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The Relic Master: A Novel by Christopher…
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The Relic Master: A Novel (edition 2016)

by Christopher Buckley (Author)

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2241651,855 (3.92)27
Member:TheCriticalTimes
Title:The Relic Master: A Novel
Authors:Christopher Buckley (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2016), Edition: Reprint, 400 pages
Collections:Loaned from Library
Rating:****
Tags:Historical Fiction

Work details

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley

  1. 00
    Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (KellyHewitt)
    KellyHewitt: I really loved this book by Christopher Buckley. His historical knowledge and ability to write an enjoyable yet historically strong novel blew me away. I immediately went out and bought two more of his books.
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» See also 27 mentions

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Master Dismas is a relic trader, an honest one, or so he thinks. Because of one small misstep, instigated by his close friend Albrecht (Nars) Durher, his life spins out of control. Such is the basic premise of The Relic Master without giving away much else of the plot.

There are two completely different sides to this inventive novel by Christopher Buckley. The first one is that this is a carefully plotted romp through the renaissance full of colorful and outlandish characters we shouldn't take that seriously. The other perspective you can take is that this is a well developed critique of the Catholic Church and its practices in placed in the proper context and time. If this book were just a good yarn nobody would go to the deeper side of its telling. However, there is an aroma of something more, something more elaborate and well crafted. Some other reviewers have hinted to this duality in the novel but have used it against it, not altogether unjustly. The novel sometimes reads like an Umberto Eco work written by Dan Brown and Christopher Moore.

Throughout the novel such an enormous amount of historical detail is given that you can't help but wonder how the author meant the book to be read. Why so much research for a novel which is at it's core a medieval adventure about abbots and tarts. You're left with wondering what it would have been like if the language had been more in line with the historical dignity. Not that high language is always appropriate for an historical adventure, but this felt almost like a long joke or a detailed attempt and historically accurate toilet humor.

Having said that I enjoyed the novel tremendously having learned more from this work than many learned textbooks about the same period. ( )
  TheCriticalTimes | Apr 10, 2017 |
Tried to finish it, couldn't, stopped at the start of chapter 25. I gave it a lot of pages, but it never fully gripped me. The author is one of my favorites, but his decision to set his book in the past, which is not his fictional forte, might have been the deciding factor in dropping this one.
  SarahHayes | Feb 20, 2017 |
Humorous, satirical romp set in the Reformation period, 16th century Germany, involving a relic seller, a sleazy cardinal, the painter Albrecht Durer and the "Holy Shroud", crème de la crème of relics AND a scam. While the heroes are on their quest, the novel does devolve into silliness. ( )
  janerawoof | Oct 21, 2016 |
I really loved this book. Buckley writes comedic (but well researched and superbly written) novels on a number of different subjects. I was surprised (in a good way) by his ability to write a very well researched historical fiction that is still very readable. In this novel Buckley sends up the medieval church, the selling of indulgences, Martin Luther and his thesis and the absurdities of the church and its princes in the final days before the start of the Reformation. ( )
  KellyHewitt | Oct 20, 2016 |
And now, for something completely different...

In the past month (or so), I've read books on Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and the Enlightenment. It's a fascinating and transformative period in history. The Relic Master is set at the beginning of this time, and although it's not a scholarly work (actually, it's a bit of a farce), it provides comically distorted (but not entirely inaccurate) snapshots of some historic characters, and it captures something of how people of the 16th century lived and how they saw the world.

This is a quick and fun read about a Relic Master, a fellow hired to obtain 'holy' relics such as the bones of saints and other related artifacts for personages of wealth and power. Our protagonist's current assignment is to snatch a shroud, purported to be that of Jesus himself. Mayhem ensues.

You don't come across historical comic fiction often, which is kind of a shame. Although the 16th-17th centuries were undoubtedly a difficult time to live, there's a lot of comic potential in looking back at them from a safe distance. It's also important to read about them, even as fictional tales (provided they are not cleaned up and romanticized), lest we forget how far we have come and how much our lives have improved since then.
( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
“The Relic Master” is an inspired piece of literary gymnastics. We are in Northern Europe in 1517 and an outraged, constipated monk named Martin Luther is calling time on the corruption — sexual, financial and spiritual — of the Roman Catholic Church. The problem is exquisitely summed up in Buckley’s opening chapter, set at a relic fair in Basel. On sale is a dazzling array of sanctity: hundreds of bits of saints’ and martyrs’ skulls, teeth, bones and hair; iron bars from torture grilles; whips and thorns, as well as nails, wood and blood from the crucifixion; even a vial with drops of the Virgin’s breast milk. Capitalism may be in its infancy, but relics are a healthy source of revenue for the church and private collectors, and in line with market forces, supply rises to meet demand. (Five hundred years on, one can, of course, still find similar relics in churches all over Italy.)
added by rybie2 | editNew York Times, Sarah Dunant (Dec 11, 2015)
 
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Epigraph
If even a dog's tooth is truly worshipped it glows with light. The venerated object is endowed with power...
- Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea
In our corrupt times, the virtue of a Pontiff is commended when he does not surpass the wickedness of other men.
- Francesco Guicciardini, History of Italy, 1561
Dedication
For Anne Springs Close, with love
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Vatican City, August 28 - Workers doing repairs on the tomb of Pope Leo X in Rome's Basilica Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva have found a cloth closely resembling the Shroud of Turin, the relic held by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.
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Tongue, toe, nail and shroud
Save your soul? Kiss a relic!
Oops, lost one. Make fake?

(sibyx)

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