Review: The Hermetica of Elysium by Annmarie Banks

The Hermetica of Elysium
Annmarie Banks

Knox Robinson Publishing
400 pages
Historical / Fantasy

Purchase it from Amazon here

I’m not the right person to review this book.  I went in thinking it was going to be more fantasy than historical fiction and I was wrong.  The time in history the book is set in isn’t one that interests me that much, so I had a difficult time getting into the book.  Take that knowledge with you as you read this review.

The Hermetica of Elysium is about Nadira, a servant girl in 1494 Barcelona, who is incredibly educated and can read multiple languages.  This makes her a hot commodity at a time when most people can’t write or read a single language.  The story is set in a time period of religious persecution, where anything and anyone can be deemed heretical and killed accordingly.  The fantastical piece of the book comes in the guise of the Hermetica of Elysium, an old manuscript that is said to have mystical powers and able to give the person who reads the book awesome powers.  Because the hermetica is written in a number of languages, Nadira becomes even more sought after and everyone from various Lords to the Pope himself want her in possession to help them have the power.

That last sentence should give you a hint about what most of this book consists of – people stealing Nadira, locking her up somewhere, having her read them things and then her being stolen by somebody else.  That is generally the plot of most of the book.  Nadira is kidnapped by at least three different parties with various levels of nefarious intentions.  About the time she started accomplishing something for her capturers, somebody else took her away.  It became pretty predictable.

As a character, Nadira is pretty interesting – she’s highly educated for her station, she takes everything in stride, and she passionately pursues knowledge.  That she became friends and sometimes confidants with the very men who kidnapped her was her downfall in my eyes.  Perhaps it’s Stockholm syndrome or the perspective of making the best of a bad situation, but I couldn’t quite understand how easily she fell in with each of her new masters. 

The central romance between Nadira and her first kidnapper, Lord Montrose, left my head spinning a little bit.  During their initial journey together (before she got kidnapped by someone else), I didn’t see even a spark of interest between the two, but by the time he catches up with her, having himself been kidnapped, they’re apparently madly in love.  It didn’t feel believable, and I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.

In between the kidnappings and the conniving, a lot of philosophical talk took place that stopped whatever crawl of a pace the story had going for it in its tracks.  Many passages seemed needless or repetitive, particularly in Nadira’s second prison in the tower home of a scholar and his scribe.  To put it bluntly, I got really bored and it became somewhat of a chore to pick up my Kindle.

With all that said, the fantastical part of the book was very interesting; there just wasn’t enough of it.  It consists of Nadira obtaining the ability to send her consciousness to wherever she wants.  This skill is developed with an assortment of different elixirs as she journeys from one prison guard to another, and by the end of the book, things start getting really interesting.  There’s talk of a mystical place of learning and additional powers, a journey that Nadira can take on her own volition.  It starts to set up a very “epic quest” sort of fantasy trope that I got excited about and then… was over.

I can’t rate this book with a clear conscience.  It wasn’t meant for me as a reader.  Though I have to admit, the sample chapter at the end for the next book was incredibly compelling.  It implied that a lot more magic and mystery will be in it, which would have been nice to have in The Hermetica of Elysium.