Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 280 pgs
First line of the book: “Scarlet robes were the only sure way to achieve anonymity in public.”
Summary: [From back of the book] The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth follows the stories of Johannes Kepler—a German Lutheran and the first man to distill how stars and planets moved according to mathematical laws—and Galileo Galilei. An Italian Catholic, Galileo will try to claim Kepler’s success for his own Church, but he finds himself enmeshed in a web of intrigue originating from within the Vatican itself. Both men are trapped by human ignorance and irrational terror to the peril of their lives and those of their families in one of the darkest, yet also one of the most enlightening, periods of European history.
How I found the book: This book was sent to me as part of The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth blog tour
Opinion: The summary does the book a huge disservice. I was afraid it would be a painful anti-Catholic diatribe. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, church institutions play a huge part in the plot but it is set in the 17th century so that can’t be helped. Overall, the struggle between the Lutheran and Catholic Churches was more political than theological (which I loved) and there was enough diversity within each group to ensure that no sweeping generalizations could be made.
I always say that characterization can make or break a book and this one was no exception. Clark adds depth and dimension to astronomers who had simply been names in my science textbook. Kepler and Galileo were brilliant scientists, but Clark also portrays them as regular people with dreams and insecurities that any reader can relate to. As the their narratives wove together, I found myself saying, “Awwww! Poor Kepler,” (he always seems to draw the short straw) and “GAH! Galileo! Stop talking!” (he has this uncanny ability to make a bad situation worse). Emotional response? Check.
As an added bonus, the science was not intimidating at all. Clark cleverly had the astronomers use wonderful analogies to describe the complex theories to characters who were not scientists. And with the benefit of hindsight, I could even feel smarter than these mathematicians. I mean Tycho’s arrangement of the planets was just silly—not to mention it would have been a pain to make a model of it in grade school.
Recommend? Absolutely! To put it simply, I enjoyed The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth for the same reason I love Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Court novels: it’s got drama, politics, and yes, even a little sex appeal. ;)