Dark Tracks: Order of Darkness Volume IV by Philippa Gregory
About the author
Philippa Gregory was born in 1954 in Nairobi, Republic of Kenya. When she was two years old her family moved back to England. She studied English literature at the University of Sussex, where she later switched to the history course. Gregory earned her doctorate in 18th century literature at the University of Edinburgh and has taught at the University of Durham, University of Teeside and the Open University and was made a Fellow of Kingston University in 1994. Gregory’s first work was published in 1987 and she has been writing ever since, one of her most famous works The Other Boleyn Girl has won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award and has been made into two separate films.
Luca Vero is a member of the secret Order of Darkness, tasked by his master to uncover the truth behind strange happenings. Although Lady Isolde, her friend and Ishraq, Luca’s manservant Freize, and Brother Peter, Luca travels miles across medieval Europe – seeking out the signs of the end of days, judging the supernatural and testing the new science.
Trapped in a village possessed by dancing madness, the group fights to keep their own sanity. When Isolde dances away in red shoes and Ishraq takes dramatic revenge on their covert assassin, the young people discover that the greatest risk is in the men who have come to their rescue. These are the truly dangerous madmen of Europe who carry a dark hatred that will last for centuries.
I waited for ages for this book to be released and just recently I finally got around to buying it. I have read all the previous books in the series and really enjoyed them, I loved them so much I bought the first two as a present for my niece to read. So as you can imagine I was quite excited to read this book. Sadly the book did not live up to my enthusiasm and I doubt I will be recommending it to my niece.
The story continues with the same five characters from the series, Luca, Brother Peter, Freize, Isolde, and Ishraq. Luca is a novice not yet a full monk who works for the Order of Darkness a secret order that is monitoring things for the signs of the end of days. Brother Peter is a full monk who is following Luca writing down everything that they see and writing the reports for the secret order. He is also the oldest member of the five and makes sure that Luca remains faithful to his training to one day be a monk. Freize is Luca’s manservant who is extremely loyal and unfailing in his service. Isolde is a noblewoman who is trying to fight for her lands and castle with her friend Ishraq who she grew up with.
Luca, Brother Peter and Freize have been sent off to follow and study the people affected by the dancing sickness or madness, people in groups have decided to go off and dance leaving everything they know behind them. As their road is the same as Isolde’s and Ishraq’s they carry on travelling together.
The dancing sickness or madness was a phenomenon that was recorded in medieval times and times after that and there have been many theories as to the cause, however it has never been confirmed as to what it is. I always enjoy Gregory’s books because of the historical references within them and I was intrigued by the dancing sickness when reading about it in the blurb, however the book did not reveal as much as I would like to have learnt about it and the final result the characters came up with regarding it was a huge disappointment, it was like Gregory just wanted the book to finish within a certain word count and so gave up.
The other issue she discussed in the book was the treatment of Jews in the medieval times and this I did find interesting and was horrified about what I learnt from it. The scene at the end of the book was also very interesting. This issue is basically why the book did not get just one star.
In this book I found the two females sadly lacking, in the previous books they had been so strong and not the typical weak female of the time. However, this time Isolde fell in love with a pair of shoes and Ishraq some earrings when they knew they were meant to be on their guard. They came across as very vain and uninteresting. Ishraq did show her fighting skills and that was good to read but Isolde just came across as a protected spoiled brat and the more I read regarding her the less I liked her.
Considering this is the fourth book in the series the characters are not growing and to be honest have grown stale. I want to see their characters develop and to see them grow intellectually and emotionally and to be honest they almost went backwards in this book. Brother Peter and Freize were the only two who made the book bearable.
Overall the book showed what we already know, nobility in medieval times were horrible, self centred and cared nothing for their people. The treatment of Jews was a surprise for me and the dancing sickness was interesting to read about. However I could read about the Jews’ history and the dancing sickness in a history book and probably find it a great deal more interesting. The characters were severely lacking and quite frankly dull. I doubt I will bother to read the next in the series which is a great shame as the previous three were excellent. My rating was a 2 stars out of 5.
Lady Book Dragon