Review: Fraternity of Brothers by Marina Pacheco


Cast out for a crime committed against him, his future looks bleak. Until an unexpected visitor gives him hope for justice.

Medieval Europe, 996 AD. Fifteen-year-old Galen survived a horrendous assault, only to be exiled by his family. Taken in by monks and grateful to be spared as a suspected sinner from the execution block, he ekes out a lonely existence of unrelenting pain. But he gains a chance to prove himself worthy when a famous young illustrator arrives at the abbey and selects him to help with an important manuscript.

Thrilled to be handpicked for his superb scribing skills, Galen fears the other members of the order will sabotage his newfound fellowship with their whispered accusations. But when more brutal attacks rock the quiet community, a confrontation with his assailant might force him to finally speak his truth.

Will Galen find his voice and triumph over trauma and tragedy?

Fraternity of Brothers is the first book in the compelling Life of Galen historical fiction series. If you like fighting for acceptance, finding absolution, and authentic depictions of the harsh Middle Ages, then you’ll love Marina Pacheco’s riveting novella.

My Review

Set in the tenth century, this novel is so believable I thought our protagonist Galen was a real historical character. He’s not, but this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment I received reading this novel. Galen is the monastery’s most accomplished scribe. He’s also an outcast, suspected of being a catamite because he was raped and beaten almost to death, then disinherited by his father who happens to be an Ealdorman. Talk about blaming the victim! Galen’s injuries will not heal, leaving him bent with pain, and the abuse he suffers leaves him timid and withdrawn to excess. He is a pitiful creature, so ground down that there seems to be no hope for him. All of that changes when a new illustrator is brought to the monastery—a man who recognizes Galen’s talent and takes pity on him. He also pairs up with Galen to compose a Life of St. Cuthbert, though they can work separately. At first, Alcuin pays heed to the other monks who threaten to repudiate him if he associates with the outcast:

‘What were you thinking, Alcuin?’ Waerelm said, his voice angry and sharp.
‘About what?’ Alcuin said perversely, because he didn’t need to be told, but he was trying to delay the inevitable.
‘That damned Galen, you’ll share his taint if you stick so close to him.’
‘I will do no such thing.’ Alcuin’s anger rose to a fiery rage to be taken to task again, as if his own doubts weren’t sufficient. But he kept his voice low.
‘You’re wrong,’ Anfred said, ever the voice of reason. ‘There is far too much stigma attached to Galen for you to approach him and still maintain your good reputation.’

But Alcuin is a good man and his better side eventually surfaces. That’s good for Galen, who is afraid to believe that this man’s friendship is genuine. But he needs Alcuin’s friendship more than ever, as he keeps finding himself the center of controversy. As a sympathizer with the underdog, I found the story compelling, though even I found Galen’s behavior a little too pathetic to be believed. And there were a couple of loose ends that needed tying up, which I can’t elaborate upon without giving the plot away. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it enough to move on to book two right away.

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