The Inquisitor's Tale
by Adam Gidwitz, illus. by Hatem Aly
Adam Gidwitz’s newest novel for young readers, The Inquisitor’s Tale, is funny, thought-provoking, and has dragons. If you combined the clever humor from Monty Python and mixed it with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and wrote it for children, then that would be The Inquisitor’s Tale. As in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, there is a running narrative told from different characters. At the Holy Crossroads Inn, a narrator begins asking around about three children who have performed miracles, and their holy dog, Gwenforte. A crowd gathers, and the storytellers reveal pieces of the whole tapestry. The storytellers include a nun, an inn-keeper, a jongleur, and a monk, among others, who are all gathered to hear and tell what they know about the three children on the run.
The first child is Jeanne, a peasant girl who does not know how to read, but has visions of the future. The second child is an oblate named William who is training to be a monk. He has super-human strength, and his mother is a Muslim African. This means that his dark skin color is an oddity in 1242 France. The last child is Jacob, a Jewish boy who has the power of healing. He has never met a Christian that has been kind to him before Jeanne and William. On the other hand, Jeanne and William have never met a Jewish boy, and they do not understand his religion. Together, the three children are stronger than they are on their own.
While Gidwitz frequently incorporates jokes appropriate for a 12-year-old, he also explores race and religion in 13th century Medieval France. Beautifully written, Gidwitz shows that the Middle Ages were not dark at all, but a place filled with adventure, hilarity and beauty. The illuminations that fill the margins by Hatem Aly make The Inquisitor’s Tale an illuminated manuscript itself.