Book Review: The Hermetica of Elysium by Annmarie Banks

1494 Barcelona. As Torquemada lights the fires of religious fervor throughout the cities of Spain, accused heretics are not the only victims. Thousands of books and manuscripts are lost to the flames as the Black Friars attempt to purge Europe of the ancient secrets of the gods and the bold new ideas that are ushering in the Renaissance.

Nadira lives a dreary life as servant to a wealthy spice merchant until the night a dying scholar is brought to the merchant’s stable, beaten by mercenaries who are on the hunt for The Hermetica of Elysium. To Nadira, words are her life: she lives them as her master’s scrivener and dreams them in her mother’s poetry. She is pursued as passionately as the fabled manuscript for her rare skill as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew that makes her valuable to men who pursue the book to exploit its magic.

Kidnapped by Baron Montrose, an adventurous nobleman, she is forced to read from the Hermetica. It is soon revealed to her that ideas and words are more powerful than steel or fire for within its pages are the words that incite the Dominicans to religious fervor, give the Templars their power and reveal the lost mysteries of Elysium.

As Nadira begins her transformation from servant to sorceress, will she escape the fires of the Inquisition, the clutches of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI and the French king, Charles VIII? And will Montrose’s growing fear of her powers cause her to lose her chance for love?

I liked this book, although it did take me a few chapters to get into it. There were also a couple of continuity issues that had me flipping back and forth through the book trying to figure out what I’d missed. Neither really had any affect on the story. The first was that when Nadira first encountered Baron Montrose, the text reads that he had a large scar on his face. That scar is never mentioned again, but another soldier is repeatedly called, “the scarred man”. I looked back at the original scene three different times, but still couldn’t find any mention of another man with a scar or find another way to read the scene that might name another soldier as the one with the large facial scar.

There was also a scene in which the Baron and his soldiers entered a room and bolted the door. Then a few minutes later, when they needed privacy, although no one had left the room, he got up and bolted the door. Nothing that changes the story; it just interrupts the flow.

As for the actual story, it started a little slow for me, but picked up quickly. Nadira speaks and reads several languages in a time when most people can’t even read. As an educated person, she is thrust from an obscure life as a servant to a life full of danger and intrigue where she will soon come face-to-face with some of the most powerful men in the world. She is kidnapped more than once, and I could almost see her rolling her eyes at one point as she realizes she’s been stolen again.

I couldn’t really get a handle on Baron Montrose. I’m not entirely sure he’s strong enough to be the man that Nadira needs. I like most of the other main characters, though. Nadira picks up a motley crew on her adventures across the continent and I’m curious to see how everyone will work together in the next part of the story.

About the book
Title: The Hermetica of Elysium
Author: Annmarie Banks
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Release date: Dec 8, 2011
Pages: 396
Where I got the book: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 4 stars