The Academy of Secrets: A Prequel Novella (Giordano Bruno #0.6), by S.J. Parris

Eight stars

Amongst my binge reading of S.J. Parris’ powerful Elizabethan mystery series comes the second of the novellas, best called another prequel piece before the major novels moved things into England proper. It is Naples in 1568 and a young Giordano Bruno is the rising star at the priory, though his penchant for seeking knowledge outside of the strict role of a monk has become apparent to many. Fra Gennaro, another monk and the local medical professional, takes him under his wing and introduces Bruno to a group of philosophically-minded men, headed by Don Giambattista. These men call themselves the Academy of Secrets, meeting to discuss mental and physical experiments that they have been undertaking, as well as recommending reading—a great deal of which lies outside that permitted by the Church. Bruno takes an especially great interest and Giambattista agrees to grant Bruno access to his libraries. Juggling his time at the priory, and with the help of Fra Gennaro to cover for his absence, Bruno makes his way there to expand his knowledge. His arrival is met with another surprise, the young and attractive niece to Don Giambattista. Bruno’s work is shelved as he and Fiammetta engage in something a tad more carnal. Bruno slips away and heads back to the priory, keeping his secret to himself, but another of the young monks seems to have discovered that there is something amiss. While Bruno continues to make daily trips to the library and to see Fiammetta, the Academy of Secrets is in jeopardy. When Bruno is kept from his daily journey on one occasion, things turn deadly and questions arise. With his weakened connection of the priory already clear, some must wonder if Bruno took matters into his own hands. Another great preface piece to get the reader intrigued about the early life of Giordano Bruno (though its release before the sixth novel will serve as a significant flashback for series fans). It helped solidify some of the sentiments with the other novella and the opening chapter of Book 1, which I appreciate greatly. Recommended to those who enjoy Giordano Bruno as a character, as well as anyone looking for a launching point into a great Elizabethan mystery series that utilises a great protagonist.

I have spent the past two weeks binge reading the books in this series, including the first preface novella that introduced me to Giordano Bruno, the renegade monk. I admit that I was tricked into thinking that this was a piece that would bridge books 5 and 6 of the series (released the month before the latest novel), but should better be labelled as another prequel piece, offering a great deal of monk and priory backstory, perfect for those who wish to take the plunge into this entire series to date. Giordano Bruno is a rising star at the priory, but has long since mentioned his interest in cosmology and philosophical discussions, rather than theological tomes. He has also chosen to keep his carnal thoughts at the front of his mind, rather than stored away, as becomes apparent throughout this piece. Bruno’s thirst for knowledge is clear in this piece, though a theme of renegade actions also shape his character development. A handful of other characters flavour the text and provide the reader with some added backstory into the world of Giordano Bruno. The story moved along well and held my attention throughout, providing some context for the man I have seen grow over his three years and five previous novels. I am eager to see how Bruno’s character might be shaped by the events here, though my sharp memory cannot recall too many mentions of his priory life or those with whom he had regular encounters. Parris pens this single chapter piece and yet keeps things moving well so that the reader could, should they desire, read this in a single sitting. I might recommend those interested in the series to pick this one up before tackling the full novels, though with another novella set to come out in December 2020, waiting until then might be best for the reader who loves a good binge!

Kudos, Madam Parris, for an interesting early piece in the series. I have come to highly enjoy your work and hope others find these mysteries just as exciting.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: