Thursday, October 27, 2011

The School of Night - Louis Bayard

Summary: In the late sixteenth century, five brilliant scholars gather under cloak of darkness to discuss God, politics, astronomy, and the black arts.  Known as the School of Night, they meet in secret to avoid the wrath of Queen Elizabeth.  But one of the men, a scientist named Thomas Harriot, has secrets of his own.

In modern-day Washington D.C., disgraced Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish has been hired by the ruthless antiquities collector Bernard Styles to find a letter stolen by Henry's closest friend, the late Alonzo Wax.  Dating from the 1600s, the missing letter just may hold the clue to a hidden treasure.

Joining Henry in his search is Clarissa Dale, a mysterious woman who suffers from visions that only Henry can understand.  In short order, the pair find themselves stumbling through a secretive world of ancient perils, caught up in a deadly plot and ensnared in the tragic legacy of a forgotten genius.  (Summary from book - Image from  - Book given free for an honest review)

My Review:  The School of Night begins as two stories, separated by nearly four hundred years, that slowly intertwine as the tale progresses.  It is adorned with an interesting array of characters that span the centuries:  Henry Cavendish, the disgraced academic; Clarissa Dale, a beautiful woman consumed by visions of the past; Thomas Harriot, an unrenowned but brilliant philosopher, Margaret Crookenshanks, a servant turned research assistant with a keen mind and a thirst for knowledge; Bernard Styles, a ruthless antiquities collector determined to retrieve his property regardless of cost, and a few other characters that I don't intend to spoil for you.

I enjoyed delving into Bayard's world of intrigue, antiquities, and Elizabethan scholars.  His story was fairly engaging to the average reader, but I do think it would be better appreciated by someone more versed in philosophy, 17th century history, Shakespearian poetry, and alchemy.  Although some of the subject matter felt past my depth, I didn't mind wading through the intellectual bits to reach the story's shallower, more adventurous waters.

The School of Night reminded me ever so faintly of The Da Vinci Code; it used a variety of academic disciplines -- history, archaeology, philosophy, science, religion, etc. -- to create a deeply scintillating blend of mystery, romance, danger, and intrigue.  While I wouldn't say that I was equally captivated by all parts of the story, there were several shocking developments towards the end of the this book that I am delighted to say I did not see coming.  Personally, I think the ones that leave you reeling are the best.  Consider me "reeled."

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Occasionally crass language with a bit more profanity and sexual situations (sometimes glossed over) than I am comfortable reading.  Also, some people might be offended by the atheistic undertones, though I was not.

Sum it up:  An interesting tale of intrigue.


Konstanz Silverbow said...

Thank you for sharing the review. It is very good to know seems how I was planning on getting this book.

MindySue said...

No problem Konstanz! That's what we're here for!


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