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Pagan's Scribe

Review

Pagan's Scribe

Pagan, the young man with the wild ways and angry words, is now a different creature all together. He is Father Pagan, the Archdeacon of Carcassonne who is loved and respected by many. When Isidore, the clerical scribe, first meets Pagan, he sees a small dark-skinned man who doesn't seem to be sufficiently religious to be a man of god, a Father, a leader. And yet the young man desperately wants to go with Father Pagan because he desires more than anything else to get away from the horrid little village he's been sent to. Father Pagan needs a scribe to accompany him on his travels, and so this unlikely pair begins their adventures together.

Prone to fits, and therefore thought to be cursed and possessed, Isidore has had a hard and lonely life, in which books have been his great comfort and a source of strength. Almost an outcast because of his fits, Isidore has retreated into himself, his faith and his anger. In some ways he is like the boy Pagan, who cursed the world and God so many years ago in Jerusalem. Just as Pagan did before him, Isidore discovers that his master is not who he seems to be and grows to love the odd little man who has mastery over words and who seeks to keep the peace.

Soon Isidore and Pagan find themselves in the middle of a terrible conflict between the lords of the north and the people of the south. The northerners are headed south on a crusade to rid the south of the "heretic" Cathars, and Pagan knows full well what will happen if they come --- the crusaders will kill anyone who crosses their path irrespective of who or what they are. It will be a slaughter.

Desperately Pagan and his friends try to keep the peace and avoid a conflict with the crusaders. When their efforts to find a peaceful solution fail, they retreat to the ancient walled city of Carcassonne to await the arrival of the crusaders.

Just as we saw the love and respect grow between Pagan and his master Lord Roland, so too do we see Father Pagan and his scribe Isidore find friendship. Just as we once heard the irreverent voice of Pagan, his curses and his wisecracks, now once again we hear a young voice, a different voice that sounds so much like his and yet has its own timbre and character.

Catherine Jinks has written a masterful fourth novel about Pagan, Lord Roland, and their friends that superbly captures the echoes of French life in the early 1200s. It is both funny and sad to hear Isidore's voice as Pagan's once was, yet so different at the same time. It also is a delight to see what has become of that Jerusalem street rat who hated the world so much when he was a boy and now works hard to preserve life and share his wisdom and knowledge. We cannot help but feel sick at heart when we hear about the brutal ways that were common in those days, the callous disregard for life, and the abuse of power. Yet, at the same time, reading about how things once were helps us recognize how far we have come and appreciate what we have today.

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Reviewed by Marya Jansen-Gruber on October 18, 2011

Pagan's Scribe
by Catherine Jinks

  • Publication Date: February 3, 2005
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 076362022X
  • ISBN-13: 9780763620226