________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 16 . . . . April 4, 2008


The Heretic's Tomb.

Simon Rose.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2007.
165 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-896580-92-0.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Jane Bridle.

**½ /4


In the candlelight, Isabella could see that this book was similar to the one Dominic had given her earlier, with metal corners and two sturdy clasps. However, the cover of this book had a strange design. In the centre was a metal circle with two snakes intertwined around the edge and the letter 'V' in the middle.

Isabella hesitated to open the book. Even though her family had perished, Isabella believed that God had spared her life in order for her to help others. If she were caught with this book she would surely be condemned as a witch. However, it must have been God's will that she encounter Mad Dominic and receive this ancient volume of spells. The prospect of helping countless people quickly outweighed whatever guilt she had felt for possessing such a forbidden book. She unfastened the cover.


The Heretic's Tomb opens in 1349 when the scourge of the Black Death was claiming a third of the population of Britain. Lady Isabella Devereaux loses her entire family to the plague and determines to do what she can to alleviate the suffering of those around her. She happens upon Mad Dominic, a hermit monk, who bequeaths two books to her. One book contains medical remedies with instructions for treating a wide range of ailments. The other contains ancient magic and spells. Anyone caught in the possession of the latter would face certain death as a heretic.

     While Isabella uses the remedies from the first to become a medical pioneer, she also forges an amulet to conquer death by using the instructions from the second. She enlists the assistance of a young orphan named Will, and, when he finally succumbs to the plague, she uses the amulet to bring him back to life. She is finally taken prisoner by the evil Sir Roger Walsingham who wants access to the amulet for his own treasonous purposes. He walls her up to suffer a slow death by starvation, hence the novel's title, The Heretic's Tomb.

     In a rapid jump to the present day, Annie, a 12-year-old girl who is exploring an archaeological dig in contemporary London, literally stumbles into the tomb and finds the other half to the amulet which was given to her by her great-grandmother. She time travels to the past and is enlisted by Lady Isabella to undo the devilish schemes of Walsingham.

     The novel is historically accurate in much of its depiction of the architecture and gives a good sense of the harsh lifestyle of medieval Britain. However, it is formulaic in the sense that it includes many stereotypes from gothic romances from the hermit monk to the mad scientist in the dungeon. The tepid watercolour cover art by Cynthia Nugent will not help to attract the browser. Consider purchasing for larger libraries only.

     Author Simon Rose, who was born in Britain, now calls Calgary, AB, his home. His previous novels include The Alchemist's Portrait (2003), The Clone Conspiracy (2005) and The Emerald Curse (2006). The Sorcerer's Letterbox (2004) was shortlisted for the Silver Birch and Diamond Willow awards.


Jane Bridle is a librarian for Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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