4 out of 4 stars
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The Painted Cross is Hunter Dennis's second book in the Crimson Heirloom series. I reviewed the first book in the series just over a year ago and gave it 4 stars. Out of all the books I have reviewed on this site, it was definitely one of my favorites. When I saw its sequel pop up on the review list I jumped at the chance, unwilling to let it go to anyone else.
Sometimes sequels have a hard time living up to their prequels, but this was not the case for The Painted Cross. Once again, Dennis has proved himself to be a master storyteller. As it's been quite some time since I finished the first book and there are a number of characters to keep track of, all in different times and places, I thought I was going to have to ease into it. But Dennis helpfully inserted a list of characters at the very beginning that helped jog my memory. I took notes just so I wouldn't have to flip back and forth, but ended up not needing them because these characters are so memorable! I would even go as far as to say that there is no need to remember names in this series. Dennis is such a talented author that each character has his or her own voice and an aura completely unique to themselves.
On to the story. The Painted Cross picks up right where The Crimson Heirlooms left off. Estelle wears the Cross of Nantes and is hit by the carriage of the man whose family it used to belong to. Guillaume leaves Grenoble and enters Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a writer, settling down after his rabble-rousing. Almost 50 years later, Jake is sent to Haiti by Monsieur Tyran in order to search for the lost artifacts, but fully intends to fake his own death and sneak home. Each of them finds blessings and curses in abundance.
The theme in this novel was definitely character development. I was astounded by the slow but sure changes being made in each character's thought processes. They are so realistic -- cause and effect reactions brought on by the environments the characters find themselves in. The changes in Guillaume and Estelle were especially shocking to me, personally. Estelle was my favorite character, and by the end of this book I wasn't sure how to feel about her anymore. I felt like a family member, holding love for her deep in my heart and wanting the best for her, but knowing that she was self-destructing right before my eyes. This is just more proof that Dennis is an expert in his craft, able to construct a world with lifelike characters and giving the readers front row seats throughout all the events.
I did find myself taking notes of over 10 errors throughout the book, something that I don't remember being a problem with its prequel. However, most of the errors were minor, things such as using a period when a question mark was needed, and honestly in a book with over 500 pages it's only natural that there be a few more errors than books with half that length. The errors did not affect me or my reading pace at all.
Overall, I was thrilled that The Painted Cross lived up the expectations I had after reading the first book in its series. I am thoroughly in love with all of the characters and cannot wait to see what will happen in the next book. Obviously the first book must be read before this one, but I would highly recommend both books in the series to fans of historical fiction who enjoy drama and a bit of suspense. Dennis is a master at transporting readers back in time and making them feel as if they are actually in that time period, watching the events around them take place. I have absolutely no issues giving The Painted Cross 4 out of 4 stars and will be waiting with bated breath to find out what happens next.
The Painted Cross
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