories; one that features the nunnery and one a village with a werewolf. The stories felt disconnected, almost like two novellas that were strung together in an attempt to make a full book.”
Have you read any Philippa Gregory novels? What do you think of her writing style overall?