Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks

Stone columns, dark arches, candlelit pavement, stained glass ablaze 
in the dying light of Lady Day Eve, March 1536." 
Opening Sentence

1536: a year when strange ideas intrude, strange lands are discovered, and the king’s dissolution of the monasteries overturns the customs and authorities of centuries. In the new world order, spies abound. Who can be trusted? For Brother Pacificus of the Abbey of St Benets in Norfolk, it seems as if his Abbey alone will be spared. But this last Benedictine house is mired in murder and intrigue. When Pacificus is implicated, more than his own dark past comes to light, while the body count keeps rising. Pacificus' fate becomes entwined with that of three local children after their parents are arrested for treason and heresy. Protected only by this errant monk, a mysterious leper and a Dutch eel-catcher, the children must quickly adjust; seeking their own identity, they soon find that neither parents nor protectors are quite what they seem. Based on historical events, this post-medieval mystery is laced with romance, fuelled by greed and decorated with bouts of feasting, smuggling and jailbreak.

The Heretic is a exceptional new novel, steeped in historical detail, with a very rich plot. It is set in 16th century England, at the heart of the religious upheavel set in motion by King Henry VIII.

The author has penned a masterful story written in a lyrical prose that reveals a rich and colorful cast of characters and a fascinating storyline. Its main theme is religious freedom and the fight for independent choice. Forging ahead, the author bravely keeps faith with the harsh times and does not hide the brutality typical of that era. So there is plenty of sex, murder, and punishment. None of it, however, is gratuitous. Rather, it has been presented with accurate historical background and for clear motivation that keeps the story rolling ahead. 

This novel is not light. In fact, it is a very challenging read with its many complexities and numerous characters. It takes a great deal of concentration and effort, but the effort will be well worth it for those who persevere. It truly is a delicious, multi-faceted, historical novel about a turbulemnt time in England's rich history. 

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