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The Mercy Seller

(The Illuminator #2)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,040 ratings  ·  136 reviews
In the fifteenth century, with religious intolerance spreading like wildfire across Europe, English-born Anna Bookman and her grandfather, Finn, earn a living in Prague by illuminating precious books, including forbidden translations of the Bible. Finn subscribes to the heresy that people ought to be able to read the Word of God for themselves, without having to pay a
Hardcover, 419 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  1,040 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever read a book and, when finished, you wanted to talk to SOMEONE about that book? Here is such a book. The story of Anna and Gabriel and the 1300's Catholic church's struggles with "heretics" is an amazing read. I recommend it for book clubs; we had a marvelous discussion that ranged across a huge expanse of history, religion, psychology and how these events are continuing to play out in our world today. We agreed that we would have like to know more about Gabriel's thought process, ...more
Unfortunately, far into this novel I realized it was a sequel to a book I'd been eyeing for a while, The Illuminator. I still enjoyed this book without having any idea of its prequel's plot It stand well on its own.

This story focuses on the red haired Anna, (the next gen from the 1st book) a Lollard trying to make her way to England, seeking refuge from religious prosecution. We get an omnipresent view of other characters, but I was relieved that the strong willed and intelligent heroine didn't
Set in the 15th century. This book follows the story of Anna and her grandfather, Finn, from book I, The Illuminator. Finn flees England with baby Anna due to prosecutions against the Lollards – followers of John Wycliffe, who turned against the Church because of its abuses.

Finn settles in Prague, where he “starts Prague’s secret enterprise to disseminate the banned translations.” When Prague becomes a dangerous place for Lollards, Finn asks Anna to go back to England to seek protection under
Kristen Kellick
Nov 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kristen Kellick by: my mother
As it turns out, this book is actually a sequel to The Illuminator. So if you liked The Illuminator, you'll probably enjoy this book at least as much if not more.

The book itself was probably not something I would have picked up on my own -- my mom was redistributing books read by herself and her sisters at Thanksgiving -- but it was interesting and entertaining enough to keep me hooked until the end. I was expecting it to be a thinly veiled "historical" romance, but it went beyond that. The
Heather *Undercover Goth Queen*
While I thought the historical detail in this book was very thorough and interesting, the book overall didn't speak to me. The love story, which was the reason I picked this book up in the first place, was very placid, trite, unimaginative, and unengaging. The main plot was the illegal copying of certain texts, which might have been more interesting in a different format, but here it overshadowed the main characters. The secondary characters also overshadowed the main ones, being better ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medieval-england
This is a well-defined, vivid book that brings the Middle Ages to life. The characters have depth and color. The ending was a downer, nevertheless enjoyable because it reflects real life, especially in the time period in which the author takes us.
“Jan Hus chose an open window in the left tower of Tyn Church from which to watch the burning. This church gave him courage. It was a Hussite church, a Czech church, not built with Roman funds but built by and for the people of Bohemia. Yet even here in this sacred place, he could not stop the grinding in his gut was he watched the scene unfold below. This burning in the town square was Archbishop’s Zynbek’s declaration of war.”

The Mercy Seller is Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s sequel to her
Dawn Kunda
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing

In the fifteenth century Europe, freedoms were not as liberal as in many countries today. Heresy was high on England’s King’s list to be done away with.
Do not believe what the King considers wrong, do not write the Bible in any language other than Latin, and do not counter the word of the Church.
Anna Bookman writes in multiple languages and can’t ignore what the English translation of the Bible tells her. Her manuscripts will hang her if found out. She lives in Prague with her grandfather until
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was fun to walk the streets of Prague in 1410 which Vantrease brought to life. I enjoyed reading about Jan Hus who was alive a century before Martin Luther, but not as famous for some reason. There was just enough (but not too much) religious history, where for example, I learned that Hus preached in the newly built Bethlehem Chapel in Czech (not Latin) and that he was influenced by the writings of the Englishman John Wycliffe. I was introduced to another definition of the word: indulgence. I ...more
Not as good as "The Illuminator"; slower-moving and even more contrived and tidied up than the first book. Nevertheless, still an enjoyable read.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This enjoyable historical novel is set in the early 15th century and concerns Anna, the grand-daughter of a talented scribe and illuminator, who is also a skilled scribe and book-maker. She and her grandfather are also English Lollards living in Prague. When crackdowns on heretics endanger Anna, she makes her way back to England via Reims. In France, while supporting herself as a scribe and bookseller, she meets Gabriel, a pardoner disguised as a merchant in order to spy out the sources of ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I love English history and this book didn't disappoint. It revolves around the alleged heresy of Wycliffe and the Lollard texts which described papal corruption, the translation of the bible in to English to allow the "common man" to read and understand the divine teachings of the Catholic church in 15th century England. This is the historical backdrop.

A young woman and her grandfather act as scribes to do the translation and provide the books to those who secretly and dangerously want to read
Sarah Hearn
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I would have given this book a higher score because overall, it’s a good story, but there are a number of historical inaccuracies that I cannot believe the editor and proof readers didn’t catch. I’m not talking about typos or syntax errors, I’m talking about modern vernacular anachronisms such as “I wouldn’t give a dime ...”. Even if the author is writing conversations in modern English and not in Middle English or French, or for that matter, Czech, there is no excuse for this. It stands out ...more
Debby Zigenis-Lowery
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a fanscinating historical read. It fulfilled the unsatisfied hopes for book two, and introduced new characters to play out their story across 15th Century Europe and the beginnings of what would become the Reformation. It includes scribes, manuscripts, and booksellers. What's not to love?
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A sequel of equal beauty

I love these people—Kathryn and Finn and Anna and Gabriel and Mistress Clare and Sir John. Brought alive through beautiful writing and a superb blending of fiction and history.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Not as good as the Illuminator
Mary Beth
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick read. Great incite into the times of the story. Better than the first book in the series.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a sequel to The Illuminator - helps to read that one first but I think this one could stand alone as well.

If you like Ken Follet and the whole Pillars of the Earth series, you will LOVE these books. Beautifully written, very descriptive of the times (1400's England and Prague), a love story for the ages - several in fact, and the illegal selling of English translations of The Bible. GASP! The powers that be in the church do not like the idea of the common man being able to interpret The
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I finished The Illuminator and borrowed the two sequels from the library with great anticipation. The Mercy Seller had too many contrivances (if it's not a dwarf, it's a gyspy, evidently) and for some reason, I keep feeling as if Ms. Vantrease's research is very limited in scope. What I learned about the Lollards in the first book is exactly what I learned in the second. Unfortunately, the third (The Heretic's Wife) is no better. I read 50 pages and realized it was going to be a re-tread.
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is exactly what historical fiction should be!

Prague - 1410: Jan Hus battles against the corrupt and greedy Catholic Church by carrying on the work of John Wycliffe, the first to translate the Bible into English so that the people could read God's word for themselves and see that the Church's lies, such as the peddling of indulgences, were not found anywhere in the holy book.

Two years later, after Hus had been burned at the stake, others continue to produce and distribute copies of the
Dec 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: hist-fic
The 15th century was a time of religious conflict throughout Europe, with the Church holding out against, then persecuting, the followers of John Wycliffe. It's hard to imagine today the turmoil that surrounded the emerging belief that Christian scripture should be translated into the vernacular, but the Church feared that allowing the laity to read and interpret the Bible would free them from their devotion to the (increasingly corrupt) clergy. Within this maelstrom, author Vantrease continues ...more
Jul 09, 2015 added it
Shelves: bookreporter
THE MERCY SELLER is not a direct sequel to the 2005 bestseller THE ILLUMINATOR. Although characters reappear here, THE MERCY SELLER serves as a great stand-alone novel that can --- and should --- be picked up immediately.

Religious intolerance dominates 15th-century Europe in the opening of THE MERCY SELLER, where the story kicks off with the burning of religious texts. Finn, one of the main characters from THE ILLUMINATOR, is still doing his work with the help of his granddaughter, Anna. Finn
Rosina Lippi
Jan 11, 2010 rated it liked it
In this complex but compelling sequel to Vantrease's first novel (The Illuminator), the primary character is Friar Gregory, a young Catholic priest whose work is to sell indulgences, or forgiveness for sins, and to send the monies he collects to Rome.

But Gregory has a conscience, and his training can't override misgivings when he is dispatched by an ambitious and less than scrupulous Archbishop Arundel to spy on Sir John Oldcastle, a nobleman suspected of heresy. Arundel wants to make an
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set several years after the heartbreaking end of THE ILLUMINATOR, Brenda Rickman Vantrease's THE MERCY SELLER continues the tale of Anna, grand-daughter of Finn and Kathryn, and of a new character, Brother Gabriel, a conflicted Dominican who sells indulgences but is secretly at odds with his own faith and the mysteries of his past. Hand-chosen by virulent Bishop Arundel to investigate the importation of Lollard heresies by a respected nobleman, whom the aged Arundel is determined to destroy, ...more
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Vickie Graham, Jennifer Jenkins
Recommended to Lynda by: I continued to read the books in this series.
What a thought provoking addition the Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease has turned out to be. I first read "The Heretic's Wife" when I picked it up at the Dollar Store! What a find! The Mercy Seller is the third book in the series that begins with The Illuminator. The in-depth historical research is evident throughout the series. Rickman Vantrease also includes a great deal of background at the end of the book to fill in the gaps that often occur in a novel. This book continues with the ...more
Sep 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Anna grew up as the granddaughter of an illuminator in Prague--an illuminator who practices the dangerous act of copying the Bible into English. Anna is devestated when a wave of persecution breaks out against those who dare to oppose the church in this way, and several of her friends--including the man she was to marry--are killed. Fleeing Prague, Anna has many adventures on her way to England, where she believes she will find safety with Sir John Oldcastle. But church officials suspect ...more
In spite of the sometimes treacly romance in the first book in this series, I was intrigued enough by the characters and the historical setting to give the sequel a chance. Unfortunately, I'm left having a very similar reaction as I did to the first installment; Vantrease did not ease up on the schlock.

What could have been interesting commentary on political and religious events in both England and Prague in the early Renaissance (again!) felt sidelined by the overwrought lovers. Vantrease
Apr 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Fiction
It's been a while since I read a good historical fiction book and I really enjoyed this one. It's set in Prague & England in the 1400s, right after Wycliffe translated the Bible into everyday English. Boy, was the Catholic Church upset about THAT! This is also during the Papal schism, when there where three popes - two Italian, one French, for those of you keeping count.

Two of the main characters are a scribe who copies the Bible into Czech from Wycliffe's English translation and a Dominican
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I really enjoyed reading this book, and found it fascinating. It is about a woman living in Prague with her grandfather who make their living by illuminating books, including forbidden translations of the Bible. I found it an amazing concept that by owning a copy of the Bible translated to english, one could end up imprisoned. The woman ends up leaving Prague, and sets up stall selling books in France. She then meets a Dominican Friar who is disguised as a merchant. Their relationship begins, ...more
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Brenda Rickman Vantrease (born in 1945) is a former librarian and English teacher from Nashville, Tennessee. She grew up and was educated in the Middle Tennessee area where she graduated with a B.A. in English from Belmont University in 1967. During the twenty-five years she served as an educator in Nashville, she earned a masters degree and a doctorate from Middle Tennessee State University. ...more

Other books in the series

The Illuminator (2 books)
  • The Illuminator (Illuminator, #1)