Finally: a book review! I’ve been in an epic reading slump lately, but I finally pulled myself out of it and finished The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley. And I ended up really enjoying it!
It’s 1517, and the relic trade is booming. Dismas is a relic hunter – his job is to procure “authentic” religious relics for wealthy and influential clients. He’s one of the best, the official relic master to both Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony and soon-to-be Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz. But when it becomes clear that the young cardinal is not particular about the authenticity of his relics, so long as he can make a profit from the pilgrims who pay to view them, Dismas and his painter friend, Dürer decide to give him what he wants: the Shroud of Chambéry (later known as the Shroud of Turin), the burial shroud of Christ. Or, more accurately, they decide to sell Albrecht a fraudulent Shroud. Centuries later, that forgery is found in the grave of a pope.
I have to admit, I never thought my Catholic school background would be of any help with this blog. But, having knowledge of a lot of the religious and historical aspects of The Relic Master allowed me to concentrate more on the story, which I really liked. Fun fact: I once went on a field trip (sometime in junior high) to see the “real” Shroud of Turin when it came to California. So, as a former Catholic school girl and a history major, I knew quite a bit about this topic going into this book, which I definitely think increased my enjoyment of it (though I don’t think any sort of prior knowledge is necessary to understanding the story).
I haven’t read any other Christopher Buckley books, but after reading The Relic Master, I want to! I really enjoyed his writing, and I thought the idea of a political comedy set in the 16th century was brilliant! I can’t think of any other historical fiction books with this brand of irreverent humor. I liked the fact that Buckley showcased the dark side of the church, while still writing characters who were pious (though not annoyingly so).
Overall, I really liked this book. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. My only (minor) complaint is that it was a bit too long for me. But I think it was a great novel and I am looking forward to reading more of Buckley’s books! If you’re looking for unique historical fiction, this book is for you!
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.