Obsessed warrior-priest Thomas Neville returns in this second book of The Crucible series, still on his divine mission to force Satan's minions back to hell. Now in England, with the protection of the powerful Duke of Lancaster and his son Hal Bolingbroke, he thinks it's safe to continue his quest.

But the forces of hell are arrayed against them in the form of Richard II and his followers, who move to destroy Lancaster and Bolingbroke and foment rebellion throughout the land, and everyone seems to have hidden motives. The priest is moving closer toward the terrifying possibility that everything he has built his life upon is a lie and that he alone may have the knowledge to save the world.

The Middle Ages was a time of change, with the plague, war and religious rebellion. Douglass bases her work on the premise that the angels and demons of the medieval church did exist, and that their battle of good vs. evil directly impacted historical events. Like its predecessor The Nameless Day, this volume maintains an authentic feel while playing fast and loose with actual history—Joan of Arc and Richard II acting within the same time frame, for example.

Douglass is clever enough to keep the reader guessing as to the truth about the relationship of heaven, hell and earth and exactly which characters are human and which divine. Historical fantasy aficionados should not miss this compelling multilayered series. (Jan., 496 pp., $27.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum