June 2024
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The Mercy Seller, Brenda Rickman Vantrease

Vantrease returns to the family of Kathryn and Finn with this sequel to The Illuminator, set in the early 15th century and opening with a book burning in Prague.  Finn and his granddaughter Anna, the subject of the book, live in Bohemia and continue to carry on the heretic religion.  Anna is forced to flee to France, where she meets a mercy seller, also known as a pardoner.  They will change each other’s lives more than they would think possible at the moment of their meeting as they journey from France to England, the country where the Lollard movement began and remains very strong.

This book is better than The Illuminator without question.  The characters are more fleshed out and their reactions are very believable.  Vantrease’s writing has improved and so has her plotting.  This is good historical fiction, filling in the gaps of history, as I have mentioned before.  She plays a little with Sir John Oldham and the identity of a certain Master Fisher, but explains everything in the back of the book, which I always appreciate.  The subject matter, similarly, is very interesting, especially seeing the divergence between “Roman Christians” and Lollards – I think most of us would now agree with the Lollards, and the book certainly tilts in their sympathy, but it is still an interesting viewpoint.  Anna was my favorite character as she attempted to forge her own way forward without everyone she loved.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this work of historical fiction and I would certainly recommend it to someone else.


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