Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice by Ann Finnin

Published 2010.

Condemned to death by the Holy Office for sorcery, fifteen-year-old Michael de Lorraine is rescued from the flames by Abbot Francis and granted refuge at Sainte Felice, a Benedictine monastery in fifteenth-century France. Michael learns that this strange and wonderful place, famous for its magical healing wine, harbors renegade monk-sorcerers, enchanted gargoyles, and a closely guarded secret that could spell violent death for the Abbot.

As the church intensifies its cruel pursuit of Michael, Abbot Francis and the wizard monks find themselves in grave danger. Michael will do anything to protect his mentor, but are his own magical powers great enough to save the monastery from the merciless, bloodthirsty Inquisition? (book back blurb)

I gave this book until its halfway point before I decided to put it down. I figured if nothing nominally interesting had happened by that point, chances are not much else was going to happen after it and if it did, I probably wouldn't care.

The beginning started off strong enough. It intros right into Michael being lit on fire on a stake and then gets rescued by the Abbot. I zoomed through the chapter, holding my breath, wondering if he'd make it out okay (obviously it's the first chapter and he'd make it out but in what condition?). And that's where the action and anticipation ended for me. It just fizzled out once Michael got to the monastery and the most engrossing aspect was how to make the magic wine.

I think what helped play into the lackluster plot was the voice. It's not a current voice, and it shouldn't be since the main character is living in the 1400s. But it's also a very droll, very proper voice that really doesn't lend itself to action. I was supposed to be frightened when the search party came to the door but I just couldn't feel the fear or anticipation. I was just going through the motions of reading the words and turning the pages.

Michael's a likable enough character, if not a little boring considering what he'd just escaped from. But ultimately I felt a little gypped from what the blurb on the back of the book offered. It made the story seem more intense, more mystical than what it actually was. Instead we get Michael making wine and a former sorcerer puttering around as an abbot. Yeah, they're a motley crew of people from a bunch of unsavory backgrounds but that's about where the excitement ends for them.

Maybe I missed a big crazy climax where the powers come out in order to defend the monastery against the Inquisition. But at the halfway mark, I was pretty bored and looking for things to do around my house so I didn't have to pick this book back up. When I'd rather scrub my bathtub than read my current book, all signs point to a Did Not Finish roundup.

Maybe someone else with a much greater appreciation for that time in history would be able to overlook the language and lack of expectancy and read through until the end. Maybe someone else would be able to actually draw urgency from the words on the page. But it wasn't for me. I had to stop because, by the halfway point, it became a chore to read. I don't like being bored by my books. Nor do I like going in expecting one thing and getting another. Like I said, maybe if the voice were different it would have better portrayed the action in the book but as it was, I don't think it worked.


Enbrethiliel said...


Donna, your description of the book reminds me of the YA medieval-set Historical A Door in the Wall by Marguerite d'Angeli. It's not really an adventure story, but a gently told tale about a crippled boy learning to deal with his handicap that happens to involve a battle in the end. And it has a similar "gentle voice" and a rambling pace that many have found tantamount to a "lackluster plot" as well.

Anyway, I was wondering whether you read that book, and if so, how you'd compare it to this one. Obviously, they are very different, but I really liked A Door in the Wall for the same things other readers criticised it for, and so think I might like this one, too.


Blueicegal ♥ said...

Sounds like a decent read, i have to say i read your breaking dawn review and I'm glad that you touched upon the Jacob thing it gets to me even now, you reviewed the book with utmost honesty good job keep up the great work :)

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