18.10.13

THE ASTRONOMER, by Lawrence Goldstone

Paris, 1535: Martin Luther had posted his condemnation of corruption in his church only 17 years before, but the new religion that has sprung from Luther's words has brought the fury of the Catholic Church - in the person of the Inquisition's French agent, the vicious Ory - to stamp out all traces of the upstart faith. A young student at the church's infamous College de Montaigu - Amaury de Faverges - is chosen to replace a murdered Inquisition courier.
He accepts the offer in part to get out of the college, in part because - as illegitimate son of a nobleman - the church promises to proclaim him legitimate. In an era of intrigue both temporal and ecclesiastical, the plots within plots draw Amaury, his friends, his co-religionists, deeper and deeper into uncertainty and treachery. Who is to be trusted? Helene, Amaury's long-denied love? Vivienne, the young prostitute who accompanies him on his journey? Rabellais, the famous writer whose brief part in the book is one of its most compelling characters? Castell'buono, the Queen's advisor? Philippe, Amaury's assigned servant? Even Francois I, the gorgeous, licentious child-man King of France, is part of the plot and its unexpected turns. Goldstone, the author, has done a fine job of recalling the conditions and politics of the time, and has taken less liberty with historical facts than many authors do. After much cogitation, I'll give this a 3.5. You might give it more.