Jenn’s review of the Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch

For the most part, I truly enjoyed The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale. It falls into my favorite genre, Historical Fiction. The author bases many of his characters and locations on true people and places. He reports in the afterword that he is the descendant to numerous hangmen including Jakob Kuisl, who apparently had a daughter named Magdalena. He also includes detailed descriptions of the historical sites that played parts in his story, just in case you find yourself in Germany and want to take a tour. I appreciate when authors do this; it really helps to piece everything together for me.

I especially enjoyed the lead characters: Jakob Kuisl (the hangman), Magdalena (the hangman’s daughter) and Simon (the local physician and “boyfriend” to Magdalena). I am glad that I got to know the characters well in the first novel, as the author doesn’t focus on them as much in this story. You can appreciate their connections to each other as their stories intertwine, but the author takes them on separate adventures throughout the book. I would have liked to see Magdalena and Simon’s relationship grow some more, but maybe the author didn’t want to distract from the main storyline.

I was also captivated by the relationship that Jakob and Magdalena had with the town’s characters. I found it intriguing how they could be so shunned and feared by members of the town, yet they run to them when they need cures for their illnesses. Everyone looks down on their family until they are in dire need of their medical skills and knowledge. Even knowing this, you still see their characters evolve. Jakob, for instance, seems to become more empathetic and fair. He won’t let a criminal suffer at the hands of his torture if he feels that person has shown penance or has been wronged by society.

As in books like the The Da Vinci Code (which I also loved), the author takes you on a tour of churches and other religious areas to investigate relics, and how those relics lead to the next clue of the riddle created by the Knights of the Templar. I did find that I really had to pay attention and often had to reread sections as I tried to keep all the sordid details straight. I found myself getting the rival characters mixed up.

In stories where there is friction and discord in the church it always amazes me how the antagonists, often members of religious sects, are able to justify murder and crimes against humanity when it was in the name of God. It really makes you think.

Whereas parts of the story were a little dry and the ending was somewhat anticlimactic, I enjoyed trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Also like the Da Vinci Code, I think this series would make a great movie.  I am looking forward to the next installment of the Hangman’s Daughter series: The Beggar King. I’ll usually take a break between historical fiction books, but this one will be on my upcoming list for sure.

Also available for the Nook (Barnes & Noble)


Why I love to read

I read for numerous reasons…I think the main reason is that I LOVE a good story. I also love to see things from other people’s perspective. I like to escape from life sometimes and slip into someone else’s realm. I feel this way about movies as well, but with books you get so much more.

I also find that as I age, I lose touch with my writing skills. Whether this is attributed to killed brain cells over the ages 😉 or the advent of texting, I feel like I forget how to speak and write properly. All those grammar rules have flown out of my brain. It’s embarrassing sometimes as my job has me speaking with many professionals, program directors, legal staff etc. I was even compelled to buy the English Grammar For Dummies book as I was afraid I would pass on incorrect information to my children when it came for them to learn how to read and write. Granted, it’s still sitting up on a shelf in a closet somewhere…maybe I should have purchased the Kindle Fire edition!! Did I mention how grateful I am for my Kindle dictionary? So another reason I continue to read is to keep the brain cells firing.

My main passion is for Historical fiction, which is funny because History was my worst subject in high school and college! Maybe if the information was in the context of a story, I would have done better. I love reading the stories that are based in true settings, pulling from geographical locations, historical events etc. The stories set around Kings and Queens and other historical figures especially pique my interest. I loved reading The Memoirs of Cleopatra and the series  about Anne Boleyn and her family by Philippa Gregory. Currently I am reading The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale  which reaches into the deep and dark history of the Knights of the Templar…LOVE IT!

When I need a break from historical fiction, I love a good drama or suspense. I have read a few books lately that deal with the world of drug addiction. I work with the foster care system and see how drugs affect children every single day. It’s so easy to place blame on those parents and wonder how they could possibly fail the children that they brought into this world. While it doesn’t completely quell those thoughts, it does help to read the story from their side, or at least how the author portrays their side. I read a book about serial murders, a convict and a child affected by molestation. Yes, it’s been a dark summer of reading but I truly enjoyed each book.

I think I’ll need to get back to books like The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Twilight Saga Collection for a while. Even though they are “young adult” novels, most of my adult friends have read them. They are truly entertaining and great if you like action, adventure and young love.

And then there is the mommy porn…Yes, I read all of the Fifty Shades Trilogy . Now, I must admit it wasn’t for the story line…however, it did have enough of a story to keep me moving onto the next book. I was getting a little tired of reading “my sex” or “my inner goddess” and the scenes were getting a little repetitive and overdone…but it didn’t stop me from reading…nor did it for others it appears ;-).

So, even though I read a wide variety of books, the story is what pulls me in. Once I start a good book, I have a really hard time putting it down. Whereas my husband may not be able to understand that, I try to liken it to having the power go out while he is watching a really good movie or a tennis match…very frustrating and you can’t wait to get back to the story and see what transpires.

Well, enough about me…Why do you like to read? Do you have a favorite genre of books? How often do you read?

The Dark Monk

I have just started reading The Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch. I’m really excited to read this book as I read The Hangman’s Daughter a while back and loved it. It has already referenced some of the past characters so it’s helping to jog my memory.

1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring every farmer and servant is indoors the night a parish priest discovers he’s been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost.

Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl; his headstrong daughter Magdalena; and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

But they’re not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange, intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have ensured he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of his international best seller The Hangman’s Daughter, Oliver Pötzsch takes us on a whirlwind tour–once again based on prodigious historical research into his own family tree–through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries, bringing to life an unforgettable compassionate hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of a 17th-century Bavaria still negotiating the lasting impacts of war, and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.

Has anyone read this yet? If they did, was it a follow-up to the Hangman’s Daughter? What did you think? Was it as good?