Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: Prophecy by S.J. Parris

Prophecy (Giordano Bruno, Book #2)
by S.J. Parris
Release Date: May 3rd, 2011
2011 Doubleday
Softcover Edition; 375 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-53130-6
ASIN: B0052FX6LI (Penguin)
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

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?

My Thoughts
Prophecy is the second novel in the Giordano Bruno series and it was just as beautifully written as the first one, Heresy.  I was first drawn to Heresy because I had studied Bruno in a university Inquisition class and always thought his story to be quite tragic, so when the opportunity came up to read a fiction novel based on Bruno, especially about his time in London which lasted from 1583-1585 and included speculation that he worked for Walsingham, I just couldn't pass it up.  And I haven't been disappointed.

The research in this book is impeccable.  The descriptions of court life, the clothing, the streets, the poor, London, and other areas of the city were so well done that I felt like I was there.  I could feel the cold air, the despair of some of the people living on the streets, the entire atmostphere of the city went right through me and that takes a lot of talent to convey through words.  For some reason I am always drawn to Elizabethan England and I can never get enough descriptions of this time period so I ate it right up.  In a novel like this, I don't mind descriptive scenes as it gives me a sense of the atmosphere so I get a feel for the times.  It's only in modern novels that it sometimes gets on my nerves as we are all familiar with our own time periods and don't need pages of description about something with which we are already familiar. 

There are a lot of characters that appear in this novel and the author writes as if you are already familiar with them from the first novel.  My recommendation is to read Heresy first as there are allusions made to that novel, and while no great secrets or revelations are revealed, there are still some things that came out of that novel that are continued in this one.  I adore Giordano Bruno as he is a sleuth who uses intellectual means to arrive at the truth rather than brawn and I love how he alludes over and over again that it might not be a bad idea to get some type of sword training if he is to continue in this profession, usually as he is in the midst of yet another dangerous situation.  Controversy tends to surround him everywhere he goes and he is often in the midst of things without meaning to.  Luckily he has protectors in his friends Sir Sydney, who to my dismay wasn't really a part of this novel, and Sir Francis Walsingham.  The intrigues at the French Embassy were also rather fun and I enjoyed them quite a bit.  It did help to have a background knowledge of some of the historical issues already though as the author assumes a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the reader.

My only issue with this novel was the plot itself which I thought was weaker than in Heresy.  All of the controversies surrounding the plot kept it from sinking into the mundane however, but I thought it could have been somewhat stronger.  However, what the novel did very well was show how very divided things were during Elizabethan times in that the Catholics were very much against a monarch who did not have Catholic values, especially while Mary Stuart was alive, as well as the issues of feminism, free thought, science, theology, abuse, and free will also came to light.  There was quite a bit in here that gave one pause and made you think quite a bit about the circumstances and the lives of the people during this time period.  As much as you would like to think it was an enlighted period, was it really?

Prophecy is an interesting look at a time period that I am completely fascinated by and as I am familiary with Giordano Bruno's story, it mades it doubly so.  I enjoyed the historical details as well as the intrigue between the characters, some known to us through history, some fictional.  I am looking forward to reading more about the adventures of Giordano Bruno in the future.


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