Review #96-97: Heresy / Prophecy

Heresy (Giordano Bruno #1)

13:09 hours

Prophecy (Giordano Bruno #2)

12:48 hours

by

S. J. PARRIS

narrated by John LEE

published by Random House Audio in 2010 and 2011

*** *** ***

These titles count for

2011 Audio Book Challenge

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THESE BOOKS

I finished 2011 with 2 fantastic historical novels as audiobooks.

First, I have to say I was very happily surprised when I started listening and recognized the voice of the narrator of The Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett: the amazing John Lee. His voice is absolutely perfect for that type of mysteries/historical novels: he’s great at suspense, and at changing his voice for different accents. I could listen to his voice for hours and hours.

These are great mysteries built on a famous Italian character. I loved the ambiance of Oxford University, and the Elizabethan time. There’s a great mix of scholarly elements, for instance about antique writers who were at the time considered as heretic, such as Hermes Trismegistus and what a man can do to recover a mysterious book, about astronomy/astrology, so important at the time that Elizabeth had her own astrologer at court.

You really have a lot of interesting historical background in these 2 volumes: with Giordano Bruno dangerous defending Copernicus’s ideas, the struggle between Catholicism and the church of England, and some strange events related to the cult of martyrs, to mention only the most important ones.

It’s kind of an adaptation of Brother Cadfael into the world of books, also about a monk, actually a former one, and I have a penchant for these…. 😉 . He is a very lovable character, and I can’t wait for volume 3, announced for 2012, Sacrilege, to see if he can finally get the mysterious book and decipher its cryptical content.

There are also interesting descriptions of England and its court at the time.

So if you like smart and albeit easy to read historical novels, you have to try these.

WHAT ARE THEY ABOUT

Heresy:
Masterfully blending true events with fiction, this blockbuster historical thriller delivers a page-turning murder mystery set on the sixteenth-century Oxford University campus.
Giordano Bruno [real character] was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.
In S. J. Parris’s gripping novel, Bruno’s pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.
His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern in these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obsessed with the boundary between truth and heresy.
Like The Dante Club and The Alienist, this clever, sophisticated, exceptionally enjoyable novel is written with the unstoppable narrative propulsion and stylistic flair of the very best historical thrillers. [goodreads]

Prophecy:
S. J. Parris returns with the next Giordano Bruno mystery, set inside Queen Elizabeth’s palace and steeped in period atmospherics and the strange workings of the occult.
It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrologi­cal phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.
When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some­thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.
Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?
In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller. [goodreads]

And see a cool trailer here

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  S.J. Parris began reviewing books for national newspapers while she was reading English literature at Queens’ College, Cambridge. After graduating, she went on to become Deputy Literary Editor of The Observer in 1999. She continues to work as a feature writer and critic for the Guardian and the Observer and from 2007-2008 she curated and produced the Talks and Debates program on issues in contemporary arts and politics at London’s Soho Theatre. She has appeared as a panelist on various Radio Four shows and on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, and is a regular chair and presenter at the Hay Festival and the National Theatre. She has been a judge for the Costa Biography Award, the Orange New Writing Award and the Perrier Comedy Award. She lives in the south of England with her son.

Message from the author [found on amazon]:
I first encountered the character of Giordano Bruno when I was a student at the University of Cambridge writing a thesis about the influence of occult philosophy on Renaissance literature. I was immediately captivated by his multi-faceted career (philosopher, proto-scientist, magician, and poet) and the drama of his life during years of exile on the run from the Inquisition around the courts of Europe. All the accounts I read of him suggested that he was extremely charismatic, the sort of person everyone wanted at their dinner parties, and that he possessed the ability to offend and charm in equal measure–in the course of a few years he went from fugitive heretic to close friend and confidant of kings and courtiers. But he was also a man fiercely committed to his ideas, even when that meant deliberately provoking the received wisdom of the day and courting a death sentence from the Pope.

At the time I thought Bruno would make an intriguing character for a novel, but other ideas intervened and for a while I forgot about him. More than ten years later, I was reading about the Wars of Religion in the late 16th century and came across his name again in a book that suggested that Bruno had added the profession of spy to his already crowded resumé, providing intelligence to Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster, from inside the French embassy where Bruno lived during his time in England. At the time, the English court was rife with rumors of plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth with the blessing of the Pope and the backing of Europe’s two great Catholic powers, France and Spain, in order to replace her with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, thus bringing England back under the influence of Rome.

I’d always been fascinated by this complex period of history, where religious and personal allegiance was in a constant state of flux and no one, including the Queen and her Council, quite knew who to trust. When I discovered the theory that Bruno had been a spy, I knew I had the material for my story. I chose to begin the series with Bruno’s real-life visit to Oxford in the spring of 1583; it was on this trip that he came into contact with many of the influential figures of the court, including Philip Sidney. Bruno hated his time in Oxford and wrote very unfavorably of it; I tried to fill in the gaps and imagine what might have befallen him there to make him take against the university so vehemently.

Oxford (both the university and the town) provided a perfect setting for my novel. It was a significant hub for clandestine Catholic activity during the 1580s and 1590s, and an Oxford college is a closed community, the perfect setting for the classic murder mystery. I’ve loved detective fiction since I was a teenager and wanted to try my hand at writing one of my own. I spent a bit of time in Oxford, and I was shown around Lincoln College by the present Rector. Fortunately the late sixteenth century left behind a rich trove of documents and records, so there are a number of very thorough biographies and histories of the period available, which made it very easy to research.

I hope you enjoy reading Heresy as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it. –S.J. Parris

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

Heresy has everything—intrigue, mystery, excellent history and haunting sense of place.  The beginning of a wonderful new detective series.”  —Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth

“Set in the time of Elizabeth I, Heresy could happily follow on Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall about Henry VIII and his relationship with Thomas Cromwell. Both evoke the tensions, turbulence and cruelty of Tudor England.” —The Oxford Times
 
“The famous scientist Giordano Bruno, erupts with volcanic force from the pages of S. J. Parris’s spellbinding debut novel, Heresy. Blending the philosophical sleuthing skills of Brother Cadfael with the magic sorcery of Voldemort, Bruno cracks the secret code, unraveling a church conspiracy as deep and dark as that in a Dan Brown novel.” —Katherine Neville, bestselling author of The Eight and The Fire

Tudor England again proves to be fertile ground for an outstanding historical thriller, as shown by Parris’s marvelous second novel featuring philosopher spy Giordano Bruno (after Heresy)…The suspenseful search for the murderer and the conspirators behind him makes the pages fly by. An admirable original sleuth and persuasive period detail bolster the taut plot.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“As in Heresy, Parris has crafted a cracking good suspense yarn, with twists and turns enough to satisfy the most exacting fan of the spy thriller. I bet you’ll never guess who mudered Cecily Ashe.” –Lucia Anderson for The Free Lance-Star

“Parris based both of her books on real-life historical figures, which include Bruno. She knows the period well, and her writing is reflective of that knowledge. Readers will hear the sounds of Elizabethan England, smell the Thames River, taste the food and feel the luxurious fabrics of the clothes worn by courtiers.”Kirkus Reviews [all reviews seen on amazon]

HAVE YOU READ THESE BOOKS YET?
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6 thoughts on “Review #96-97: Heresy / Prophecy

  1. I listened to Heresy and have to agree, the narration was great. It was a nice blend of history and fiction. The philosophical debates the characters engaged in were a little drawn out for me… if I were reading instead of listening I’d have sped up at those parts… but overall I liked the mystery/thriller aspect. I have Prophecy still to read in book form.

    Like

    • I believe there’s less of philosophy in the 2nd one, but more about Christian martyrology. I like both topics and have read extensively on those, so actually that was really fun for me to find them integrated in these thrillers

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