Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory

Title: Strombringers (Order of Darkness #2)
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 1st June 2013
Rating: 3 out of 5

Description: Luca Vero is a member of the secret Order of Darkness, tasked with searching out and reporting signs of the end of the world. Breaking his journey in Piccolo, he finds a place filled with superstitious fears: of the unknown, of the forces of the sea and sky, of strangers. With him are his loyal friend and servant, Frieze, and his clerk, Brother Peter, as well as the Lady Isolde and her mysterious servant-companion Ishraq. The five of them are followed into the town by a huge children's crusade, led by a self-proclaimed saint. Its young leader promises that the sea will part before them, and allow them to walk dry-shod all the way to Jerusalem. Luca and Lady Isolde are swept up in the growing excitement; but something dangerous is brewing far out to sea.

Stormbringers is the second instalment in Philippa Gregory’s Order of Darkness series. I was looking forward to reading it as I greatly enjoying reading Changeling last year. However, this time around Strombringers was a little underwhelming, despite its well-crafted rich historical world. The mysterious overtones and mystifying occurrences that made the predecessor so appealing and gripping were missing in this book.

Strombringers continues to tell the story of Luca, Isolde, Ishraq, Frienze and Brother Peter in their various adventures and investigations into the end of days. This time around they contend with a children’s crusade, new saints, natural disasters, and slave galleys. The main reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much had to do with its slow pace. A few of the events that occurred felt unnecessary to the story being told. The overall plot of the book was also something that detracted from the enjoyment of the book. Although each investigation conducted is a great tale in itself, I didn’t understand what all the various investigations added up to and where ultimately the story was leading. I felt quite lost in the plot due to not understanding what end goal the series was trying to achieve.

Strombringers also offered more insight into the back-story of the characters, especially into Luca’s family and Ishraq’s upbringing thus allowing more perspective into their motivations. The characters that were well defined in Changeling felt a little inconsistent in this instalment.  Luca, who previously was confident in his role, seemed confused in this book about the work he wants to do for the church and his romantic entanglements with the ladies. This book introduces the beginning of a love triangle/love square, which seemed out of place given that at the beginning we are told that Isolde and Luca are very enamoured with each other. The girls also have an argument that seemed out of character for the both of them. Frienze still remains to be the best character. He shines in this book with his snarky sense of humour. He has such a warm soul and is very giving to those around him including the animals. The relationship between Frienze and Luca is further explored. Their love and respect for one another comprises the most compelling parts of this story. 

Philippa also delves deeper into the mysterious Order of Darkness and it various dealings allowing us to meet the peculiar head of the Order along with new characters such as the conversant Radu Bey.  The book hits it stride in its richly compelling and detailed world. The historical events and facts sprinkled throughout this book only enhance its reading. Philippa also offers a great discussion on the roles of women in medieval times, and the role of the church in Christianity. But the most fascinating part of this story that stands out is the way the characters try to comprehend the things they do not understand and in turn debate science and religion.

Strombringers, despite its slower pace is a good read for people who like a well-crafted historical fiction.

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