Cabinet of Curiosities

Written by Paul Dowswell
Review by Val Loh

Lukas DeClerq is travelling to Prague to become an apprentice to his Uncle Anselmus, court physician to the Emperor Rudolph II. His journey, which will take him into the presence of the eccentric, depressive and reclusive Rudolph, is a very dangerous and troubled one.

The Emperor has collected artifacts in four amazing rooms known as The Cabinet of Curiosities. His first encounter is with robbers, which leads him to a close escape with Etienne, a streetwise youth who helps him to survive the journey to the safety of Prague. However, once parted from his friend, he immediately falls into deeper and darker trouble as he tries to find his uncle. Rudolph encourages learning and religious debate with tolerance and philosophy. His kingdom is unique amongst the shadow of the Catholic Church’s Inquisition in Europe by encouraging the greatest alchemists to experiment in relative safety. Lukas has his reasons to hate the Inquisition. Prague harbours this sadistic shadow. When a sinister plot threatens the Emperor Lukas again faces danger.

Lukas’ story highlights the horror intolerance brings. How torture was heartlessly carried out against those who followed different beliefs. It exposes the weaknesses in human nature yet also the amazing strength of resistance within some individuals. The characters are vivid, whether good or evil, the pace swift and the plot skilled, and I have deliberately been vague as to the details of the latter so as not to spoil the twists and turns of this fascinating novel for the reader. The book is both educational and interesting. It is one which confident readers should enjoy.