Act of Faith – Kelly Gardiner

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“England,1640. Sixteen-year-old Isabella is forced to flee her home when her father’s radical ideas lead him into a suicidal stand against Oliver Cromwell’s army.Taking refuge in Amsterdam and desperate to find a means to survive, Isabella finds work with an elderly printer, Master de Aquila,and his enigmatic young assistant, Willem.

When Master de Aquila travels to Venice to find a publisher brave enough to print his daring new book, Isabella accompanies him and discovers a world of possibility -where women work alongside men as equal partners, and where books and beliefs are treasured.

But in a continent torn apart by religious intolerance, constant danger lurks for those who don’t watch their words. And when the agents of the Spanish Inquisition kidnap de Aquila to stop him printing his book, Isabella and Willem become reluctant allies in a daring chase across Europe to rescue him from certain death.”

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Review: Historical fiction is not something I get to read often, but it is a genre that I’m a big fan of. Act of Faith by Australian author Kelly Gardiner is set in the mid 1600s during the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

By the end of the book there was something about it that felt off…Everything just happened so fast, it was resolved so quickly it just didn’t feel like the story was fleshed out as much as it should, especially at the end. Our main character Isabella is no doubt smarter and stronger than most girls during that period she but she was missing that spark that would bring her completely to life, she was just a little too…constrained. Definitely not in opinion or cleverness, just in personality.

I found Willem’s views towards women, though probably authentic to the period, to be quite annoying to read, especially since he didn’t seem to grow or change his views by the end of the book which was disappointing.

Master de Aquila was a great character, so passionate about books! Gardiner gives a fascinating insight into the printing trade as well as just how dangerous some thoughts were considered during the period. Master de Aquila and his colleagues believed so strongly in freedom of speech and the right to share knowledge, it makes you appreciate the men those characters were based on in history.

Pros: Characters that are as infatuated with books as much as we are, Signora Contarini, Isabella’s quick wit (especially in response to Willem), strong female lead, seeing the way different religions were regarded in various European countries.

Cons: The blurb giving too much away, the events in the book being too brief….and maybe Willem. The blurb almost makes you think there’ll be a love story with Willem & Isabella – no love story in sight here.

For people who love: History (obviously), A Curse Dark As Gold, Classic Fiction

Pages: 227
Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: [rating:3.5]

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