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on July 10, 2015
The whirlwind of ideas brought on by the Reformation serve as both a backdrop and motive of the novel's plot. If you're looking for an action-packed book that is both eloquent and entertaining, this is for you. It's so full of life that I'm honestly still shocked the book doesn't look more weathered and volatile sitting on my coffee table right now... it seems like it should be barely bound together considering all the turmoil contained in its pages. That said, it can initially be a difficult read due to the nature of the narration (memories told at a later date are interspersed with chapters that date back to the time those memories played out.) While this was confusing at first, just pay attention to the dates and you'll get used to it pretty quickly. In my opinion, it's a lot more powerful to tell the story in the present tense, so it only adds to the novel's effect when the authors jump around in time.
Note: As a huge history nerd, the extent and accuracy of the historical research that went into writing this thing is totally impressive.

This is a must read if you're interested in religious history and the nature of ideas/their intersections with politics. It reads in a lot of ways as an Early Modern "whodunnit" mystery. I won't say any more so as to not give anything away, but i'll just casually mention that the character growth of some of the main characters is worth the read alone.

Warnings:
-This book will make you teary eyed. I mean, it might... it did for me. But not so much because I felt the emotions of the characters etc, rather because it makes one of the most turbulent periods in history completely real. This was a time when old ways of thinking were turned upside down and the world was thrown into chaos. You feel that the whole way through. It has a really distinctive voice. (I didn't want it to end. AND LUCKILY IT DOESN'T HAVE TO! If it's your thing, the authors switched their name to Wu Ming and wrote a sequel called Altai.)
- Sex, violence, profanity: the essentials are all here
-It is long. But also, it is not long, because it's a page turner and you won't be able to stop. The chapters are really short and so you keep saying "One more chapter, then I'll call it a night.." No. You will not stop. Not until your eyes are sore or you need to pee, or sleep, or take your mother to the airport.

Helpful Hints
-Echoes of Marxism. If you go into it thinking about Marx and socialism more generally, you will see what I mean. In a lot of ways, the Anabaptist ideologies in here foreshadow Marxism. If you like political commentary, this will add another level of interest for you.
-Fun fact: The authors are 4 unnamed anarchists ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
-If you are unfamiliar with the politics of the Reformation period, the Anabaptists, the Inquisition, and/or conversos/marranos, I recommend looking them up, this book is so full of references to these things that I think this will help you out.
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on December 28, 2017
What an opus! This was a lucky find at a B&N book sale a few years back, and I am eternally grateful that I had the sense to pick it up. This gem reads with the speed and finesse of a Ludlum/LeCarre thriller. It's jam packed with action and satisfies mature readers with fruits impressive religious and historical research. I'll likeky add this to my read again list as there is so much interesting stuff going on, and such well fleshed out characters, it will keep me occupied for quite awhile. A character lust and maps would have been a great addition to this rather dense but digestible tome, but hey, at least there's Google!
Having been raised Lutheran/Presbyterian, this one hits home and touches nerves.
Anyone interested in religion and European history-based novels will eat this one up and beg for more.
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on March 29, 2014
This is a goddamned rockstar thriller of a novel about the Reformation ranging from Wittenberg to Munster to Antwerp to Venice and all points in between. Yes, it's incredibly long, but the pacing and plotting are well done.

It's been about twenty years since I took the history of early modern Europe (egads) but it came back quickly as I read. You will definitely get more out of the book if you know about radical Anabaptists, Munster, Catholic political struggles, and the Peasants' Revolt, but if you don't, don't worry. It's still a great read.

Originally written in Italian, the English translation is somewhat quirky. Things like "a few bob" or "suburb" stick out a bit when you're immersed in the mid-sixteenth century. But it's minor.

Very much recommended.
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on September 27, 2015
Other reviewers have already addressed the plot of the novel so no point in my reiterating. This is a novel that is vast in scope and whilst filled to the brim with historical detail and events it is also a mystery. Two antagonists who circle each other over the span of thirty years, each fighting for their beliefs. This is a complex and convoluted novel and I had difficulty initially until I had some further understanding of the period.

I would have liked to have rated it higher simply due to the ambition of the novel but for this reader the delivery wasn't always smooth. Sometimes I found myself falling into the story and then would be jarred out. In the first part the use of modern day words, i.e "pal", "mate" I found jarring and they didn't gel with the story/ times depicted.

However I loved the vastness of the novel, I haven't read anything of a similar vein. Loved the machinations of the characters and felt that although somewhat initially disappointed with the ending I felt on reflection that it was fitting.
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on October 2, 2008
The story is based on real historical events and characters in the early days of the Protestant Reformation, and is told from the perspective of the Anabaptist movement, specifically the persecution of Anabaptist by the Catholics with the complicity of Lutheran.

The story is told in first person by one who was involved in all major (tragic) events in the Anabaptist movement. The antagonist is a mysterious spy, Q, sent by Archbishop Carafa (who later became Pope John IV), who infiltrated the movement, and precipitated the tragic ends of both the Peasants' War and the Munster Rebellion. The fist half of the book is mostly centered around these two historical events, and the second half about the unveiling and pursuit of Q.

As pointed out by several readers, the narratives jump back and forth in time. Fortunately, every chapter begins with a specific date, making it easier to follow. However, the first person narrative is annoying at times. I would say, the first half more historical, and the second half more adventurous and captivating. To me, it is a good history lesson and an excellent story.
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on October 25, 2016
I think he did good with setting up the characters in the book since they follow along in the 30 years or so this took place. I believe the reformation could have taken place like he said it did. I felt like I was there.
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on December 12, 2014
I've tried and tried to get into this but the way the author jumps around in time makes it near impossible for me to follow. I don't know. Maybe it's me, but I love historical fiction and really want to like this book and I just can't figure out what the hell is going on in the narrative.
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VINE VOICEon February 17, 2007
I bought this book (English edition) in Rome several years ago, not realizing it was a translation from the Italian. I read it once then; it wasn't easy.
I've read it a couple more times since; it's a lot easier second time around. I've also read most of it in Italian,
and enjoyable and valuable as that was, I have to say, I don't think the English reader is missing much reading this translation.

I don't know if it's really the "greatest novel ever written", as one reviewer said, but I can understand why (s)he said that.

The people who wrote negative reviews about this book simply have no clue. I agree that there are some jarring anachronisms of speech in the translation, but it's a trivial flaw. I would imagine that rebellious peasants, soldiers, criminals, brothel keepers, did swear a lot, just as in this book, just as in the Nixon White House, just as on "Deadwood", and if they didn't say "wtf" they certainly said something equivalent. They may not have said things like "touched a live nerve", but who cares? And remember, it's a translation for frak's sake! (And I would say, an excellent translation; I'm just saying, while you're picking nits, don't blame the authors for the trivial pecadilloes of the translation).

The number of times our hero changes his name, identity and location, along with the interleaving of Q and the polynomial hero, and the interleaving of different times-- those things do make it difficult, especially if you are, as I was and as some of these negative reviewers obviously are, utterly clueless about the history under consideration. Probably if you know a little about it it's not quite so difficult.

That's why it went better for me on second reading. Also, this time around there's Wikipedia, and a lot of other useful sources of information about things like the Diet of Worms, Council of Trent, Cardinal Carafa, and so on, and I consulted them frequently, so my knowledge of this history is greatly enhanced, in a way that never would have happened otherwise.

It's true that many of the characters-- and there are a lot of characters-- aren't developed, but that makes sense given the way the book is structured. Or maybe it's even a flaw, but a minor one. This novel contains riches of a kind you won't find in most novels. It is difficult, but extremely well worth it.
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on July 28, 2015
interesting, complex novel, haven't read anything like it recently...
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on February 3, 2016
A collective masterpiece
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