Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Saturn Symbols
It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.
When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that something far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.
Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?
In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller.
Now that I've read this book I can say that I should have read Heresy first, so, if you are looking into reading this, don't listen to those people who say you can read this one first and be all right. Bruno alludes to things that have happened in the first book and, while there are no spoilers that I can see, there is always that fear that those will appear.
That being said, this is a fantastic read. I loved the history, the intrigue, the suspense, and the writing. Elizabethan London comes alive in a more accessible way. With a plot that is reminiscent of Dan Brown, S.J. Parris takes the reader on a thrilling adventure into the dark underpinings of the politics in that era. Bruno is a likeable and believable hero who, while he seems bull-headed and does some stupid things at times, has the intellect to get through his predicaments. I liked that he was more of an intellectual hero than an action hero, but he could handle himself in a skirmish if he needed to.
The writing is far better than Dan Brown's so that is where the comparison stops. No offense to Dan Brown, but S.J. Parris has more of a knack for capturing beautiful imagery that is lacking in Dan Brown novels. She gives just enough details of a character's looks to let the reader fill in the missing pieces. Sometimes that is nice. It puts a little more trust in the reader that they can think for themselves and allows their minds to conjure up the face with the little tidbit that has been given. That is huge to me simply because this used to bug me. I used to be the kind of reader that liked to be told exactly what a character looked like. Now, I prefer to just have small details, preferably those things that make them stand out.
Speaking of characters, there are a lot of players in this book. At first I got a little confused about who was whom. She probably could have repeated some distinct markings of each character just so that I, as the reader, could get them more firmly wrapped in my brain, but I found that I figured it out well enough so that, by the end, I knew who was whom.
Parris does not get overly descriptive throughout most of the story. She has a nice balance of painting a nice picture for you while letting your imagination work the rest of it. The dialogue seems a little too modern and that might be my only complaint about the book. Sometimes Bruno uses phrases that are pretty modern, but it didn't bug me enough to distract from the overall enjoyment of the book.
The plot is fast-paced enough that I didn't lose interest. She had me from the get-go. Her writing, in the immediate and thrilling present tense, is impeccable. I love how most books are going to the present tense lately to show an immediacy that you lose when you write in the past tense if it used correctly. I was actually left guessing until just maybe a couple pages before she revealed the real culprit behind everything. That, my friends, is a huge compliment to Parris and her ability to divert.
That being said, I think I have gushed on about this book for long enough, I will let you get on with your lives. I would recommend this to anyone who loves literature, history, and/or Dan Brown. I gave it 4.5 out of 5 Saturn Symbols.