This is the second book in Philippa Gregory’s young adult series, Order of Darkness and I am glad to say it was so much better than the first book.
In this novel we see the same four characters – Luca, Isolde, Frieze and Ishraq – travelling together. Isolde is travelling to her godfather hoping that he will help her regain the inheritance her brother has stolen from her and Luca is on a mission from the Order of Darkness to search for signs of the end of the world.
I had never heard of a children’s crusade before I read this book. In the novel the children’s crusade is led by 16-year-old Johann the Good, a self-proclaimed child prophet who can hear the word of God. Luca is suspicious at first but then even he is taken in by Johann when he hears him speak. The group decide to travel with the crusade but then a terrible tragedy unfolds. Johann promises that the sea will part to allow them to walk to Jerusalem. A storm brews and the sea does indeed part, the children start making their way along the path that has formed. But it is not a Johann that has cause the sea to part, it is nature. Frieze knows that something is wrong and tries to stop the crowd following Johann into the sea. He realises the water will return. And as the miracle turns into tragedy hundred of children lose their lives and the village is swept up in a flood. Frieze is lost in the flood as he is trying to save the horses after getting his friends to safety. The villagers need someone to blame and become suspicious of the group, particularly Isolde and Ishraq, believing them to be involved in witchcraft and causing the storm and the ensuing tragedy.
Frieze is absent for a long chunk of this novel and you really notice it. You miss him because he adds the humour to the story.
I think Luca and Isolde are still lacking as main characters. Luca is as indicisive as ever and Isolde has turned into a jealous, spoilt child. Luca is planning on taking his vows but can’t seem to focus on what he needs to do. Ishraq and Frieze’s relationship is much more interesting and there is more development in these two secondary characters. Ishraq is a strong female and Frieze is honest and loyal and the dynamic between the two of them has much more chemistry than that of Luca and Isolde. The love triangle that develops between Luca, Isolde and Ishraq doesn’t really make any sense. Luca and Ishraq are friends. Isolde is jealous and petulant. The jealousy and mistrust wrecks their friendships.
There are still a few flaws in this story but it’s much better than the first novel. It is much more fast-paced, the writing is better and the storyline is better. There was still not much mention about Luca being a changeling though which is what the series is meant to be about which is a bit bizarre. I look forward to reading the next installment.