Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The Mercy Seller
by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
St Martin's Griffin, NY, 2007

Twenty years have passed since the events in this author's previous book, The Illuminator. It is 1410 and the mercy seller of the title is Father Gabriel, a Catholic priest who raises money for the church by selling indulgences, small pieces of paper that absolve you of your sins. Unfortuately, most of the people who buy them are poor peasants that can barely afford to feed their families. He will come to doubt his faith when he discovers that everything that he has believed to be true about his past has been a lie. Anna, Finn's granddaughter from the first book, has been raised in the underground movement that distributed Scriptures to the ordinary people of Europe, in their own language rather than the Latin that the Catholic church demanded. She believes that everyone should be able to read the word of God for themselves. When her path crosses with Gabriel's they both have to make difficult decisions. For me, this book's main characters were not as likable as the earlier book's characters. Perhaps, at least in the case of Father Gabriel, this is the design of the author. I really enjoyed two of the side characters, Sir John Oldcastle and his wife Joan. Sir John is a historical figure and the basis for Shakespeare's Falstaff. The author has good historical accuracy and evokes the period well. For some reason, despite all of my reading, I tended to think that King Henry VIII found the basis for his Reformation in his relatively recent past. Actually, there was an underground movement in Europe for more than a hundred years before that to provide bibles and other religious texts to people in their own language, circumventing the Catholic church. It was considered heresy by the church to even be in posession of any bible that was not in Latin, and punishable by death.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a very interesting book. Even though I read waaay too much set in England to ever finish my literary trip around the world, I've still added this to my wishlist.

The Tome Traveller said...

I have the same problem. I get stuck in England because that's my favorite. I'm really looking forward to reviewing the ARCs because it will encourage me to broaden my horizons! The Mercy Seller does start in Prague and spends some time in France, so you get a little broader view.

tashiana said...

two thoughts
1. selling forgiveness? not cool
2. bibles should be readily available in every language

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.