It’s 1453 in Italy, the height of religious zeal, and a young man named Luca is sworn into a secret sect of the church commissioned to solve religious mysteries. His first is to investigate a nunnery where witchcraft might be at play.
I was taking a huge chance on this book. Young adult, historical, and centering on mysteries. All stuff I don’t read a lot of. Here’s my theory as to why this worked for me. It is young adult as written by an author who writes adult works for the most part. She didn’t feel as if she was talking down to the reader or oversimplifying anything for the sake of a younger audience. That is still a trend with many YA authors, but it wasn’t done here. It is an easier read than an adult book would be and significantly shorter, but it still managed to be satisfying.
The historical aspects are loose and mostly centered around the time period in which the characters are operating. This makes for a lot of backwards opinions and beliefs on the parts of the main characters, which I could see irritating people who are more sensitive to it, but I understood it as accuracy to the era. Otherwise the story isn’t saturated with exposition about 1453, which could’ve bogged the experience down. It felt as much like a fantasy setting as anything, which lends somewhat to the fact that while it’s not really a fantasy story, it has that appeal.
The mysteries aren’t overly complicated or even terribly hard to solve once you understand what the general twist of each one is supposed to be. By the same token, I didn’t need for them to be deep and winding. I appreciated the direction she took with the cases Luca solved, and the concept felt really strong.
The characters feel well-rounded and well-written. No one’s a perfect, shining example of what everyone expects from YA heroes and heroines. My one fear is that YA seems to demand their be a designated couple, and the book is headed that way. I only hope Gregory can handle the task gracefully. This is obviously the beginning of a series, so their depth is only at the cusp of being explored, but it was enough to make me want to seek the next book and others as they come out.