Reviewed by Marta Morrison for TeensReadToo.com
Katherine, Lady of Crenfeld Castle, is a very strong female in a male-dominated society.
After being left a widow, she tries to maintain her rule over her castle and the village that surrounds her. She has many problems, such as a diabolical priest, the plague, and her gender, which are the least of her problems.
She has a guardian to help her, who is the Lord Victor, but Katherine is very smart and forward-thinking. My favorite character is the Jewish doctor, Benjamin, who has smuggled a copy of the gospel of John and has become a Christian. Although he is a Christian, he is not the type that was accepted in those days when the church was the real ruler of the world. Having scriptures that you read was not only unacceptable but also punishable by death.
THE FIRST VIAL is well-researched, and I enjoyed reading about the effects that the plague had on the poor as well as the rich. Many images in the book were very scary. The treatment of those who had the plague, as well as their loved ones, was horrific. There is one chapter where the death wagons are described, as well as the common grave where everyone was buried.
This is an exceptional book that I may use while teaching medieval history. Thank you, Ms. Heinrichs.