Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stuffy English Accents
Giordano Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.
In S. J. Parris's gripping novel, Bruno's pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.
His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern in these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obsessed with the boundary between truth and heresy. (From Goodreads)
I actually read Prophecy before I read this one which is unusual for me. However, with these books, I'm glad I read the second one first. Parris' first Giordano Bruno book is not quite as good as the second one. I thoroughly enjoyed the intrigue and everything in the second book. Heresy is filled with the same intrigue and wit as the second book, but there was something about it that made it harder for me to get through.
First of all, the story is told in past tense in this book where Parris switches to the present tense in the second book which gives the story more immediacy and urgency that adds to the poignancy and the urge to keep reading. I really hope that, in the third installment, Parris continues with the present tense because I enjoyed that a lot more with this type of story.
I can see a big pattern with Parris' writing. While it works, I hope that she mixes up the plot procedure a little more with the next book. Both books start out with a dinner with a cast of characters who become Bruno's list of suspects for the murders that are about to ensue. Both books have far too many characters to recall who is whom so she is constantly reminding the reader, or you are constantly trying to remind yourself or you give up altogether, by adding little hints. The hints, however, don't seem to be enough. She goes into a lengthy description of their looks at first which is nice, but those little tags are not picked up later in order for the reader to really get these suspects clear in my mind. I had the problem with both books, so I know it isn't just a one-time thing. Here's hoping she gives a little more in the next installment.
That being said, something I noticed that kind of made me laugh, was that Giordano Bruno, as these books are written in the first-person narrative, seems homosexual at times. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that it is a woman writing his voice. He notices the beauty of a man more than he notices the beauty of a woman. In this book, Bruno is constantly referring to Norris as a perfect, handsome, angelic man. When he speaks of Sophia, who is supposed to be alluring, young, and beautiful, it comes off as something just in passing. Again, I noticed it more in Heresy so maybe Parris has been made aware of this, but it was an issue that kept coming up in my mind as I read.
It took me a whole month to read this book. Granted, I only read late at night and at the breakfast table which is not like me. I usually take time to read sporadically when I'm a little more alert. The next book I read I'm going to go back to my old routine, make sure I set aside time to read.
There were some redeeming factors to the book. I loved the historical context about Oxford that I did not know about. Giordano Bruno is a great character to see Elizabethan England through. Also, the idea about martyrdom and what people are willing to sacrifice themselves for is a noble and reliable theme. All in all, I would recommend this book only so you can get to Prophecy which is, in my opinion, the better of the two installments. I will continue to read the saga of Bruno in hopes that the books will only get better and better. I gave it 2.5 out of 5 Stuffy English Accents.