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Act of Faith

(Act of Faith #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  270 ratings  ·  42 reviews
England, 1640. Sixteen-year-old Isabella is forced to flee her home when her father’s radical ideas lead him into a suicidal stand against Oliver Cromwell’s army. Taking refuge in Amsterdam and desperate to find a means to survive, Isabella finds work with an elderly printer, Master de Aquila, and his enigmatic young assistant, Willem.
When Master de Aquila travels to Venic
Paperback, 227 pages
Published July 2011 by Harper Collins Australia
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  270 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Oct 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People into Historical Fiction
Shelves: young-adult, reviewed

I don’t actually read Historical fiction that often and even though I like the genre I just don’t like many of the books that come out of it. I’m still trying to figure out if I liked this book or not. I read the book in one sitting, but by the end I didn’t feel that satisfied. Everything happened so fast, the problem was fixed and forgotten so quickly.


I think that describes how I felt after completing the book... Not the pants thing though...

Because everything happened so quickly I felt
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The year is 1640 and Europe is on the brink of religious upheaval. Catholics in England are being executed, while other countries are burning ‘heretics’ at the stake unless they take up the Catholic faith. The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain (aka ‘The Spanish Inquisition’) ride to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms – beating and imprisoning those who go against the church and God.

It is the worst time to be an intellectual. And Heaven forbid a man of intellect
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I was working for my mum yesterday in her physiotherapy practice, and about the middle of the day there was little going on, so she gave me $20 to go buy a book. There were many MANY books I wanted to buy, however the fact I only had $20 limited me. I eventually came across this book, drawn to it because of the cover and the fact it was historic fiction (LOVE!!), and was delighted to discover it was $19.99. The book was really sweet and easy to read, I finished it in a few hours. (Sorry mum, I t ...more
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am a sucker for a really good adventure (I wanted to join the Merrymen when I grew up) and this book delivers! In fact it was a lot more adventurous that I thought it would be given the title. The main character, Isabella, is smart and gutsy, and applies both abilities without too much deliberation. The pace is good then downright gripping as you get to the end.

I loved reading about the sources for the details and the time period in the afterward. The author describes the cities,the people an
Apr 12, 2011 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed delving into that revolutionary period of history in the late 1600's when books were seen as powerful and dangerous. It's interesting to examine some of the ideas that surfaced in literature at that time of religious conflict and to consider them in light of current events. Writings on liberty and religious tolerance seem as relevant as ever 400 years on. However despite these intellectual themes running through the story, it is by no means a 'hard' read. It is an emotive story ...more
Oh man, this is such an amazing book. It deals with the Spanish Inquisition, and how books and opposing views could get one killed. Very thought provoking.
I totally recommend this to everyone who loves books and is open minded.
Lizzy Chandler
A fascinating YA novel set in Enlightenment Europe about a girl who grows up loving books and defending the political freedom of people producing them. Won a "Highly Commended" in the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award.
Hazel Edwards
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
just finished Act of Faith and I'm so
Impressed with the richness of the writing,interwoven history and the feisty Isobella. The rhythm of the writing is also noticeable. Will highly recommend The book was a tribute to learning, set in a credible historical context . Really enjoyed it.
Pam Saunders
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Just lovely especially if you are a lover of books as objects.
Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a tentative 4 stars - it would have been 3 stars if the themes weren't so interesting.

I enjoyed the theme of this book, having just read Royal Escape by Georgette Heyer. (See the end of the review for more of what I liked about the themes.) I enjoyed the dialogue and and witty lines. I quite liked the characters. I thought it explained a lot but that there were no info-dumps - at least, no long and onerous ones.


This book was missing the elusive "something" that makes a book a gr
Kate Forsyth
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Act of Faith is an intoxicating mixture of history, adventure, romance and philosophy. It is, I think, one of the cleverest books to be published for young adults in the past few years, yet it wears its scholarship lightly. The novel is set in 1640. England is in the midst of the English Civil War, a time of extraordinary political and religious upheaval. The heroine of the tale is Isabella Hawkins, daughter of an Oxford don and philosopher. She has been taught by her father to read Greek and La ...more
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have been meaning to read this book for so long and I am glad that I finally did. What an adventure it was! Isabella was a great character and I would want to be just like her if I lived in this era. Banning and burning of books is a subject that makes my blood boil and I was carried away, all across England, Amsterdam, Venice and Spain, in the journey to save the books and to save the people who bring us the books. Kelly Gardiner has obviously done her research as it shows throughout the stor ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I really enjoyed this, I guess I just thought there might me a more conclusive and firm ending. Firm isn't the word I was searching for, but it will have to do. I felt like I was reaching for something, and my fingers touched it, but it slipped away. However, I still really liked this book. I liked the characters, and I loved the ideas and history. I can't imagine preserving books to that degree; although sometimes I buy books just because I hat the thought of second hand shops throwing them awa ...more
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved the ideas in this story, probably more than the story itself, although it is an easy and fast paced read. Set in the initial stages of the English civil war, Isabella, daughter of a free thinking philosopher, teacher and writer, working for him as his secretary, finds her world turned upside down when he is arrested by the parliament forces. Which is ridiculous, for he opposes the notion of monarchy as the Puritans do, and surely that makes them allies. But the puritans insist that every ...more
Sylvs (NOVELty Reads)
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it

That book was quite an adventure for 220 pages. Not going to lie about that fact. It was a unique blend of history, philosophy, adventure, travel and of course books. It was a feminist read all about a girl who worked with a controversial editor to publish books in a world where such ideas were dangerous. It was a book with a setting and themes that I didn’t really read about before that or I haven’t read much about in YA.

I found Isabella Hawkins, the main character to be quite modern for her a
Trix Wilkins
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book...Wish I'd discovered it sooner! Beautifully written prose, likable characters, deeply researched historical setting. Young Isabella becomes an assistant to a printer in the 1600s and involved in the secret printing of a Hebrew-English Bible and an encyclopedia during a time when ideas were acknowledged to have the wide sweeping potential for change (and thus dangerous, should they not sit well with the powers that be). The cover makes it look like a Christian romance but it's ...more
YA Reads Book Reviews
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: christina
“England,1640. Sixteen-year-old Isabella is forced to flee her home when her father’s radical ideas lead him into a suicidal stand against Oliver Cromwell’s army.Taking refuge in Amsterdam and desperate to find a means to survive, Isabella finds work with an elderly printer, Master de Aquila,and his enigmatic young assistant, Willem.
When Master de Aquila travels to Venice to find a publisher brave enough to print his daring new book, Isabella accompanies him and discovers a world of possibility
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a rare, subversive jewel of a YA book: set in 1640s England and Europe - a time when it was dangerous to be of the wrong faith, the wrong gender, the wrong ethnicity - Isabella Hawkins, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a free-thinking English scholar and philosopher, is forced to flee the only life she has ever known in Cambridge for the role of assistant and translator to a Spanish Jewish printer living in exile in Amsterdam. The printer's life's work is to print and distribute books of ...more
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Just A. Bean
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
In structure it's such a familiar Girl's Own Adventure YA story that I actually started feeling horribly nostalgic about thirty pages in. This is the kind of story I ate like ice cream when I was a teenager. This is not a book with many, if any, surprises.

But it did what it set out to do well. If you want a book about a plucky, polyglot orphan who travels around a beautifully-rendered seventeenth-century Europe making friends and having adventures (and if by describing this you could mentally pi
Julie (Bookish.Intoxication)
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel was a joy to read, the characters are honest and witty, the language is cultured and the worlds created are those of legends. Gardiner has created a work that inspires and allows culture and the power of reading and writing to be shown through the simple yet potentially dangerous act of printing.

A powerful and moving story, this is definitely a novel for any YA reader, even for older children, a creative and moving novel, almost written in prose, demands to be read, and demands to be
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful, wonderful book. I loved everything about it, the story, the history, the characters, the writing.
If you love books, reading and history then you will love this book.
My only negative comment is that it was to short. But luckily I discovered there is a second book ' The Sultan's Eyes' which continues the story. I am going to start reading this book straight away before I get pulled too far away from Isabella and her world.
Do yourself a favour and read 'Act of faith' it is such
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
On the one hand I liked this book. Kelly Gardiner did a competent job of portraying some of the religious terror that tore apart Europe at the time of the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation and the Parliament of Cromwell. On the other hand, the book just felt a little lacking. I would have loved for more depth and detail in these historical events. However, I am aware that this book is primarily aimed at young adult readers, it just felt like it never quite reached its potential.

It was hard
Lemony Ellow
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This novel is richly detailed in terms of history and provides an insightful and fascinating read about the times and life of a young girl thousands of years ago. Though the characters are from different time periods, they were relatable whilst remaining distinct and likable and the overall plot line was adventurous. I really enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it to fans of history and adventure!
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was deeply immersed in this read, having not so long ago travelled almost identical locations as Isabella!
No matter the fictitious entries these publishers are legendary.
What amazing brave individuals, to forsee the imestimable value of their knowledge & craft.
What dark times these must have been. I loved every step of the way!
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
It was really good, the author clearly did heaps of research which really helps the storyline, considering so much of it is based on what happened in history. I was really proud of myself when I finally figured out why the title was "Act of Faith" which was because of the trial the Spanish Inquisition named the auto de fe, which means act of faith. I loved the ending, it was really satisfying.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 maybe? Really loved this. Haven't read anything like it, not in this setting anyhow. It was very 'atmospheric', so easy to get lost into, and I love the relationship between Isabella, Willem, and Master de Aquila (though wouldn't that be Master d'Aquila?). So many quotable moments, I must got back and write them up some day... ^_^
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book. I came into it with rather low expectations, to be honest - and yet it surprised me with its gorgeous simplicity and general appropriateness. It was a delightful read. The only criticism I have is that it is desperately slow moving. Other than that, it was a fun and delightful winter read.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
ACT OF FAITH is highly recommended from me if you love adventure and a superb historical novel! And the author is Australian, which makes this book even more supersweet!

Full review: http://talesoftheinnerbookfanatic.blo...
Sophia H
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is great for all who love 1640 England. the detail and description in this book was amazing. It was a smooth story, but sometimes it lagged and got boring. Although overall it was okay. I loved the adventurous story and really liked where it was heading. I say this book is great.
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Kelly Gardiner's latest book for young readers is 'Brimstone', the first in a time slip adventure series called 'The Firewatcher Chronicles'. Her previous novel was '1917: Australia's Great War', set in Flanders and in Melbourne during the First World War.
Her novel 'Goddess' was based on the life of the remarkable Julie d'Aubigny, also known as Mademoiselle de Maupin - a 17th century opera singer

Other books in the series

Act of Faith (2 books)
  • The Sultan's Eyes

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“Dear Reader,
This book you hold is a treasure, of sorts, as is every book I have ever known.
I have made it for you – especially you – for reasons you will understand as my words unfurl before your eyes.
Turn these pages tenderly.
You hold my life in your hands.”
More quotes…