Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Pagan’s Vows

Pagan’s Vows

Catherine Jinks
Historical Ficion  Series
For ages 12 and up
Candlewick, 2004   ISBN: 978-0763620219

Pagan cannot believe that he is actually agreeing to devote his life to God, that he is accepting a monastic life. This is a lifestyle that he despises, possibly fears, and it is also one that he fled from when he was boy. Though Pagan is often rude, disrespectful, impatient, and irreverent, he is also loyal. It is this loyalty which has made him decide to follow his master, Lord Roland, into a new life in the Abbey of St. Martin. After his experiences in a monastery school as a child, Pagan never dreamed that he would find himself pursuing the life of a monk, but he cannot bear to be separated from his distraught and emotionally lost master.

Thus it is that Pagan has to subject himself to blind obedience, rules that he thinks are ludicrous, and a life full of discomfort and unpleasantness. Needless to say Pagan is not a good fit for the monastic life and it is a struggle for him to keep his temper and to stay out of trouble as he tries to adjust. Pagan does try his best, for Roland’s sake, but all his efforts seem to come to naught when he starts looking into a little mystery that is floating about the Abbey.

Pagan discovers that beneath the veneer of respectability, piety, and humility lies a complex tangle of lies, deceit, and greed. Pagan may not be the most honest person in the world, but this kind of dirty hypocrisy upsets him enough that he will not stop seeking out the truth even when his very life is threatened. It would seem that someone very high up in the monastic hierarchy guides the conspiracy and Pagan needs to be wary of what he says and does.

One cannot help feeling very sorry for Pagan. Here is a young man who could never be a monk and yet, for the love of a friend, he puts himself through a great ordeal, accepting punishments, bullying, strenuous work, isolation and much more, all for the sake of someone else. It is shocking to discover how hard monastic life could be and how appalling the conditions often were. Certainly Pagan’s experience puts a new light on the religious life in the times of the crusades.

Entertaining, moving, skilfully researched, shocking at times, and very gripping, this third book in the Pagan Quartet is sure to delight readers who enjoy historical fiction.