Fifteenth century Europe saw the beginning of the Inquisition, the rise of the Borgias (Rodrigo Borgia or Pope Alexander IX, father to the infamous Lucrezia), and the fictional quest into the hidden meaning of a very special book, a Hermetica. Nadira, a servant girl in Spain, is the key to this book in The Hermetica of Elysium by Annmarie Banks, the first in The Elysium Texts series.
Nadira wasn't born into servitude, but she has spent the majority of her life as a servant/slave. Her mother was sold into servitude when Nadira was a child of five. Fortunately for Nadira, her mother was a learned woman that taught Nadira to speak, read and write several languages including Arabic, Spanish and Latin. Her owner/master Sofir, a spice merchant, had her learn Greek and Hebrew, along with a smattering of English. In a time when most men didn't know how to read one language, much less three or four, Nadira is quite unique, especially since she "worked" as a lowly clerk for a merchant.
Robert Montrose may be a Baron, but he is for all intents and purposes a simple man with one purpose, to serve and protect his older brother Richard. After being separated from Richard, he learns of his death when he tracks him to Sofir's home. It is there that he discovers the unique linguistic abilities of Nadira. Robert is illiterate but knows that his brother was on a quest for a special book with special powers, the Hermetica. He also knows that he must continue this quest and can only do so with the assistance, voluntary or not, of Nadira. Needless to say, Nadira's master is not keen to release her, so Robert forces the issues and they are off.
What follows is a series of abductions in a search for the hidden truths to the Hermetica. First, Nadira is abducted by Montrose and then taken captive by some monks and given to Monsieur Conti in Andorra. She isn't abused but kept in a gilded cage and asked to assist in translating several documents, parchments and books. She does so willingly until she discovers that Montrose is being held captive in a barn-like structure on the estate. His appearance coincides with a visit by several priests. She is able to negotiate Montrose's freedom from shackles but he is still kept a prisoner of Conti. Montrose isn't happy with the situation and realizes that they must escape as quickly as possible. Nadira fears for his health, safety and well-being and asks his patience. Unfortunately, the estate is seized and she is once again abducted and this time taken to Rome and Montrose is left for dead.
During each abduction Nadira learns a little more about the power of the Hermetica and is basically taught a type of remote viewing with the assistance of different herbs. While in Rome she is able to view the French king and inform of his intentions. This is beneficial to Pope Alexander IX, but there are those that feel that the pope is in league with the devil and possibly being bewitched by Nadira. Given the political climate of the times, it is quite possible that she may be tortured or burnt at the stake for her abilities? Will she be reunited with Montrose, a man she has come to love and desires to protect at all costs? Will they ever learn the truths hidden in the Hermetica?
Ms. Banks has crafted an unusual historical novel with hints at the paranormal. It's not quite magic nor is it true mysticism but more a combination of both with a little bit of help from psychotropic herbs and possibly mushrooms. The elusive Hermetica seems to include bits of philosophy and mysticism from all of the great religions and philosophers and supposedly dates back to ancient Egypt, specifically to the Temple of Isis. The basic storyline in The Hermetica of Elysium is acceptable, and the majority of the characters are relatively well developed. The fear of torture or worse from the Inquisition for being different, mention of the Black Plague, and other historical references were just enough to provide a believable background for the action. But there was just something about this that didn't keep my attention or interest. Look for more in the ongoing The Elysium Texts Series with The Necromancer's Grimoire scheduled to be released in 2012.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Knox Robinson Publishers. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."