England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague...witchcraft and necromancy.
As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel’s wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber-surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the only healer’s path available to a peasant’s son. Elisha is good at his work, but skill alone cannot protect him. In a single catastrophic day, Elisha’s attempt to deliver his brother’s child leaves his family ruined, and Elisha himself accused of murder. Then a haughty physician offers him a way out: serve as a battle surgeon in an unjust war. Between tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physicians’ experiments, Elisha works night and day. Even so, he soon discovers that he has an affinity for magic, drawn into the world of sorcery by Brigit, a beautiful young witch...who reminds him uncannily of the angel he saw burn.
In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal.
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Dark, very dark, but mesmerizing
The characters and settings were so well-drawn that even weeks after finishing the book I can see the scenes in my mind.
The fascinating descriptions of medieval medicine and how the barbers fit into the medical picture, and the inventive depiction of magic.
In the beginning, I dreaded it, but couldn't put it down.
The narration was excellent and the magic compelling. I'd recommend it.
- A reader in Southborough