Friday, January 7, 2011

The Flight of the Sorceress by Barry S. Wildorf

--> Reviewed by Vanitha Sankaran

After centuries of grand triumphs and glorious rule, the Roman Empire is coming to an end. Though there are some who would give their lives to see the enlightenment and freedoms gifted by the Empire live on, darker forces are at play. The Catholic Church has focused its attention on rooting out pagans using zealots and men drunk on their own power.

The story centers around Glenys, a Druidic healer forced to live her life on the run, not just because of her views but because of the man she loves. As she struggles to stay ahead of her would-be captors, Glenys is exposed to the harsh realities of the world’s violence. Instead of bowing to the brutality she experiences, Glenys grows stronger, not just for herself but for the baby she is carrying.

At the same time, another memorable woman—Hypatia, the famed scholar and librarian of Alexandria—is fighting a similar battle to keep her freedoms and way of life alive. Caught in the Church’s crusade to stamp out pagan ways and knowledge, Hypatia risks her own life to save what and who she loves in the world.

When the two women finally cross paths, they realize they are kindred spirits and will help each other, no matter what the cost.

The Flight of the Sorceress is meticulously researched and beautifully portrayed. Whether in Hypatia’s luxurious palace, walking along the dusty Jewish pogroms, or trapped within a burning library in a fire that threatens to consume humanity’s knowledge, Wildorf’s prose brings the moment alive. The themes explored in this book, of prejudice and power, are deftly interwoven with the beliefs of the time. The conflict manages to educate and compel at the same time and you can’t help but feel for these women, who are so grossly over-matched but who still do not give up.

This book is a rare look at a time and place not often seen in historical fiction and is a read that will keep you turning the pages!