The Mercy Seller

Brenda Rickman Vantrease, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (422p) ISBN 978-0-312-33193-1

In this overly complex but engaging sequel to The Illuminator , Friar Gregory, a 15th-century priest and seller of indulgences, is enlisted to root out an alleged heretic, but his devotion to the church can't override his misgivings. When the unscrupulous Archbishop Arundel suspects Sir John Oldcastle of being in league with the heretical Lollards (they distribute—to the horror of Rome—vernacular translations of the scripture), he dispatches Gregory to build a case. As Gregory looks for evidence, a parallel story unfolds in Prague, where the illuminator from Vantrease's first novel is now an old man whose adult granddaughter, Anna, he has trained as a copyist in the Lollard tradition. As persecution of the Lollards intensifies, Anna is dispatched to England (and Oldcastle's protection). Anna's and Gregory's paths cross in France, where the friar finds his vows at the breaking point, with repercussions that propel the rest of the story. The story is carefully researched, but the establishment of so many characters and the social and religious complexities of the time overwhelms the first half of the novel. Vantrease tells an engaging story and paints a vivid picture of 15th-century Europe, but what she doesn't manage to achieve is a balance between the two. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/18/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4299-1700-1
Paperback - 422 pages - 978-0-312-37785-4
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