THE PEDDLER OF WISDOM
BY LAURA MATTHIAS BENDOLY
Publication Date: December 18, 2018
eBook & Paperback; 425 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
In the borderlands of the village Les Échelles, giants sleep and werewolves howl. Travelers must cross deep gorges to pay visit. The only strangers are treasure-hunters seeking the riches of Zahara, a drowned Crusader bride. She planted the nearby woods with rich botanicals, now the healing herbs of Irène Guéri, apothecary in these parts. When a cruel invader storms the village he brings along his shy, though brilliant alchemist, Joaquíno Durande. Will Irene join forces with this scholar, risking her profession and her neighbors’ trust, or flee to the valley? Enormous decisions await, and great danger as friends, neighbors, and even the tools of Irene’s workshop rise, enchanted, into the fray of war.
“Put together a hidden Medieval village, a widowed healer who tries to overthrow a murderous invader, and a possible– if dangerous– romance, and you have The Peddler of Wisdom, add to this Laura Matthias Bendoly’s spritely style and a complex world where no one can be trusted, and you will be sucked into this tale as swiftly and completely as I was. Read it.” – Sonia Gernes, ProfessorEmerita, University of Notre Dame, author of What You Hear in the Dark, New and Selected Poems
“An exciting plot, vivid characters and a clearly imagined 17th-century France. A rich tapestry of folklore, tarot, and alchemy.” – Maureen Boulton, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto and Professor Emeritus of French, Dept. of Romance Languages University of Notre Dame
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The village of Les Échelles is a quiet farming and mining town connected to the rest of the world by one bridge. Les Échelles has just recently recovered from the plague and it's widowed healer, Irene is just beginning to be recognized again by her neighbors after many of their families perished under her care. Irene works through the protection of the town's spirit, Zahara and has read her future with her tarot cards. Soon after the plague subsides an invader, Duke Dominico, ravages the town and kills their peaceful Count Girau. Many of the villagers are taken with Dominico's finery and promises of a gilded town. The Duke also brings along Durande who works as a healer as well as an alchemist. Durande holds many of Domenico's secrets. Irene befriends Durande and finds out that Domenico's fantasies are fueled by madness and he will soon tear their small town apart. Finding strength within herself and a little push from Zahara Irene must become the leader her town needs to form a resistance against the Duke.
The Peddler of Wisdom is an engaging historical fantasy combining life in a provencial French town with a little bit of magic and large dose of female-led resistance. I immediately fell in love with Irene's character, a healer who cares for everything including birds and snakes and does not seem to hold a grudge. The town of Les Échelles was absolutely charming and picturesque, through the writing I could envision the shops, the castle, Irene's farm and the countryside where Irene left offerings for Zahara. With the arrival of the Duke and Durande, Les Échelles is turned upside down. The Duke and Durande bring elements of danger, fear and magic, a deadly combination for anyone who gets in the Duke's way. With gruesome automata, fiery jinn, and people painted in gold, the Duke attempts to create his vision. Durande, a reluctant hand to the Duke brings Irene into his fold and provides the knowledge for Irene to turn on the Duke. I liked that the relationship between Durande and Irene was not a focus of the story, but their partnership was important for town and their freedom. I enjoyed seeing Irene's leadership grow and emerge among the town. She is the beginning of the resistance, a healer in more ways than one. Her wisdom, kindness and touch of magic within leads to a revolution that the Duke never saw coming. Overall, a unique historical fantasy that left me wanting more.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Though I grew up in northern Indiana, most of my work takes place elsewhere. My characters are slightly offbeat eccentrics. They wear Goth clothes and invent secret passwords. They make friends with outsiders and from those fringes my heroines gain their strength. Though these protagonists don’t have supernatural powers, they absorb a kind of magic from those they help and gather as friends. This is so with hero Stella Delaney, whose mission to save a trafficked foreign girl gains strength from the powers of a mysterious Gullah woman. So is it the case with Eileen Morgan, whose trip to Scotland wraps her in a world of ghosts and a deadly struggle for entitlement between a wealthy land-owning family and their one-time vassals, now barely hanging on.
I write about the places I have seen as an outsider but in which I could see myself in another life…a boat guide along one of the Georgia marshes, a shepherd in the Scottish lowlands, a craftswoman in Cornwall, in Western Great Britain, or a healer in rural Southern France. Will I ever be that woman? Only if I write myself there, and I love to bring new readers along.
I live in Columbus Ohio with my family.
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