Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Devil's Novice (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #8)” as Want to Read:
The Devil's Novice (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #8)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Devil's Novice

(Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #8)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,778 ratings  ·  212 reviews
In the autumn of 1140 the Benedictine monastery at Shrewsbury finds its new novice Meriet Aspley a bit disturbing. The younger son of a prominent family, Meriet is meek and biddable by day, but his sleep is rife with nightmares so violent that they earn him the name of "Devil's Novice". Shunned by the other monks, Aspley attracts the concern of Brother Cadfael. Then a body ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 1st 1997 by Mysterious Press (first published 1983)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Devil's Novice, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,778 ratings  ·  212 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Best of the Cadfael novels I have read thus far. One of the reasons is the absence of foolish, impetuous youngsters who get themselves into trouble. All characters in this book, particularly the youngsters, are thinking people. The lawman is a thinking bloke too. Meriet is a very interesting character, and so is Isouda.

Now, about the series. I began reading Ellis Peters after I was told that her work was similar to Agatha Christie's. Having read eight Cadfael books on the trot, I think I now ha
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
“We, old friend! I want you with me, and I think Abbot Radulfus will give me leave to take you. You’re better skilled than I in dead men, in how long they may have been dead, and how they died. Moreover, he’ll want a watching eye on all that affects Saint Giles, and who better than you? You’re waist-deep in the whole matter already, you must either sink or haul clear.”

This is not an unusual situation for our Brother Cadfael whose adventures began several years ago in Shrewsbury, England. Winter
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
“There’s many a young man has got his hearts wish, only to curse the day he wished for it.”

Upon my fourth reading, I raise my rating one star because this story compares so well with other historical fiction. In addition to the murder mystery, this tale brings to the reader an understanding of a historical setting which borders on the mythic, an introduction to a medieval craft (in this case, making charcoal), reflections on life then and now, a love story, and the fun of a tale well told.

Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another enjoyable outing into medieval Shrewsbury.

A new novice who doesn't fit in and who carries a dark secret, and the half-charred body of a missing - and murdered - courier. We have the usual mix of likeable and really well-drawn characters around Brother Cadfael I've come to love. And another low-key but beautiful romance.
To my recollection, I've never read any other mysteries set in the middle ages, but I boldly declare Ellis Peters's Cadfael stories to be the best.

(Finished it this mor
I don't love thrillers and, although I love mysteries, would prefer the PG versions. Too much suspense, too many dead bodies, and I back away even if, like Goliath, like The Sopranos, I love them. I prefer my mysteries to be cozies.

I don't think a mystery set in 12th century English abbey can really be a cozy; nonetheless, Ellis Peters' Cadfael series hits the same spot. Cadfael, a Welsh monk, called to a vocation late in a very full life, was accomplished with herbs, medicines, and other kinds
Judy Lesley
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
First published in 1983, this is the eighth novel in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael. For a great story it's hard to beat a novel written by Ellis Peters. In this one a younger son is presented to the abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul of Shrewsbury as a new entrant into the order, nineteen year old Meriet Aspley, by his father. From the beginning Meriet is a study in contradictions with an unrestful spirit which has an unfortunate way of manifesting itself during times when the abbey should ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Plot was mediocre compared to the previous two novels in the series. I had a hard time maintaining interest and often found my attention focusing on other sources of reading material. Still, you can’t help but love Cadfael, so I’ll go for one more.
Susan in NC
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Another enjoyable outing with the character who got me hooked on historical mysteries, Brother Cadfael. I reread this book, set in Autumn, to fulfill the Book For All Seasons challenge to read a book set in that season.

I love Cadfael, and I love Ellis Peters’ writing; she portrays the season with lovely descriptions at the beginning of the book, set in early Autumn, of still-warm days, hazy sunshine, apple harvesting, and by the end of the book, winding up in December, there are frosty nights cl
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, series, mystery
Another great book. I was glad to see Brother Mark again; he is one of my favorite supporting characters.
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1140 and Cadfael witnesses the arrival of a new novice, Meriet Aspley and his father, Leoric. The old monk notices that his father does not kiss him goodbye and that the relationship between the two seems strained. But the young man is eager (almost too eager) to be admitted. When he has nightmares and cries out in his sleep the other novices panic that he is ‘the devil’s novice’. ‘Barbary’ he cries in his sleep and whistles and everyone knows that whistling attracts the devil.
Brother Jerome fin
Barb in Maryland
September 1140 finds a new novice being admitted to the Abbey. Young Meriet Apsley is insistent that it is his choice to join the Benedictine brothers; that he is not being forced by his stern, cold father. However, Cadfael and others have their doubts. When Meriet starts having loud nightmares many are disturbed and frightened; Cadfael is curious and suspects a trauma of some sort in the young man's past.
In October, there came an important visitor. Canon Eluard, returning to Winchester from a s
John Bastin
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-books
An excellent story that ranges from a lad who wants to take the vow to be a member of the abbey, to a discovered treasonous plan within a local family. And, of course, we have a murder linked to the tale. Cadfael again is tasked with making sense out of the doings and bringing the malefactor to justice. Sometimes, though, it doesn't end up as planned.
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have decided that my (somewhat early) New Year's Resolution is to read all of the Cadfael books. There's a lot to like here, certainly.
Moonlight Reader
I didn't like this one quite so well as the preceding The Virgin in the Ice, although it was still enjoyable. I really love the relationship between Brother Cadfael and Hugh Beringar.
"Those who have been blinded by too great a light do not see, cannot afford to see, the pain they cause."


"Some who thus take fire burn to the day of their death, and leave a trail of radiance for generations to come. Other fires sink for want of fuel. Time would discover what young Meriet's small, desperate flame portended."

The Devil's Novice is more of a psychological thriller than a murder mystery. It centres around a young, truculent new member of the monastery who demands to take the mo
Michael Joosten
May 19, 2015 rated it liked it
This is one of my less-favoured Cadfael books, for reasons that are either hard to define or a feature of some idiosyncrasy I don't quite recognise. Either way, while readable and enjoyable, it isn't one of the memorable Cadfael books.

It is not, I note, that I agree with some of the other readers that the young people featured here are less likeable that in some of the other novels. Meriet and Isouda are actually, to my mind, MORE attractive to read about, by virtue of their more "adult" mindset
Connie G
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was the first time I've read one of the medieval mysteries involving Brother Cadfael, a Benedictine monk in Shrewsbury. Brother Cadfael had come to his religious vocation late in life after seeing the world in the military. He was a wise judge of people, and was surprised when nineteen-year-old Meriet Aspley wanted to enter the order. Meriet didn't seem to possess the right temperment for monastic life, and was disturbed by terrible dreams at night. What terrible secrets was the novice hidi ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Ellis Peters is a details first, prose second sort of author. The Devil's Novice is hilariously overwrought, pausing to describe in detail how each young incidental character is yet more lovely than the last, but makes up for it with a well realized and strongly convincing historical setting and characters who, past the purple prose, are endearingly quirky, even under the looming threat of murder. Most refreshing of all the characters on offer this roun ...more
Elis Madison
When a secretive young oblate arrives at the abbey, his strange behavior, and screaming nightmares, are cause for concern for Brother Cadfael. The young man's excessive horror at the sight of an injured man suggests that the secrets he carries, whatever they are, may be dark indeed. In search of answers, Cadfael stumbles upon another murder, and the boy seems the likely suspect.

I was wrong this time in my guess regarding the whodunit(view spoiler)
Sep 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is one of the Brother Cadfael series, about a Benedictine monk solving mysteries in medieval England, which I generally recommend. This is one of my favorites from among a good crop. Cadfael is in top form, the emotions are deep and painful, and the resolution is _highly_ satisfying.
Arlene Allen
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ah, my first Brother Cadfael. To him and Ellis Peters I owe my lifelong love of historical mysteries. A lot of authors have "If you like Brother Cadfael you'll like...." on their covers but very few have ever come close to Ellis' hero and his stories. Both he and his creator are missed.
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Was it thrilling? Was it pleasurable to read? Do I love Brother Cadfael and Hugh and all their compatriots?
Al l those things are positive and a firm yes and as well, I adore the setting and the era, so very much.
Feb 20, 2015 added it
Shelves: mystery, medieval
Everyone needs a little comfort reading, now and then.
A bit more dramatic than I like but with Peters wonderful writing and Brother Cadfael it can never be really bad.
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nicely constructed mystery with the historical context providing the solution to the mystery. The strength of the characters and the local history make for a gripping narrative.
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the 8th book in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael series. This is also the first book in the series I do not remember watching as a movie. So, it made this book even more enjoyable since I had to workout the killer all on my own.

So the second son of a Lord comes to the abbey wanting to join the order. He wants it so badly that he is rushing through his studies and duties even as it alienates the other novices at the abbey. Strangely, he just does not quite seem the type of man to serve
Andrew Clover
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I read the first Cadfael recently, and was struck by the almost Wodehousian warmth that radiated from the story of England of 1140, hot orchards, cheery monks... So opened this one with pleasure. It's a more wintry tale, which tells of Meriet, an aloof man, delivered by his father to be a monk. He shouts in the night. He's known as The Devil's Novice. He's soon suspected of the murder of Peter Clemence - a senior cleric journeying across Shropshire - but Cadfael is not convinced. The real joy of ...more
Stef Rozitis
This reds easily and kept me turning pages wanting to know what happens next, for all that it centres only male character and has some internalised misogyny in (for example) the way Roswitha is portrayed and the way Isouda is compared and contrasted with her (I believed the only other named female character was the bland Aline, who in most of the books does nothing except give birth and seerve her menfolk).

So the gender stuff irritated me and I also find Peters' overly romantic sociology of the
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
There was more of the "local politics" of the Stephen/Maud civil war in this novel than in previous ones. Opportunist nobility and bishops are seeking to take advantage of the political chaos by setting up their own fiefdoms that support neither Stephen nor Maude. Nobody is quite sure of what the mission was of the priest murdered in the forest.

Meriet is the Lord of Apsley's second son, delivered to the Abbey to become a priest, while his first son Nigel is about to be married and will take over
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, mystery
Not a favorite. I felt like a lot of threads were left dangling - (view spoiler) It made for ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Nun's Tale (Owen Archer, #3)
  • Strong as Death (Catherine LeVendeur, #4)
  • The Bishop's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #4)
  • The Monk Who Vanished (Sister Fidelma, #7)
  • Historical Whodunits
  • A Bone of Contention (Matthew Bartholomew, #3)
See similar books…
A pseudonym used by Edith Pargeter.

Edith Mary Pargeter, OBE, BEM was a prolific author of works in many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and was also honoured for her translations of Czech classics; she is probably best known for her murder mysteries, both historical and modern. Born in the village of Horsehay (Shropshire, England), she had Welsh ancestry, and many of her sho

Other books in the series

Chronicles of Brother Cadfael (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • A Morbid Taste for Bones (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #1)
  • One Corpse Too Many (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #2)
  • Monk's Hood (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #3)
  • Saint Peter's Fair (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #4)
  • The Leper of Saint Giles (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #5)
  • The Virgin in the Ice (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #6)
  • The Sanctuary Sparrow (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #7)
  • Dead Man's Ransom (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #9)
  • The Pilgrim of Hate (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #10)
  • An Excellent Mystery (The Cadfael Chronicles, #11)
“The disease of mortality is in us from the womb, from the day of our birth we are on the way to our death.” 0 likes
“The disease of mortality is in us from the womb, from the day of our birth we are on the way to our death. What matters is how we conduct the journey.” 0 likes
More quotes…