Author: Heather Terrell
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Format: Trade Paperback
How I read it: from my own library
Rating: 3.5 Crowns
SYNOPSIS (from Amazon): Fifth-century Ireland: Brigid is Ireland’s first and only female priest and bishop. Followers flock to her Kildare abbey and scriptorium. Hearing accounts of Brigid’s power, the Church deems her a threat and sends Decius, a Roman priest and scribe, on a secret mission to collect proof of Brigid’s heresy. As Decius records the unorthodox practices of Brigid and her abbey, he becomes intrigued by her. When Brigid assigns Decius a holy task—to create the most important and sacred manuscript ever made—he finds himself at odds with his original mission and faces the most difficult decision of his life.
Modern day: Alexandra Patterson, an appraiser of medieval relics, has been summoned to Kildare to examine a reliquary box believed to belong to Saint Brigid. Hidden within the sacred box is the most beautiful illuminated manuscript Alex has ever seen. But even more extraordinary is the contents of the manuscript’s vellum pages, which may have dire repercussions for the Catholic Church and could very well rewrite the origins of Christianity.
My Thoughts: I am not well versed on my Irish Saints so I really hadn't heard of Brigid before this book. I must say I really enjoyed her story though. Told from the points of view of Brigid and Decius-the monk sent to betray her-we learn of Brigid's near miraculous ability to turn her fellow Gaels from their Pagan beliefs to Christianity. As a young girl Brigid knows she is destined for God although her parents wish her to marry to advance their fortunes. Once they realize Brigid will take no path but the Church, they make her vow to take care of her people and that she does-but the women specifically. I really liked the strong willed Brigid and also the conflicted Monk Decius who is supposed to be spying for Rome but gets to know Brigid when tasked with making a gospel book like no other telling the story of the Abbey of Kildare. It is obvious that he wishes to please his superiors in Rome but also realizes his greater allegiance is to God. Both of these characters have a distinct voice in their respective chapters. Terrell does a wonderful job of melding their two stories together through their differing points of view. I appreciated that she did it in a way that didn't get redundant since it was two different characters relating the same events.
The story also flashes forward to the present day as appraiser Alex is hired by Sister Mary, a Nun in the Abbey of Kildare, to determine the age and authenticity of relics that are reported to have belonged to the Abbey for many centuries. While examining a reliquary (a receptacle used to house relics of Saints) she stumbles across an ancient manuscript and is determined to find out it's value for the Abbey. What she discovers is surprising, unprecedented, and may rock the beliefs set forth by the Catholic Church. I thought this present day aspect was well done too and tied in so nicely with what was going on in the past. I definitely recommend this one to fans of historicals set in Ireland. I wasn't expecting such a good story out of a book that clocks in at barely over 200 pages but I was pleasantly surprised with this one.
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