Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Stormbringers - Philippa Gregory

Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory
Series: Order of Darkness #2
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on June 4, 2013
Published by Simon Pulse
Pages: 336
Read From: 9.8.13 - 9.11.13

As Luca and Isolde continue their journey, their attraction grows with each passing day. Even as they try to remain focused on the mysteries they've been ordered to investigate, the tension between them builds. 
Then their budding, forbidden relationship is put on hold when a boy, Johann, and his army of children arrive in town. Johann claims to have divine orders to lead the children across Europe to the Holy Lands, and the townspeople readily accept his claims. Though Luca wants to believes, his training tells him to question everything. 
But when Johann's prophecy begins to come true, Luca wonders if they have finally stumbled upon a real miracle. 
Yet even the greatest miracles have to potential for darkness. . . .and the chaos that follows Johann is unlike anything Luca or Isolde could have imagined.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? A candelabra with flickering candles; pretty boring, right? But I actually like its simplicity, even though the candelabra doesn't really have anything to do with the actual story.

Characters: Luca has grown on me since Book #1: Changeling. Before I just didn't attach to him, but I found myself liking him more and more in this book. He hasn't undergone any extreme personality change - in fact, he's pretty much the same: intelligent, curious, reliable. The two girl characters, Isolde and Ishraq, too, are still very strong-willed and independent without being thoroughly unrealistic for the era. However, Ishraq's continuous prickly response to every single compliment got annoying after a while, and Isolde experiences some jealousy, which briefly turns her into a useless little sulk for the ending portion of Stormbringers. Freize is still my favorite. His flirtations feel like friendly teasing, he loves animals, he's skeptical of the right things, and he's intensely loyal to Luca. There's nothing to dislike about Freize.

The Romance: Isolde and Luca continue to have intense feelings for each other, and then Ishraq starts to like him (I think; it certainly felt like that), which is what sends Isolde into a fit of jealousy. The romance doesn't really take up all that much of the story, and when it does it's pretty slight (except Isolde's jealousy). But why Ishraq was added as a further complication is beyond me.

Plot: As a novitiate to the Order of Darkness - a secret group that serves the Pope directly - Luca continues to travel Christendom, looking for signs of the end of days and any workings of the Devil. Isolde and Ishraq travel with him, as they make their way to Isolde's godfather's son, in order that she might seek out his help in reclaiming her estate from her lying brother. When they hear about a group of children, led by the strange Johann the Good, traveling to the Holy Land, Luca knows he has to investigate. But the charismatic Johann the Good soon has them all entranced, and Luca and his group join Johann and his Children's Crusade. But disaster will strike; one that has Isolde and Ishraq once more under the scrutiny for witchcraft. I still expect this series to take a weird turn. So far, it hasn't. There have been logical and scientific explanations to all of the bizarre occurrences, and Stormbringers may rest solidly in the "historical fiction" genre with its predecessor, Changeling. But whenever Milord - Luca's "boss" and the leader of the Order of Darkness - is introduced, I just get this sensation that it is going to turn weird. Whether it will or not, I don't know, but if it does, I won't be surprised. Stormbringers has a bit more of a point than Changeling, in the fact that they spend less time just wandering from one place to another and stay in one spot and focus on one thing for quite a while. And it's interesting.

Believability: As I said earlier, Isolde and Ishraq's independence actually fits the era, though Ishraq is a continuous fountain of praise for Islam. According to her, they coexist with Christians and Jews, believe in educating everyone, and are very kind to their women. Maybe this is an alternate history novel and I didn't realize it? Because that is not consistent with history.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. The writing is simple and works, and the dialogue is good. It isn't the prettiest style I've encountered, but it works quite well for the story.

Content: None.

Conclusion: When Milord shows up unexpectedly, he also brings with him a new mission; one shrouded in mystery. And he also begins to make Luca an official member of the Order of Darkness. The end wasn't especially memorable, though it did begin to feel weird when Milord showed up. And there are some unexpected twists that will lead to interesting developments in later installments. Stormbringers was every bit as good as Changeling. The characters are relatively likable, and the concept is very interesting. But I still suspect that it will turn weird in the future.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, fifteen-and-up, great for historical fiction and Philippa Gregory fans.

Others in the Order of Darkness Series:
3)Fool's Gold

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