Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: Order of Darkness #1
Released: May 24, 2012
"We have been commanded by Pope Nicholas V to explore the mysteries, the heresies and the sins, to explaoin them where possible, and defeat them where we can. We are making a map of the fears of the world...The Holy Father knows that we are approaching the end of days." (p. 11)In 15th century Italy, Luca is accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery. Luca comes into the service of a mysterious man, who asks him to record the end times and travel across Europe to map the fears of Christendom.
During his inquisition at a nunnery he meets Isolde, the Lady Abbess who was been manipulated out of her inheritance by her brother. The nuns seem to be going mad--having visions and sleep walking, and strange wounds appear on their hands. As Luca investigates, all evidence seems to point to Isolde as the culprit.
Our Hero: Luca
"One of the men raised his torch so the light fell on the slight dark-haired youth, naked to the waist, wearing only breeches, his hazel eyes blinking under a fringe of dark hark hair. He was about seventeen, with a face as sweet as a boy, but with the body of a young man forged by hard work." (p. 1)When Luca was eleven his parents sent him to a monastery because they saw he was bright and wanted him to have an education. His parents were captured during an Ottoman raid when he was young and they are thought to be dead.
I really didn't like Luca. Which is unfortunate, since the majority of the story was told form his POV. I thought he was arrogant and immature, and for as smart as he was supposed to be he sure did seem pretty slow to catch on and clueless. Plus, as a character he was just boring.
I also didn't like the way he treated Freize, who was supposedly supposed to be his friend. He was rude to him and always seemed to be irritated with him.
Also, his opinion of women really irritated me. I know that it was the popular opinion of that time that men should be over women, but I just wanted to kick him in the crotch.
"Luca could not drag his eyes from this girl who had veiled her face from him and hooded her hair so that he should never know what she looked like. In the golden light of the rising sun he stared at her, seeing her for the first time, her dark blue eyes under brown upswinging brows, a straight, perfect nose, and a warm, tempting mouth... Luca realized that she was a beautiful thing of horror, the worst thing between heaven and hell: a fallen angel."Of course, Luca is just an idiot and Isolde isn't really a fallen angel. Though that sure would have made things more interesting.
We don't get to see much of the story from Isolde's POV, and for a large part of the book she's mostly in the background. I liked her far better than Luca, though, and thought she was a more interesting character.
She was strong, resilient, smart, and spirited. She is grieving the death of her father and has been tricked out of her inheritance by her complete ass of a brother and is now trapped in the nunnery. I felt sorry for her, and was cheering her on to find a way out of her circumstances.
I also liked the relationship between her and her friend, Ishraq. At least Isolde didn't treat her friend like crap, unlike Luca :P
"The abbot had been doubtful, but Freize had convinced him that his skills as a kitchen lad were so poor, and his love for adventure so strong, that he would better serve God by following a remarkable master on a secret quest ordained by the Pope himself than by burning bacon for the long-suffering monks." (p. 35)
At first Freize just got on my nerves, but he did grow on me throughout the book. He was quirky and witty, and didn't know when to keep his mouth shut. Sometimes though he was just plain annoying. I did like the relationship that developed between him and Ishraq later on, and his flirting was funny.
To Read Or Not To Read?
I was really looking forward to reading this book, but sadly it was disappointing. I had thought it was going to be a Historical Fantasy, with the description talking about "dark magic and werewolves", but it wasn't at all. All of the mysteries Luca faces can be rationally explained.
The plot started out interesting, but quickly lost my attention when it turned out to be very predictable. The character's didn't save the story either--they were all forgettable, and I wasn't really that attached to them.
The way this book is organized is also weird. There are no chapters, it just alternates POV between Luca and Isolde. I didn't like this, because I had no "resting place", no good place to stop where I could pick back up again.
The organization of the plot was also weird, and another thing that turned me off. I had thought the whole book was going to focus on the mystery about the nuns. Instead, a little more than half way though the mystery is solved and then the characters move on to another. It felt weird and choppy, and there was no sense of climax.
Overall, this book just didn't capture me like I hoped it would.
Kept me interested: 2/5