[The Inquisitor’s Tale]: A Review

Hi y’all!

I hope you are feeling confident about your back to school schedules! We are solidly in our school routines and I am loving the structure to our days. And fall is just around the corner. Bring on the pumpkin everything and the sweaters!

Today I’m really excited to share my review of The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz. This book was a Newbery Honor winner in 2017 and has been on my TBR for a while. I bought a beautiful copy at my favorite Half Price Books in Dallas this summer. I have never read anything quite like this book and I really enjoyed it!

Initial Thoughts:

  • Written in the style of The Canterbury Tales, this story focuses on 3 magical children in the Middle Ages. It was so much fun! We piece together the plot through the stories of individuals who have observed our protagonists along their way. It really is such a fun, clever way to tell the story.
  • The illustrations throughout the book are so fun! We get both drawings of characters and important places but also illustrator doodles and designs. The author said this was customary for writings in this time which I think is a neat touch!

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According to Goodreads, “1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

I loved the Middle Ages setting and all the details! It is so well researched and fascinating to hear about the events that really took place. The details are so interesting because I don’t have a lot of previous knowledge about this time period. And I appreciated the author’s note at the end about his extensive research and experience in Europe when writing this book. I love background like that! There were so many interesting scenes and people from history — the book burnings, the different saints, Henry IX and his mother, peasants and Jews in the class system at this time, Mont Saint-Michel and the terrain surrounding it, and more. I was absolutely fascinated by the details! 

This is such a unique story with three children from very different walks of life that have more in common that you expect. Jeanne with her visions and her feisty loyal personality. William with his desire to be a part of a family and strength beyond compare. Jacob a Jewish boy holding onto hope in a world without much hope and with a gift for healing. I loved their diverse backgrounds and how they form a family and friendship together. They have all suffered loss. They are all outcasts in some way. They all have special gifts. It was intriguing to hear each of their background stories and see how their gifts helped save the books. 

The storytelling is fun with the different narrators and clever stories. I loved the Canterbury Tales style storytelling. With different narrators who were there in different scenes, we get the story in pieces. Also we come into the story in the middle of the story and it’s fun to learn how we got to that point. And I loved the final connections with the inquisitor himself and how his story intertwines with the kids. Clever stories like the dragon and the lost nail show how the children save things. Some intense violence like the actual Jewish book burning and consequences of that. Also the quicksand and the final battle. And the intense confrontation with the abbot who is crazy. The violence makes this an upper middle grade and up read for me. But it doesn’t negate all the fun adventures in this story. Just something to be aware of when reading with younger audiences. That being said, I think the violent scenes also allow for some meaningful conversations with younger readers about issues like racism, religion, and the importance of knowledge.

I really enjoyed this one. There was some slowness at times and the violence did get intense (also the barfing dragon wasn’t really my style). But I loved so many parts of this book especially the Middle Ages setting and varied narrations. I’d read more by this author as well. A well deserved honor book!

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Have you read any fiction set in the Middle Ages? Which are your favorites?
What are your favorite lesser known historical settings?

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