cover image The Brotherhood of Book Hunters

The Brotherhood of Book Hunters

Rapha%C3%ABl Jeruslamy, trans. from the French by Howard Curtis. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-60945-230-8

It is 1462 and the poet Fran%C3%A7ois Villon sits in a filthy Parisian prison waiting to be executed. Records show that his sentence was changed to banishment, and after 1463, he disappears from all record. Jeruslamy (Saving Mozart) picks up at this point and spins a wild story that has Villon being pardonded by King Louis XI in exchange for some favors that could very well bring the Papacy to its knees. His first mission is to convince a bookseller to print and disseminate some banned works for the French diocese in order to tilt public favor against the Vatican. The deal is not as straightforward as it seems, however, and in order to complete his mission, he must travel to Jerusalem, "a city not so much built of stone and bricks as fashioned out of words and dreams." So begins his great voyage across the sea and into the Holy Land, where he and his traveling companion, Colin, are introduced to Christian monks, rabbis, and a mysterious group of rebels called the Brotherhood of Book Hunters. Fran%C3%A7ois's mission becomes more convoluted than ever, and although the plot is cinematic and full of twists, the novel trips over its erratic prose, which can be hackneyed and difficult to follow. This is an ambitious second novel that never quite lives up to its potential. (Nov.)