The Nostradamus Prophecies by Theresa Breslin

#9 of 200

Original Language: English
Publisher: Doubleday
Country: Add the country of publication.
Publication Date: March 6, 2008
ISBN: 0552557218
Page Count: 480

When Nostradamus, wild-eyed and trembling, proclaims to the French court his prophecy of a great massacre to take place on the streets of Paris, the young King Charles only laughs. His mother, Catherine de' Medici, pays more heed - she believes Nostradamus can truly see the future. But Nostradamus's prophecies are not only for those who rule; he also has a message for Mélisande, the minstrel's daughter. For he is certain that Fate links him and Mélisande together. And as the Angel of Death approaches, the soothsayer gives into her safekeeping some very special parchments - parchments that the titled heads of France would do anything to see... A rich, dramatic adventure set in the tumultuous years of the late sixteenth century in France - a time of assassination, poisons, seers and the sword. A time when a king must be saved...
Theresa Breslin’s ‘The Nostradamus Prophecies’ follows the turmoil of Melisande, Minstrel’s daughter, after the death of her sister and the imprisonment of her sister. Thirteen year old Mesliande must escape the court of King Charles IX and his widowed Mother, the Regent Catherine de’ Medici. In her terror, confusion and determination to see her sister avenged, Melisande knows only one man who can help her. Michel de Nostradamus. Unfortunately for Melisande, Nostradamus has seen more than just her Father’s rescue in her future.

Breslin has set her novel in 1566-72 France during the Religious Wars that riddled the rule of young Prince Charles and towards the very end of the life of, the most famous soothsayer of all time, Nostradamus. Breslin immediately makes an effort to keep history in its place while creating her own set of events. By creating a series of unimportant characters, to history, Breslin has allowed the events in her novel to unfold as though they are fact. Mesliande, the daughter of a travelling Minstrel, her love interest, the wild Leopard tamer, Melchior and several other characters have been created to interact with the historical cast of King Charle’s cast. As Melisande’s story focuses on her mission on behalf of Nostradamus, it is accepted by the reader that the events could reflect fact as Nostradamus was a very mysterious figure.

Breslin has chosen well in Mesliande. Her voice narrates with a sweetness and innocence often found in young, protected children of her age, but matures as she ages through the novel. She is kind, without guile and dedicated; her stubbornness is a natural trait when compared to her love for her family and her music.

Breslin has few faults in the Nostradamus Prophecies. Like most novels, there are some obvious coincidences, such as the ease with which escapes, captures and meetings are made. Melisande is lucky to find people, in a mostly poverty stricken and war ridden country, who are able to care for her.

For those without knowledge of the events rule of King Charles IX, the massacre prophesied by Nostradamus in the first chapters is difficult to think out. But for those with some knowledge, Melisande’s confusion can be frustrating. As she repeatedly describes the fighting, sieges and distrust between those of Protestant and Catholic faith, it is hard to know how she fails to recognise it for the massacre it will eventually become.

Melisande must face many trials, the least of which is knowing who can, and cannot, be trusted. Her naturally emotional personality, important to a Minstrel, leads her to share her story with more people than she ought; despite repeated warnings to tell no one anything. Breslin’s other characters are not as complex as Mesliande and some, such as Giorgio and Lord Thierry, are quite predictable despite the ways she attempts to mask their motives.

The Nostradamus Prophecies are an interesting insight into the world of 16th Century France, and I urge anyone with an interest to pick it up. I look forward to reading The Medici Seal.

Raiding Bookshelves Rating

Judging by the Cover: The background is the most interesting part of this Nostradamus cover. The colours catch the eye while the transparent overlay makes focuses on the mystique of one of the greatest soothsayers in history. The shadow of the cat stands out well against the gold of its surroundings.

Originally published: 13 January 2011 (Raiding Bookshelves)

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