John The Pupil
Harper, Mar 3 2015, $24.99
In 1267 in a Franciscan Monastery near Oxford, Friar Roger Bacon assigns his most trustworthy student young John on a pilgrimage; accompanied by two Franciscan Brothers Bernard and Andrew. While the two novices are unaware of the true nature of the task, John’s actual mission is to deliver his Master’s Opus Majus and several scientific inventions to Pope Clement IV in Viterbo, Italy.
Keeping a chronicle of their trek, John the Pupil and his companions hike to the first leg of the journey Canterbury; there the travelers encounter Simeon the Palmer, a scoundrel thief. Sailing the Channel into France, the trio reaches Paris, Reims and other stops in the kingdom. Crossing into Italy they take a respite at Cavalcanti’s palace in Bellosguardo where sirens tempt them. By the time they reach their final destination, John has experienced the holy devout, the pragmatic common and the downfallen sinful.
John The Pupil is an intriguing historical fiction that ironically mocks and challenges the subgenre to raise the accuracy. The storyline is filled with real persona (the footnotes are worth reading to learn more about the cast) and a profound timely look at the relationship between science and religion just prior to the former (and Bacon) becoming heresy. The protagonist’s chronicles of the pilgrimage contains plenty of action and is loaded with insight into the legends of the Saints; as John tries to emulate his hero Saint Francis. Subgenre readers will appreciate this extremely complex but rewarding medieval coming of age fable.