Lynn: When I first came across The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Sept. 2016), I wondered if the book was a retelling of the Jeanne d’Arc story. While the French love their Jeanne, hers has never been my favorite story; heroines burned at the stake are not exactement my glass of wine.
It turns out that Jeanne d’Arc has, in fact, influenced The Inquisitor’s Tale, but so have Guillaume d’Orange, Guinefort , The Canterbury Tales, and the history of medieval Europe. Writer Adam Gidwitz has absorbed them all to give readers something both wholly traditional and richly original.
The premise is simple: Three unusual children, bullied and oppressed, take a journey that is at once a flight from persecution and a hero’s quest. They become friends along the way, supporting each other while tackling issues of faith, organized religion, family, friendship, ambition, the use of power, storytelling, and history, both how it is made and how it gets passed down. This is serious stuff, but Gidwitz has infused his tale with the bawdy, earthy humor found in the best medieval writing. Farting dragons, duplicitous troubadours, book-hating queens, and stinky cheeses all play into a story that is hilarious, suspenseful, and deeply affecting. All the while, Gidwitz’s excellent research shines through. What a joy it was to encounter a book so richly layered, so thoughtful, so funny and so worthy of being read again and again. The book would be best for good readers and curious minds up for the challenge of trying something new.
Cindy: Mark your calendar for September 27th, since you’re going to want to get your hands on the finished copy of The Inquisitor’s Tale as soon as possible. My middle-school readers appreciate beautifully made books as much as I do, and if the gorgeous, gilded advance copy is any indication, this book will be stunning. In the meantime, sneak a peek at some illustrations or read the first chapter over at Entertainment Weekly. You can also see some of the artwork on Hatem Aly’s tumblr account.
I loved this book. I can’t decide if I want to reread it in order to fully appreciate the artwork or listen to the forthcoming audio edition to hear the storytelling. Whatever I decide, I’m sure various award committees will be reading The Inquisitor’s Tale again.
The book comes with a particularly informative author’s note that dishes on everything from the author’s travels that inspired the story to specific historical events. Readers who fall in love with the book’s own holy greyhound, Gwenforte, will be tickled to learn about Guinefort, a real-life sainted dog. I was equally intrigued by the background on the quicksand at Mont Saint Michel.