Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory

Tan-tan trying to nap as I bother him for a pic.
Tan-tan trying to nap as I bother him for a pic.

Why I Read It: Book 1, Changeling, was fun.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you’re looking for a light historical fiction with a strong bend towards witchcraft & religion, check this book out.

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2013)

Length: 7 CDs

Series: Book 2 Order of Darkness

Stormbringers picks up right where Changeling left off. Philippa Gregory gives us more about Ishraq and we learn some of Luca’s past troubles. As the four traveled on to their next mystery to investigate, they come across a crusade of children lead by a 15 year old shepherd named Johann. The towns people readily believe Johann and his divine guidance to lead the children to Jerusalem before the End of Days comes. Luca takes more convincing, but soon comes to believe that the lad knows things about his past that he could only know through some divine power. Johann prophesies that the waters will part and he and the child crusade will be able to walk to the Holy Land. Miraculously, it appears that his prophesy comes true….but then things turn unexpectedly.

This book picked up a bit slower for me. Philippa Gregory spent perhaps a third of the book with Johann and there was plenty of religious talk in that space that didn’t particularly appeal to me. But once Johann’s prophesy comes true, things really pick up. The twist midway through the book brings three of our heroes into danger and leaves one lost, potentially forever. Towards the end we get yet another twist that could lead Luca to find his long lost parents and tests Ishraq’s loyalty to her mistress Isolde. Once again, Freize was my favorite character and had some of the best lines, being of a more practical nature.

I have to say that growing odd love quadrangle leaves poor Brother Peter out in the cold and the reader rolling their eyes. At first, some of the aspects were cute, even sweet or compassionate, but then jealousies strain the plot and leave at least one of the characters looking like a spoiled 12 year old instead of young adults who have been facing the world on their own two feet for a few months, if not a few years. Mostly, I tried to ignore that. Again, Ishraq is a fascinating character, but so many proficiencies are attributed to her it makes her character a bit unbelievable: she’s a scientist, a doctor, trained in hand to hand combat, multi-lingual, etc. She’s a 17 year old servant. Can’t she be extraordinary at that and still be believable?

Even with those distractions, I found the children’s crusade fascinating. The reader is also left to conclude on their own about Johann and his supposed divinity. When Johann’s prophesy comes trues, the reader can easily conclude it was a natural phenomenon. I don’t want to give away what this was exactly, but I personally have been fascinated with this particular phenomenon for a few years now. It is done really, really well in this story. Of course, this natural phenomenon then leads to accusations of witchcraft and Luca, the papal inquisitor, has to hold an official inquiry. I have to say that I felt the inquiry was wrapped up too easily and lacked drama. But then Philippa Gregory makes up for that with the last quarter of the book as the townfolk and Luca have to confront a slave galley. I won’t say more, but the last bit of the book was filled with delicious tension and mystery.

Narration: Nicola Barber was an excellent choice for this book. She performed Isolde exactly how I imagined her in my head. She gave Freize a playful, mocking voice, and Luca an inquisitive and sometimes haughty voice. Her range for age and gender brought this book to life. Additionally, there was an afterword from the author on what was factual and what was fiction about her book – such afterwards I always find of interest.

What I Liked: The setting (1400s Italy); interesting child crusade; natural phenomenon – very well done; the last quarter was excellent; the ending is set up perfectly for the next book.

What I Disliked: Odd love quadrangle; slow start with lots of focus on Johann but little depth; the inquiry was over too quickly & lacked drama; too many abilities assigned to Ishraq to make for a believable character.

What Others Think:

A Thousand and One Books

Chapter by Chapter

Feeling Fictional

Books of Love

Luxury Reading

Candace’s Book Blog

4 thoughts on “Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory”

  1. I’ve read a lot of Philipa Gregory’s books. I love all the Tudor series and have also been reading some of her White Queen books. She is amazing for bringing a certain period to life with just the right blend of historical and fiction. I haven’t read this – most go and look – not that I’m obsessive or anything like that!
    Lynn 😀

    1. I read some of her Tudor series years ago – love how she made Queen Katherine’s first marriage fit into the story. I look forward to reading more of her works. I believe the White Queen in next on my list.

  2. I think we had a lot of similar thoughts about this one 🙂 I really loved the part about the phenomenon – that was so cleverly written! – but the heavy religious content before that left me feeling a bit bored. I’ll still be interested in seeing where their journey takes them though!

    1. Same here. The beginning felt repetitive and lacked depth, hence it was boring for me. I’m glad it picked up later, which is why I will probably read Book 3.

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