Saturday, September 10, 2016
The Devil's Novice - Ellis Peters
This is the eighth book in the Brother Cadfael books, and while all of the books deal with the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud in some degree (and it does touch this story), this book ends up being more about family drama, which is a bit unexpected when your main character is a monk.
The Abbey in Shrewsbury accepts a postulant from a local family of the gentry. He’s nineteen, so well old enough to make the decision, and seems eager to embrace a life in the church, but he’s clearly not cut out for that life. To make matters worse, he suffers from terrible nightmares, and the screams from those (which he does not remember), quickly label him the Devil’s Novice, and most of the abbey wants him gone.
Coincidentally, a powerful bishop visits on his way through, investigating the disappearance of an envoy the church has sent to one of the factions in the civil war. That envoy is a cousin of the new novice, and it was at his family’s home that the envoy was last seen alive. Brother Cadfael can tell there’s a connection, and it’s up to him to figure it out.
Like I said, this ends up being a family drama – Cadfael visits the home of the novice, and it’s a complex emotional situation he finds there.
I really enjoyed this book – I’ve always liked the period details in these stories, but the sheer drama of this particular one was the draw – putting together the pieces and finding the right place for everyone at the end was very satisfying.