4 out of 4 stars
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The Magdalene Malediction by F. Scott Kimmich is the third book in the Ordeal by Fire series about the Cathar Crusade period. The story is set in 1244, in the Midi of France, during a time when political intrigue abounded and nefarious schemes were common.
Miranda, Odon, Rainier, and Robin are friends fleeing from a mountain refuge captured by the French. They have in their possession ancient documents that prove Miranda is a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The French can never find these scrolls, so the four friends are on the run. They are heading towards Provence, but they end up in Spain, where Miranda takes a fancy to the local wazir, Al Azraq, who has also fallen in love with her. When Miranda learns that he has several wives, she leaves him, and the four take to the road once again.
Even though it is part of a series, the book can be read as a standalone story. The main characters are well-developed. I had no idea whether they also featured in the previous two novels, but they had an air of innocence about them and a zest for life that made them come alive in front of my eyes. I could empathize with each, and when something was to befall them, I was genuinely sad. Unfortunately, those early medieval times were harsh, and bad things were lurking around every corner.
The book is only 200 pages long, but it is action-packed. The main heroes have non-stop adventures, some deadlier than others. To give us some respite, the author injected a few chapters describing the political situation surrounding King Jacme I of Aragon, who was always thirsty for the next military conquest. Since this is a historical fiction novel, I was often searching online for the names of the rulers to put them into historical context. For example, I only realized that Jacme was James I of Aragon when I searched for the name Jacme on Google. I only knew him as James I or Jacques I, The Conqueror.
F. Scott Kimmich also included philosophical discussions, which I welcomed. When the wazir wanted to learn more about the heretics, Odon had an excellent in-depth analysis of how the church viewed the heretics and why, and he explained that they were not necessarily bad. It depended on the context and the person’s ideology.
I only found one small issue with the book. When the four friends met a few French soldiers on the road, there were several paragraphs with French dialogue, with no translations into English. A short footnote with the translations would have helped me figure out what they were talking about, as my French knowledge is limited.
The writing style fits that time period well. The author was not shy about using colloquial language befitting the era, like the words “methinks,” and “mayhap.” I only noticed a few grammatical errors, so the book was properly edited. I enjoyed reading it, so despite the translation issue, I give it 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend The Magdalene Malediction to medieval history lovers with a caveat: it includes graphic descriptions of rape and torture.
The Magdalene Malediction
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