Review of The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks

Leah Courtney
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I'm a big fan of historical fiction. It's one of my favorite genres. And, call me crazy, but there's nothing like picking up a big, thick book to begin reading. For both reasons, I was thrilled to begin reading The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks. You can read more about the book on the Kregel website here.

From the book's description:

In 1536 it seems the entire known world is changing--strange new lands are discovered and the Reformation is challenging Rome and its power. In England the king’s declaration of a new church and dissolution of the monasteries overturns the customs and authorities of centuries. In the new world order, spies abound and no one can be trusted.
To Brother Pacificus of the Abbey of St. Benet's in Norfolk, it looks like his abbey alone will be spared dissolution. But this last Benedictine house is mired in murder and intrigue. Then when Pacificus falls under suspicion, more than his own dark past comes to light, while the body count keeps rising. Pacificus's 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, fueled by greed, and punctuated with bouts of feasting, smuggling, and jailbreak.

I was very intrigued, largely because this time period is one that my kids and I had read about last year in our homeschool history. And, it's a very interesting time period. People were being killed for their faith- either because they were Roman Catholic and the pendulum had swung to King Henry being Protestant or because they were Protestant but against the state church. These brave people fought to get the Bible into the language of the common people and to reform the church from her corrupt practices.

As I began reading, I had some difficulty really getting into the story. The book is written in second person, as if the writer is talking to the reader. It's also written in present tense, as if it is unfolding as the reader reads. Both of these are very uncommon approaches in a novel, and it was a bit off putting at first. I struggled through the first few pages, but then I was immediately drawn in by the content of the story, and I didn't really worry about the writing style.

The information in the book is very thorough. I felt as if I knew enough about the time and setting to really "get" the book, and I thought the author did a good job of conveying relevant details so that I would know what was going on. The characters in the story were very compelling. The main character- Pacifus, the monk- drew me in immediately. I felt as if I got to know him well- even through the unusual story style. Other characters were developed well also, and I really enjoyed getting to know them as the story unfolded.

Much goes on in the book. It's nice and long. Despite the fact that it's long and that several key things are going on at once, I felt as if the author did a good job tying it all together. There were a few times it felt as if the story was a little overwhelming, with too much going on. But, soon it would all be pulled together, and I would be comfortable with where the story was going again.

I can definitely recommend this one. If you are a history buff, it is a must read. Despite the unusual writing style I truly enjoyed it. I was sorry to see it end, even as I was glad to read the culmination of events. I give it 5 stars and a PG-13 for content (because of violence).

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Leah Courtney / Author & Editor

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