Friday, October 28, 2016

The Inquisitor's Tale

This book is a delightful surprise from Adam Gidwitz who is very popular in my library for the Grimm books which are based on fairy tales.  This book is still in the vein of the traditional storytelling, but it takes us back to the middle ages.

Jeanne is a peasant girl who has fits and visions.  When she was a baby, the family dog, Gwenforte, saved her life.  Her parents mistakenly believe Gwenforte killed the baby instead of a deadly snake, and they kill the dog.  When they realize their mistake, they bury the dog in a grove, and Gwenforte is venerated by the people of the village for her courage and bravery.  Now Gwenforte has somehow reappeared, and Jeanne and the dog are on the run from a group of knights sent to squash out heresy in the land.

William is an unusual young man.  He is an oblate, a boy in training to become a monk.  Even though he is still a boy, he is incredibly large and strong.  He has never met his parents, a French nobleman and the Muslim woman he met on a crusade in Africa.  William is clever and motivated, but he always feels left out.  After an outburst one day, he is sent on a mission to deliver some books to another monk.

Jacob is a young Jewish boy whose entire village is burned one day by young Christians.  When his comes across a man injured from the fire, he heals the man's wounds in record time.  His parents tell him to run to the home of a family friend.  He hopes his parents are still alive, but he may be they are lost.

These three magical children and the holy dog are first simply on the run, but they are soon involved in a war with the great King Louis IX of France.  How can three children and a dog be such great enemies that a king would wage war on them?  Read the book to find out!

I absolutely loved this book!  It is steeped in the religion and mystery of the dark ages when magic and miracles are almost interchangeable.  The tale is told from multiple perspectives which is reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, and it has Gidwitz's perfect blend of humor, blood, and depth, and the illustrations will transport readers to the days of illuminated manuscripts when a book was the work of a lifetime.

Though this book is set in the middle ages, kids will see parallels to the modern world.  Readers will easily see the connections between the religious tensions of the middle ages and those of today.  Complex characters are sometimes good and sometimes display extreme prejudice, and no one in the story is who they first appear to be.  Highly recommended!

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