Order of Darkness: Stormbringers

Written by Philippa Gregory
Review by Nanette Donohue

Luca Vero and his traveling companions continue their search for signs of the End of Days in this fast-paced sequel to Changeling, which finds the band of inquisitors in the small Italian fishing village of Piccolo. Piccolo should only be a stop on the way to Zagreb, but when the group encounters a children’s crusade led by a charismatic teenager named Johann, they pause to investigate. Johann insists that the seas will part to allow the crusaders safe passage to the East, and when an earthquake strikes, the waters recede—followed by a tsunami that decimates the village. Luca and his compatriots soon find themselves the target of the villagers’ wrath, and they must find a way to prove that they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

There are a number of apocryphal stories of children’s crusades throughout this era, and the crusade that is pivotal to this novel fits well within the mid-15th century context. Gregory has managed to avoid one of the most common problems in young adult novels written by established adult authors—her teens behave like teens, and not like miniature adults. They make snap judgments, they question authority, they boast, and they take risks that most adults would shy away from. Teens will find themselves drawn to the characters in this novel as they navigate questions of faith, loyalty, friendship, and love in a brave and forthright manner.