By Philippa Gregory
Published by Simon and Schuster
ISBN 978 0 85707 732 5
Philippa Gregory is one of the world's most successful writers of historical fiction. Her international bestseller, The Other Boleyn Girl, was turned into a major Hollywood film in 2008, and this year her novel The White Queen has enjoyed success as a TV series in Europe and the US.
It was only a matter of time before Gregory turned her talents to writing for teenagers. Changeling is the first of a new series set in medieval Europe, and it contains all the thrilling features you would expect from Gregory.
It is 1453, and the great city of Constantinople, the gateway between West and East, has fallen to a seemingly unstoppable Muslim army. Will this be the end of Christianity in Europe? The Pope in Rome and his minions are close to panic. Novice priest, 17-year-old Luca Vero, is recruited into a secret spying order and sent to investigate reported evil practices that might be damaging the Catholic Church.
His first investigation is in an isolated abbey on the estate of a rich Italian family, the Lucretili. Luca's inexperience proves problematic when he arrives at the nunnery with his two servants. The nuns at Lucretili Abbey have been seeing visions, experiencing bouts of madness and have even developed bleeding wounds on their hands. If this is the devil's work, it needs to be stopped, but Luca is ill-equipped to take on such a mammoth task.
The trouble at the Abbey started when young Isolde Lucretili was forced to become a nun after the death of her father. The moment she entered the abbey with her servant, Ishraq, strange things began to plague the community. Luca's initial investigations uncover a surprising dark secret, but this does not explain all the strange goings-on. It seems that Isolde and Ishraq brought witchcraft into the abbey, a move that is punishable by death.
The two teenage protagonists are strong and smart, and the action and suspense in the storyline keeps things on the move. There are many twists and turns to keep readers entertained in Changeling, and the novel is full of intrigue.
Gregory isn't labelled the Queen of Historical Fiction for nothing. Her research into the periods in which she sets her stories is immaculate, and the characters she creates fit comfortably into the events around them. Gregory's adult novels have shown readers that historical novels need not be dull. Now it's time for teens to sample her unique storytelling magic.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com