Philippa Gregory continues her historical fiction series, The Order of Darkness, with this second enthralling adventure. We rejoin Luca Vero and his companions on the route to Piccolo, as he continues his inquiries into signs that the end of times is near. As Luca and Lady Isolde become entranced by the charismatic leader of the Children’s crusade that follows them into town they fail to see what is brewing out at sea until it is too late. Now they must face their own ignorances and fears as well as the superstitions of the villages terrified by the events that they have witnessed.
Set just after the fall of Byzantium in 1453 at a time when the threat of an Arab conquest over Christendom was a daily fear, this book is filled with intriguing characters and adventure. The meticulous historical research that Gregory is known for in her adult fiction work can be seen here too as she invites the reader to share in her medieval world through colourful descriptions and thought-provoking dialogues. Many aspects of medieval life and thought are explored, some of which are still of concern today even if under different guises.
Gregory has created a powerful story which encourages the readers to notice how important knowledge is, as well as the consequences of one's actions. Her female characters are particularly strong, ensconced within medieval constraints but surprisingly modern in their outlook and thinking. The relationship between these two female characters, a Christian lady and a Moorish servant, is one of the strong points of the story as it gives valuable insight into the positions of medieval women in different societies as well as into the religious conflicts of the time. The story ends with promises of greater adventures and mysteries in the next book.