Nostrum begins immediately where The Scourge ended: the wife of Sir Edward of Bodiam is now one of the afflicted, which sets Edward on a quest for a cure for the disease that is turning the English population into zombie-like “plaguers.” There are rumors of an alchemist who’s invented a cure and lives in an island fortress. Leaving his afflicted wife imprisoned in the abbey of St. Edmund’s Bury, Edward sets out to find the alchemist, and one hell of an adventure ensues.
Edward is soon reunited with his best friend, Sir Tristan of Rye, as well as a new travelling companion, a beautiful nun named Belisencia who may not be all that she seems. Together, they search for the alchemist, encountering plaugers along the way, and even worse, humans afflicted by what Edward calls the “third plague” – a madness that has swept across England, inspiring many to do unthinkable things in the name of religion. There is a scene about midway in the novel involving the cult of a self-proclaimed “Hugh the Baptist” that embodies this madness to its fullest, and it’s one of the most memorable in the novel.
Overall, I found Nostrum to be even better than The Scourge. It’s less gritty and less grim, but more of a rollicking adventure tale, which I found even more fun to read. It’s rare when the sequel exceeds its predecessor, but I think Roberto Calas has accomplished that here. One of my favorite scenes in the book involves Edward and Tristan’s need to slay a dragon. Although this novel is a work of historical fantasy, Nostrum’s “dragon” is completely grounded in historical plausibility, a brilliant move by the author, who has a knack for imbedding as much real history as possible into a story about a medieval zombie apocalypse.
|Might a medieval dragon look something like this?|
Without giving much away, the ending is thrilling. An old enemy makes his return, and the madness of the third plague threatens everything Edward has fought for. The ending leaves room for a third book, and I really hope the author gets a chance to write it. It seems there is one more tale needed to complete Edward’s journey, and after the first two in this series, I’ll pick it up on my kindle the day it’s released!
You can buy a copy of Nostrum here.