Luca Vero is a member of the secret Order of Darkness, tasked with searching out and reporting signs of the end of the world. Breaking his journey in Piccolo, he finds a place filled with superstitious fears: of the unknown, of the forces of the sea and sky, of strangers. With him are his loyal friend and servant, Frieze, and his clerk, Brother Peter, as well as the Lady Isolde and her mysterious servant-companion Ishraq. The five of them are followed into the town by a huge children’s crusade, led by a self-proclaimed saint. Its young leader promises that the sea will part before them, and allow them to walk dry-shod all the way to Jerusalem. Luca and Lady Isolde are swept up in the growing excitement; but something dangerous is brewing far out to sea…
When the first book in this series, called Changeling, came out last summer I was very eager to read it, and I actually managed to finish it in less than a day. It was a very refreshing read, very different from Gregory’s other work, and I enjoyed it a lot. This is why I was really looking forward to the second installment, because the story ended very abruptly and I couldn’t wait for it to continue.
This one didn’t disappoint, not exactly, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled by it either. It had some good bits, and some lesser bits, which made it an enjoyable read overall. Some of the characters, mainly Ishraq and Freize went through a nice bit of personal development, but I found the characters of Luca and Isolde were fundamentally lacking something. Isolde slowly turned into a petulant jealous child, and Luca was much too indecisive for my liking. I felt the story in itself was lacking a sense of direction as well, sometimes quite literally. The characters can’t seem to make up their mind as to what it is they want to do. “Let’s go to Croatia”, “no, let’s go to join the children’s crusade”, “I’m going to Romania”, “on second thoughts, I might not go to Romania”. This is what bothered me most about the book I suppose, the indecisiveness.
There were some things I really enjoyed about the book though. One of them is Gregory’s talent for worldbuilding, you just can’t fault her on that count because she’s really good at it. Another one is the character of Ishraq, who is a strong female character, both stronger and more intelligent than most of the male characters in the book combined which is just awesome. My other favourite character is Freize, because he’s honest and loyal and kind. *SPOILER* when I thought Freize had been killed off I was really upset, so I was really relieved when he turned out to be just fine.
One last thing that bothered me about the book was the implied love-triangle between Isolde, Luca and Ishraq. The friendship that was forming between Luca and Ishraq was really great and seemed to be going really well, until Isolde got it into her head that they were in love and turned into a jealous petulant child, because she’s smitten with Luca. This jealousy and distrust wrecks Luca and Ishraq’s friendship, and consequentially the bond between Isolde and Ishraq as well.
All in all it was an enjoyable read, but it was seriously lacking in some parts. I initially gave this a 4 star rating on Goodreads, but after having thought about it for a bit longer I am going to downgrade it to 3 stars instead. Definitely not a bad book, and I will be buying the next installment when it comes out, but not a favourite by a long shot either.