Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Heretic - Sarah Singleton

Sarah Singleton's Heretic won the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2005.

The novel is set in 16th century Protestant England during which Roman Catholics were persecuted, and enemies of the heretical faith were believed to lurk in every corner. Although Sarah Singleton may seem to sympathise with the Catholic faith, the story moves back in time to the 13th century, when a mother of two was executed for witchcraft by the Catholic Church, showing that intolerance has always been an issue, and demonstrating just how dangerous it was to go against established religion. The fear of discovery, the pain inflicted on the "unfaithful", and the inability of a child to protect their family are some of the most moving passages in this novel. The language is very descriptive, brimming with elaborate adjectives, similes and metaphors. At the same time, though, there is a dark, gloomy sense of mystery and intrigue throughout the book: enemies of the faith hide away whilst their persecutors are watching and following them every step. Woven throughout the tale of 16th century England are fantastical and magical worlds, along with a host of strange and sometimes dangerous creatures: a green girl from the Shadow Land, faeries who trick and delude you, goblins, and some blood-thirsty angels who are quite unlike the holy creatures about whom we are used to reading.

This story is no mere simple tale of good and evil. Even the angels and the faeries are vengeful and cruel, inflicting torment on those who are thirsty for others' blood. I didn't find this an easy book to read - in fact, I stopped part way through to read a few other books in quick succession. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under the age of about 14, to be honest. It's rather more intense than Singleton's Century.

The cover photo is one again by Simon Marsden, whose photo archive you can find here.

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