Book Reviews of The Illuminator

The Illuminator
The Illuminator
Author: Brenda Rickman Vantrease
ISBN-13: 9780312331924
ISBN-10: 0312331924
Publication Date: 12/27/2005
Pages: 406
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.

3.7 stars, based on 100 ratings
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

27 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Illuminator on + 207 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
The beautiful cover is what attracted me to this book at first. After I'd read 50 pages or so I thought it was a marvelous historical thriller. After 100 pages my opinion dropped a bit, and I would've called it a historical romance. But I did follow the story to the end, which was sad, but not particularly thought-provoking. I've read that the author did a lot of legitimate historical research into the lat 14th century in England, and that shows, but there's not much meat on the bones of the plot. The title character is a truly admirable person, and he's rewarded with the greatest measure of sadness. All in all, fairly depressing, and for little purpose.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
It is obvious the author did a ton of research for this novel. She intertwines historical figures in to make them and the story more real. I must admit, I cried through the last couple of chapters.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 68 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
Wow... this book is very well written, but the subject matter is just too darn depressing! Late 14th century England... Lots of church involvement.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 200 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
While this book had some common themes for historical fiction of this era, it also had enough unique elements to make it more interesting. A widow is asked by the bishop to house an artisan who illuminates manuscripts and his young daughter. This is not a fluffy romance -- political and religious issues, social uprisings, illness and death are all present, but the heroine is strong and independent, leading to a surprising finish. Recommended.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 52 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
The Illuminator is an amazing book. There is so much more to this story than the synopsis of the book leads you to believe. Every character that makes an appearance in this book has a story that weaves into the main story. Every character, no matter how small a part they play, is so well developed that they seem real and they tug at your heart strings. The author does not spare your feelings in telling this story there is much heartbreak and sorrow, yet it is beautifully told. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction. It is defiantly one of the best books I've read in a long time.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 65 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This historical fiction has some harsh pictures painted with words to show how truly hard surviving the middle Ages was. I used a whole box of tissues to get through this one...but well worth the read.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 67 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Kept my interest. Depressing end!
reviewed The Illuminator on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A very good, well written story about religious superstition and persecution in the Middle Ages. A good example of how misinformation and withholding of the truth can effect many lives. Also, a good description of women's roles within the early church
reviewed The Illuminator on + 331 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
From Amazon:

A medieval illuminator with radical views finds himself sharing quarters with a widow struggling to preserve her independence in this enthralling historical novel set in the 14th century, a time of religious strife. Lady Kathryn, mistress of Blackingham Manor in East Anglia, must be practical to ensure the future of her 15-year-old twin sons. Little as she cares for the money-grubbing worthies of the local abbey, she is happy to do them a favor by taking in a master illuminator as lodger. Finn, a widower with a 16-year-old daughter, proves to be a congenial guest. He is educated, perceptive and kind--and soon, irresistible to Kathryn. Their subsequent passionate affair blinds them to the romance developing between Finn's innocent daughter, Rose, and Kathryn's pious son, Colin. Meanwhile, the unsolved murder of an unscrupulous priest on the manor grounds puts everyone in jeopardy, and Finn's secret sympathy with John Wycliffe and his Lollard followers, who champion an English translation of the Scriptures, endangers his livelihood, not to mention his life. Kathryn's plainspoken fortitude and warring loyalties to lover and sons make her a compelling figure, and Vantrease's secondary characters are brilliantly sketched as well: confused Colin; his carousing brother, Alfred; Agnes, Lady Kathryn's cook and confidante since childhood; Half-Tom, a courageous dwarf. In Vantrease's medieval England, justice is determined by the powerful; violence is a first, not a last, resort; and love must take second place to duty. This is an absorbing, expertly told tale, plainly and forthrightly written and embroidered with plenty of homespun detail.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 193 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I enjoyed this historical fiction. It was a good read and interesting story.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 174 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A tragic story of loves and lives lost during a little known era in English history when the peasants revolted and the Church went to war to put down the rebellion. A very good book for those interested in medieval history.
reviewed The Illuminator on
Helpful Score: 1
Engaging and beautifully elegant debut novel. Feudal England, 1379, before the Reformation.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book read more like a romance novel than a piece of researched historical fiction.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 1291 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book for the wonderful story, the history and the images the author describes. The story is excellent with many characters and action, the plot is deep and keeps you reading. Wish she had more books out. An Excellent read.
reviewed The Illuminator on
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book. I thought it was very interesting and I could not put it down. I was only disappointed in the end..... It left me wanting more!! I would read it again!
reviewed The Illuminator on + 5 more book reviews
I really loved this book as well as the sequel!!!
reviewed The Illuminator on + 12 more book reviews
This books writing was very well done. I thought the history was wonerful. There are detailed crude scenes in this book.

Well Written
reviewed The Illuminator on + 14 more book reviews
Couldn't get past the first chapter...boring.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 307 more book reviews
Audio CD read by English actor Simon Jones. Excellent! Gripping story of family loyalty, love, social unrest, and religious upheaval. Strong historical accuracy. Very interesting characters.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 44 more book reviews
Love, religion, politics, corruption in 14th century England. Not a bad way to pass the time on a long trip. A couple of scenes are not for young ears.
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Set in the 14th century, this book has all the good bones for a well-written, well-researched piece of historical fiction. There's a widowed noblewoman facing several difficult decisions, some serious villainry from those with the king's power and the church's power, and more than one romantic entanglement.

Unfortunately, the book is character-driven, and the characters themselves are interesting, but less than compelling. The characterizations are believable, but at no point do they do anything that truly surprises or inspires. Perhaps this is a commentary on the unequal distribution of power in medieval England, but it makes for characters who are seemingly helpless to change the tide of their lives.

The main plot is complex, and takes a long time getting where it's going. Some of the events which should have unfolded slowly throughout the book wrap up about halfway through. Finally, several twists near the end happen far too rapidly to be believable.

This is a book that initially made me eager to read what would happen next, but ultimately let me down. It is a story that could have been so much stronger than it is.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 4 more book reviews
A very unsatisfying ending.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 48 more book reviews
As hard as it may be to believe, considering all of the wonderful reviews of this book, I found it a very unappealing book. I'm not really completely sure why this is. Yes, the heroine is appealing; yes,the historical details are well researched and portrayed; yes, there are many other quite interesting characters involved in the plot.

In fact, I think it must the be amount of interesting characters she puts into the book. There are so many potential books which could come out of a variety of these personalities that I, personally, felt cheated, teased and tricked every time we shifted point of view. In parcticular, the story of Julian the anchoress, is exremely frustrating. Here we have the character of an unusual woman, about whom we have plenty of original source research material, and she is shunted into playing a secondary role. It is almost as if Vantrease came upon her while doing research for this novel and just could not resist giving her a cameo appearance. Editing her out of the storyline would not harm the plot one bit, and the reader would be able to focus on the true story(ies) which are the focus(i) of the book.

Another subplot I found very distracting was the romance between two minor characters. MINOR SPOILER HERE: First off, Magda is given a paranormal ability which plays no part in the plot. So why is it there? Just to make her more interesting? It's TOO interesting - it makes the reader wait to see what role it will take in the book only to discover that there is NO reason it is there at all. She would have been interesting enough as she was and there are plenty of other reasons she could have been erroneously considered a dimwit.

And what it is with dwarves in historical novels these days? Okay, so Isabella D'este had a thing for keeping them around as comic enetertainment and there WAS a famous Scottish dwarf who eventually wrote the story of his life about being abducted by pirates and sold to the Emperor of Morocco. But I can name 5 or 6 historical novels off the top of my head which feature dwarves. Really, I think that at this point, if I were a dwarf, I'd be a bit insulted. Need a bit of color in your historical novel? Just pop in a dwarf and problem solved!

So basically I think we get way too many people in the book and not nearly enough detail/background material about those which are portrayed. Not to mention the poor "ghosts" in the book: Katherine' first husband, Finn's first wife - even John Wycliffe (although not deceased during the time of the book) is a bit of a ghost because he is mentioned and very important to the world of the book but never seen.

Enough ranting. I hope you do enjoy the book. And I hope this review doesn't change your mind about the book. But there must be some people who are considering ordering this book for whom this review will be very helpful. Because, as I wrote earlier, I felt as if I should be enjoying the book. Instead, reading it became a chore.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 236 more book reviews
It is England, in the late 14th century, a time when the old feudal order is starting to crack, but the whim of a lord or the pleasure of a bishop still has the power to seal nearly anyone's fate. Books are rare and costly, painstakingly lettered by hand and illuminated with exquisite paintings. For Lady Kathryn of Blackingham Manor, a widow and mother trying to safeguard her holdings without the dubious protection of her late husband, it is a time made both sweeter and more perilous by the arrival of a master illuminator called Finn. Caught between the King's taxes and the church's tithes, Kathryn strikes a bargain with the local abbot: she will take Finn and his pretty young daughter into her household in exchange for the monastery's protection. Finn is working not only on approved church texts, but secretly--and dangerously--on a forbidden English translation of the Bible. As the hesitant friendship between Kathryn and Finn grows into a passionate alliance, wonderful new storyteller Brenda Rickman Vantrease brings us a glorious novel of love, treachery, faith, and redemption on the eve of the Renaissance.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 6 more book reviews
Very enjoyable
reviewed The Illuminator on + 21 more book reviews
Enjoyed this. An interesting novel.
reviewed The Illuminator on + 236 more book reviews
It is England, the late 14th century, a time when the whim of a lord or the pleasure of a bishop can seal nearly anyone's fate. The printing press has yet to be invented. Books, written only in Latin or Norman French, are rare and costly, painstakingly lettered and illuminated with exquisite paintings--far beyond the reach of ordinary people. Finn is a master illuminator who works not only for the Church but also in secret for the heretical Oxford cleric John Wycliffe. Lady Kathryn, the mistress of Blackingham Manor, is a widow who finds herself caught between the King's taxes and the Church's tithes. To protect her sons' inheritance, she strikes a bargain with the abbot--Kathryn will take in the illuminator and his daughter and gain the monastery's protection. What begins as a hesitant friendship between Finn and Lady Kathryn grows into a passionate alliance that touches off a chain of betrayals, tragedies, and unexpected acts of heroism.