Review & Give@way: Changeling (Order of the Darkness #1) by Phillippa Gregory

Paperback (and hardcover), 256 pages
First published: May 24th, 2012 by Simon Pulse
Source: Purchased (but a copy was offered for review, I just already owned it)

Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.

     Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.

     Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.

     The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

I have read one other Philippa Gregory book but it was years ago.  I liked it, but I honestly don’t remember it much.  I have several others I’ve been meaning to read.  When I started this I thought it was more historical fantasy, but it was definitely more on the historical fiction side of things.  While there might be light fantasy elements, it’s very light.  What I understand is that her other books are based on real people and this book (series) is based on completely fictional people, though the time period and things that happen are suppose to be pretty realistic.

I love reading about this time period.  And this time in Italy?  Even better!  And I liked it quite a lot but it was a really easy reading historical fiction.  I didn’t really feel steeped in the time period, I guess.  I’m not sure why that is, but maybe she kept it lighter to keep the younger readers more interested.  It worked fine and for those that may not enjoy historical fiction they may enjoy this one more.

This one brings out some great characters, and some great witty banter between them (particularly in the second half) but even though I do really like these characters and enjoyed the dialogue with them I felt kept at arms length.  I think this is because we are kept outside their heads.  We don’t know what they are thinking, only what they say.  I liked it okay, but I think I would have liked it more if we’d been in their heads.  This is more a case of personal preference though.  And it certainly wasn’t bad, I just wanted to see more of their personalities and what they had going on in their brain.

Luca and Isolde are great characters.  They both are bold and firm in what they believe.  Luca is bound to the church and to do their duty, but he’s also got a bit of freedom since he’s in charge of inquiry.  Isolde is a woman and therefore has no rights, even though she was raised that women are pretty equal to men.  She struggles with not having her old life and is determined to get it back.  The characters that really stole the show were Freize, Luca’s companion and ‘servant’ and Ishraq, Isolde’s companion.  Freize is hilarious and definitely brings a lot of light banter to the book.  He sees things a bit differently than others and isn’t afraid to speak up, and is sure to do so at just the right time.  Ishraq is a Moor and therefore not Christian (and is different) and has her own beliefs and way of thinking.  She’s also bold and daring and isn’t afraid to do whatever it is she needs to do.

The romance in this was only hinted at, which is good.  I prefer for them to get to know each other a bit more and to watch things develop.  They haven’t known each other long, but we see they are attracted to each other.  As the story continues I imagine things will grow.

I enjoyed this light historical fiction.  It’s was a fast read and entertaining. I look forward to continue the series and seeing where things go.  I would say 3.5 stars would be a bit more accurate in my rating, but I think it’s one I’d round up for rather than down.

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About the author:

Philippa Gregory is the author of several internationally bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. She lives in the north of England with her family and welcomes visitors to her website, Order of Darkness: Changeling is her first novel written for teens.

Find out more:

Thanks to Big Honcho Media and Simon Pulse I have a great giveaway for you guys!
Is then pen mightier than the sword?
One winner receives:
· A copy of Order of Darkness: Changeling
Open to US addresses only.
Must be 13 or older to enter.
Ends 2/19/13
Fill out the rafflecopter to enter!

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  1. I devoured all her Tudors books before I was blogging and LOVED them. I’ve had this one on my shelf for awhile now. I really need to get to it soon.

  2. A lot of times, historicals set in this era are pretty hit or miss with me, just because so few people had many rights — and women had none. Chattel. *shudder* But Gregory does a great job with her stories, pulling in so much history and making the characters interesting. This story sounds great!

  3. I was so confused by this title and cover Candace, I thought I’d missed a YA book by her, but this is clearly Changeling and I haven’t missed anything. Win. I like that the romance is hinted at given this is a series, I’m good with a romance being drawn out from book to book as long as they get there in the end. I much prefer it to instant love:) I think I might wait until book 2 is out and see what you think of it before I give this a try!

  4. I haven#t heard of this book and this author before… :(( But!!! You make it sound so amazing, even though I might be a little sad about the slow romance..

    But I love great characters and witty banter :))

  5. The premise of this book totally intrigues me. I know what you mean about being kept at arm’s length from characters. I’m okay with this if other parts of the story are well done and make up for it. I have so much respect for people who write historical fiction.

  6. The time period sounds absolutely perfect for this historical. I love reading these when they’re done well. I’ve enjoyed her in the past so this sounds great!

  7. I had this one on my list of books to read but then so many people said just so-so things about it in reviews that I gave up on it.

    I’m glad you liked it and I might have to give it a try one of these days.

    Thanks for the great review!

  8. I remember seeing this book and HATING the cover. Honestly, I want more historical fiction in YA so bad, like Graver Mercy by Robin LaFevers, but as soon as I saw this cover, I thought, this cannot be legit. From what I remember, I disliked the book. But, I love the new look! :)

    Thank you for the cool giveaway!

  9. Phillippa Gregory is able to make the past come alive. She captures all the political intrigue and plotting that takes place. I have not read the Changeling but I plan to.

  10. Christina K. in the rafflecopter

    This sounds so good! It’s really nice that the characters were people you liked and that even though you didn’t feel totally in the period, it was an era you liked:)

    Thank you:)

  11. I haven’t read anything by this author but I used to devour historical fiction…well…now that I think about it..guess I’ve gone thru lots of reading “phases” This one sounds pretty good but I can understand how hard it would be to connect to the characetrs if you can’t get inside any of their heads!

  12. I’m a huge fan of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction so I’m really excited to find out that she’s written a YA historical/paranormal novel. I’m *even more* excited that it’s good!

  13. I LOVE Phillippa Gregory, I LOVE historical fiction, AND – what do you know?! – I’m a HUGE pen freak!!! I love the pen in that picture! :) Seriously, I would read just about anything that Gregory writes, and I have read a number of her books already. This one sounds fabulous to me! Glad you liked it too, even though not quite what you’d expected with the fantasy aspects. Thanks!

  14. I LOVE Phillippa Gregory and have most of her historical fiction. She does an outstanding job with her historical facts. BUT once in a while she will come up with a great twist for a person we all look at a certain way (The Constant Princess is a wonderful “what if” look a young Katherine of Aragon, Henry 8’s first wife).

    I somehow totally missed this book/series. Thanks for the review & contest! Both for the chance at winning the book & for bringing it to my attention 😉

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