Prophecy is the second instalment of SJ Parris’s Giordano Bruno books, based on the real-life Italian philosopher. Parris has taken some of the known facts about the real Bruno and enhanced rumour into fact, making him a spy for Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaker and Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham. The result is a delicious mix of proven historical fact, betrayals, plots and assignations with a healthy dose of invention and a charismatic character to root for. The real Bruno was also a cosmologist, proclaiming that the universe was infinite and that the stars in the sky were suns, like ours, circled by their own planets, and this theme runs throughout the books. To our modern eyes, Bruno appears a scientist; in his time, he was deemed a heretic. In Prophecy, Bruno must play a dangerous game on behalf of Walsingham, living in the house of the French ambassador and party to a plot to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Always an outsider – Bruno is a religious exile, a renegade monk who escaped his Italian friary in search of sanctuary from the Inquisition – and has learned to be an observer amongst dangerous factions in order to survive. He has also learned to defend himself with his fists.
Queen Elizabeth makes herself vulnerable to influence through her burgeoning interest in prophecies and astrology. When a maid in the queen’s household is found dead, her body branded with astrological signs, fear stalks the streets. Pamphlets about with fantasy and rumour are sold freely. Bruno is charged by Walsingham to identify the murderer. The pace of the story ramps up when Bruno makes a connection with the men plotting in support of the Scottish Queen. As the various parties dance elegantly around each other, stepping into shadows and dissembling in full light, Bruno must unravel true friends from false.
Second in the series, this book moved much quicker for me than the first, Heresy. Key characters are already established as is the historical context, political manipulation and religious conflict [intricate at the best of times]. There are plenty of traitorous suspects, dodgy meeting places, ill-advised assignations and dark alleyways to furnish twists and surprises a plenty.
Prophecy was a 4* read for me. Now I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Sacrilege. My first love is CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series, but this runs it a close second.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my review of HERESY, first in the Giordano Bruno series.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PROPHECY by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5ub via @SandraDanby