Friday, July 28, 2017

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

In the time of the Inquisition, it is dangerous to make many claims at all. Priests, commoners, and kings alike are on the watch for heresy in any form. So that would make it a bad time to, say, begin worshipping a dog, claim she's come back to life, or to have visions of the future that you can't control.

But, that is just what happens to a peasant girl named Jeanne. It's also a bad time to be so strong you break benches to pieces with one blow like William or to be a Jew who can heal with the power of prayer like Jacob.

Brought together by fear and bad luck, kept together by a strong sense of duty and love for the people around them, these three children brave the fanaticism of the Inquisition with bravery, honesty, and virtue--but is that enough to save them from a king who commands a hundred knights?


I chose this book because I loved A Tale Dark and Grimm, an earlier series of Gidwitz. I was struck by his ability to weave disturbingly dark imagery into a children's tale in a way that made it seem fun. It was a bit like watching a Quentin Tarintino film. You know that it's bloody, but it's so over the top that it ceases to be disturbing and becomes theatrical. It worked really well with Grimm's Fairy Tales because they're fantasy stories that are intended for children (although, the target audience for the Grimms was at a time when the world itself was much darker and harder).

However, I don't think the juxtaposition that Gidwitz continued in this new book worked as well because this was not a fantasy. This time period is a dark aspect of European history that saw many, many people tortured in ways that were absolutely horrendous.

It's not that Gidwitz makes light of them the way he did in A Tale Dark and Grimm--it's just that he doesn't spend the necessary time dealing with the gravity of the situation. At one point, Michaelangelo (not the Michaelangelo, this one is de Bologna) tells the children that they're going to do something at that the children must be willing to become martyrs. That's... A lot...

So, although I still love Gidwitz and his writing style, I think this book is something that needs outside context in order to be fully appreciated by younger audiences. Without understanding how dire the world was during the Middle Ages, it is difficult to feel as if this story is anything but a flight of fancy.

© 2017, Copyright Miriam Braud.  

While I try to post content warnings if I, personally, identify anything that I think is not appropriate for my students who range in age from 11-14, I recommend that all content is perused by parents to ensure that the individual and unique values of each family is upheld.

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