Title: The Heretic
Author: Henry Vyner-Brooks
What a fantastic book! When I first received this book in the mail, I was a little daunted by the 600 plus pages, but it was so worth it! The setting is 1536 in England just as King Henry VII has declared himself head of the church and begins dissolving the Catholic monasteries, nunneries, abbeys, churches, etc…
The main character, Brother Pacificus, is a monk of around 50 years of age. He has assumed his identity to protect himself and to escape his past as a Hospitaller Knight who fought against the Saracens and gained a reputation almost as wide and well-known as King Arthur. His brother lives nearby in a leper colony, living under an assumed name as well as he also fought the Saracens. Pacificus has grown up Catholic and knows the vices of some in leadership, but he has known no other faith. That is until he meets Elizabeth Fenton. After agreeing to see to the safety of her children, Pacificus witnesses her arrest for heresy. He knows she will eventually be tried and found guilty and executed. What follows is his making his promise to her for her children true as well as visiting her in jail, getting to know her and hear about her personal relationship with God. It is against everything Pacificus has been taught, but how he longs for the peace these Anabaptists have! This puts him in a mind to think about his beliefs.
He also is faced with being drawn increasingly more into the political machinations of his boss, who is a loyal Catholic, but trying to work the system to his personal benefit to gain power and wealth. There are monks now living at Saint Benet, Pacificus’ home, from another shuttered abbey. Soon after their arrival, a dead body of a monk is discovered. An investigation begins, but no culprit is arrested. Pacificus has his suspicions, but no proof. Life goes on with him visiting the children, who are in hiding with an older Anabaptist couple, and then another more gruesome murder is discovered. Pacificus again thinks he knows who is guilty, but has no evidence. Meanwhile, he must navigate the increasing difficult political climate, face Elizabeth’s upcoming trial and his growing feelings for her, see to the training of a young man to become a knight, and much more.
This was a very interesting fictionalized account of some historical people and events. I am a mystery lover, so I was hooked on the story after the first murder. I also enjoy history and didn’t know a lot about this time period, so I learned a lot too. The constant threat of discovery or false accusations that people had to live with every day of their lives was tremendous. Any kind of off-hand comment or irregular activity could be construed as heresy against the king and lead to arrest, torture and execution. There are a few gruesome events, which I didn’t enjoy reading, but realize that this is history and these things did happen. I also really liked the character of Pacificus. His grumpiness and crankiness at the beginning with the children that soon turned to affection really rang true for me. His wrestling with faith and longing for peace were also genuine and realistic in my opinion. There is so much more to this story than I have space for here, but suffice it to say that I definitely will be reading more books from this author as this first foray for me into his work was such a satisfying experience. A keeper for sure!
My rating is 5 stars.
Note: I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility. Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/. Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457