Sawcat's Book Blog

The Hermetica of Elysium (The Elysium Texts Series, #1) - Annmarie Banks I really enjoyed this novel. I got sucked right into Nadira's story and didn't want to put it down. It is set during the Spanish Inquisition and the reign of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). Nadira is a slave who manages the accounts and correspondence for her master, the spice merchant when the agents of the Inquisition bring a scholar to the home so she can translate for them. They are looking for the Hermetica of Elysium and in their question of the scholar, they mortally wound him. Days after his death, the scholar's brother and protector arrives to learn the details of his brother's death. Vowing to take up his brother's cause, upon learning of Nadira's skill with languages, they head off in search of the Hermetica.Nadira is a very likable character. In a time when women frequently couldn't read or write their native tongues, Nadira can understand six languages and is extremely intelligent. She analyzes situations and is very perceptive. And she is not hesitant in being direct or honest with the men she encounters, if it does not harm her in any way. These are all excellent qualities for a heroine in contemporary novels, and really drew me to the character. These modern qualities are inserted in a way that it fits with the time the story is set in. Nadira frequently is asked why she knows so many languages, and she also has fears on how others, like the Black Friars could twist her knowledge to use against her.One thing that struck me near the end of the book (actually while reading the sample for the second book), was while there was a romantic angle that appears midway through the story, it is a very clean story. Set in a time when the Pope had mistresses and featuring a young women taken out of her home by a group of strange men, one might expect learing, or the threat of rape, and once the romance blossoms, some physical action on the mutual feelings. But that never happens, and it doesn't need to happen either. You don't miss it, and the story doesn't need those salacious events or descriptions. Though it does give Nadira's traveling companions a bit of a chivalric air, even though from the stories they tell that they aren't quite the ideal chivalrous knights of Arthurian legend.Banks does a good job in her variety of the characters she writes. Even in the backdrop of the Inquisition, there is variety in the clergymen. Some are strong supporters of the Inquisitions, some concerned with knowledge and learning, others for caring for their flock. The characters are not one dimensional, but have their good and their bad side, so learning which way they would go made it interesting. Banks also does a good job of blending the different ideology, for there are several discussions on philosophy between the characters.What disappointed me the most was reaching the end. I was not ready for Nadira's journey to end. But it didn't really. The second book in the series, The Necromancer's Grimoire is expected to be released in September of 2012.

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