The Black Plague. The Pestilence. Disease and death haunt every town and village across 14th century Europe and none are immune from its evil. Some see the devastation of their world as a sign from God for Man’s wickedness.
But Brother Thomas Neville sees this swath of death as something much more. Neville is a man beset by demons. Or is it angels? He has had a visitation from none other than the Archangel Michael, who commands Thomas to a mission. This mission will take Neville across the length and breadth of the continent in a desperate bid to find the means to stop the minions of Satan who have found a doorway out of Hell and are preparing to venture forth, to try and seize this world in preparation for an assault on Heaven itself.
As Thomas Neville encounters angels and demons, saints and witches, he comes to realize that the armies of God and Satan are arraying themselves for the final battle…and that his soul is to be the battleground.
The question is has Neville picked the truly good side?
The Nameless Day is the first volume in Sara Douglass’s trilogy, The Crucible, and what a trilogy it is. Although it may not appeal to all readers, The Crucible is probably the best historical fantasy series I have read in a long time, and unlike other series in this genre you don’t have to plough through double-digit numbers of novels to get to the end. However, if you or a member of your family is fainthearted or devoutly Catholic this may not be the book for you considering the shenanigans the religious characters get up to.
The main protagonist is a self-righteous, small-minded, hypocritical man, and although this may make him seem the type of character some readers are unable to relate to it also makes him a more realistic character given the period of time in which the novel is set. Finding someone with his modern liberal views would have been fairly uncommon for this era, but in writing this character the Author manages to make them believable but also one that readers would be drawn to. In their writing of this character the Author has managed to ensure that there is room for development and one that readers will want to see change as they progress through, not only this book but the remaining two in the trilogy. Taking place in an alternate version of fourteenth century Europe, readers will recognise many actual historical figures and, although it could so easily have turned into a book with too many characters to keep track of, the Author weaves historical fact and fiction about them together in a seamless manner giving each their own distinct personality and not leaving the reader the task of having to back track to see where they fit into the plot overall.
Taking the ultimate time long battle of Angels and Demons the Author places this a period of history that was fraught with upheaval. The author incorporates well researched historical elements in their novel and adds enough fantasy to keep the reader from feeling this is just another dry historical work of fiction. Some dates that certain historical figures appear have been slightly adjusted for the sake of the storyline, but this does not take away from the purpose of the book in any way, and that purpose is to give a great experience to its readers. This book also manages incorporate a little bit of everything that would draw readers to it that may not otherwise pick up a novel in this genre. As I have mentioned there is the history portion, but there are also elements of romance and fantasy, and I was glad to see that the romance was not the kind that would have me laying this book aside in disgust. Added to this there are sections which are definitely dark and sinister which hint back to earlier work in the gothic genre, and the moments of gore and brutality are worthy of even the most celebrated of horror novelists.
The reason for my 4 thumbs review, as opposed to a 5 thumbs that it sounds as if I should have awarded to it is this; by the end of the book there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of things remain unsolved. This makes it the kind of book that would not function well as a stand-alone, so if you are going to read it, be prepared to have the remainder of the trilogy on standby. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good all round read, and a series that they can get their teeth into without having to expend vast amounts of time and money to complete it. I will definitely be revisiting the trilogy again and probably on numerous occasions.