Nominated for the 2006 OLA White Pine Young Readers Choice Award
Set against the backdrop of the inescapable horror of the fourteenth-century plague and medieval heroism and chivalry, The First Vial details the morbid reality of a time when the Black Death forced people to take the law into their own hands to survive the wave of chaos that was ushered in.
Katherine, Lady of Crenfeld Castle, pits her wits against the enemies trying to take over her castle. After surviving two attempts on her life by a land-hungry priest, she is forced to leave her castle just as the plague engulfs her village. The villainous priest seizes her lands, convicts the innocent, and burns them at the stake. As the plague rages on, the tension intensifies. Balanced with intrigue and action, The First Vial builds to a feverish pitch as death saturates the country and Katherine must battle not only for her lands and castle but for her life.
Heinrichs's categorical research into medieval town life, castles, and the Black Death, make the this novel a noteworthy companion to Connie Willis' Hugo-winning Doomsday Book and clearly mark Heinrichs as a new talent in this genre.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Not so much about the time of the Black Death as it seems from the cover and the back cover blurb. The Black Death is there as a back drop. The first chapter or two was over run with adjectives, and the descriptions or everything and anything were over the top, but thankfully, that comes to a stop.
Katherine, Lady of Crenfeld Castle, is a very strong female in a male-dominated society.
After being left a widow, she tries to maintain her rule over her castle and the village that surrounds her. She has many problems, such as a diabolical priest, the plague, and her gender, which are the least of her problems.
She has a guardian to help her, who is the Lord Victor, but Katherine is very smart and forward-thinking. My favorite character is the Jewish doctor, Benjamin, who has smuggled a copy of the gospel of John and has become a Christian. Although he is a Christian, he is not the type that was accepted in those days when the church was the real ruler of the world. Having scriptures that you read was not only unacceptable but also punishable by death.
THE FIRST VIAL is well-researched, and I enjoyed reading about the effects that the plague had on the poor as well as the rich. Many images in the book were very scary. The treatment of those who had the plague, as well as their loved ones, was horrific. There is one chapter where the death wagons are described, as well as the common grave where everyone was buried.
This is an exceptional book that I may use while teaching medieval history. Thank you, Ms. Heinrichs.